Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
This book was definitely high on my most anticipated books of 2017, not just January. I found it so easy to get lost in its magic, in its characters, in its story, until I was finished. And then I was wanting more. I loved Scarlett’s dedication to her sister, the bond between them, the whole idea of Caraval. It was a book that suck me in and I didn’t want it to let me go.
Scarlett was a determined and protective character. She was willing to do whatever it took to make sure her sister was safe from their father, even marrying someone she never met as long as it meant getting them both away from their father. She could be quick to anger, especially if she felt betrayed or if someone had just put her sister in danger. She was smart, loyal, compassionate, and good to have on your side as long as you didn’t cross her. I loved her relationship with her sister Tella and the agreement turned more she had going on with Julian.
I loved the supporting characters and all they brought to the book. Tella was much more impulsive than her sister but just as willing to protect Scarlett and make sacrifices for her. Julian was a bit of a scoundrel with a good heart and so easy to like. Even with the whole book being in Scarlett’s POV, they were still complex and developed characters. The banter between Scarlett and Julian as they played the game was fantastic, as well as the chemistry. The sisterly bond between Scarlett and Tella was, as someone with three sisters, so familiar and I loved seeing how far they would go for each other.
Caraval itself felt like another character. It was so vivid and the world-building so infused with magic that it made it a place I would like to visit and a game I would want to watch. I thought the pacing worked really well, slow to really set the tone and the stakes of the game but picking up when the game started without feeling overwhelming. I loved that every time I thought I had something figured out, something happened to change my theory. I loved the magic, the darkness, the set up for the next book. Just everything.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.