Series: Caraval #1
Remember, it’s only a game…
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
5 Drink Me Potions
Caraval is everything you can imagine from that beautiful synopsis. From a sweeping mystery to the beautifully described world of the once-a-year Caraval, my heart was pounding in excitement to the very end.
I heard that this book has been gushed over since before it came out. It makes me wary sometimes as that puts on really high expectations which could actually do the exact opposite by disappointing me in the end. That was NOT the case with this book.
Caraval is essentially about two sisters who apparently would do anything for each other. Tella’s the more reckless and headstrong sister, while Scarlett is more thoughtful in all her actions. It comes with being the older sister. I loved Scarlett. She was so understandable and her devotion to her younger sister was admirable. She would do anything to get them out of their abusive father’s hands, even by marrying a complete stranger who offered to take in Tella too.
But, the magic and mystery surrounding Caraval and its mystery hunt during its week-long performance was the one thing Scarlett had always dreamed of attending. When things turned and the sisters found themselves entering Caraval to join in on this year’s game, my heart was literally so ecstatic. Even when the “real” plot hadn’t officially started yet, I was already so wrapped up in these characters and what would await them in Caraval.
I didn’t love Tella as much as Scarlett. In part, it was due to the fact that the sisters were separated so early on and everything’s in Scarlett’s POV. But it always seemed like Scarlett was the one to be making the sacrifice. I learned to appreciate Tella a bit more over time, but any more of her presence might’ve annoyed me more. Thankfully, the other protagonist and love interest for Scarlett was surprisingly amazing.
Julian was the PERFECT guy for Scarlett. Not only was he mysterious, confident and very hot, he pushed Scarlett beyond her comfort zone in a way no one else could. And even though there always seemed to be an aura of secrets around him, he was dependable when push came to shove for Scarlett. And I thought she was good for him too. As his secrets untangled over the course of the plot (which by the way were deliciously unpredictable as I kept second-guessing what his purpose was for being at Caraval and what his connections to this place were), I felt all these emotions collide in me. Happy, sad, surprised, relieved, you name it. The chemistry between these two were literally tangible. It was such a beautiful, slow-burn romance. They didn’t necessarily want to fall for each other – after all, Scarlett was technically still engaged to some stranger. But they did and it just worked! *fangirl sigh*
As for the world of Caraval, its mysterious characters that Scarlett met along the way, and the weird rules were all fascinating. Everything was well-described and the oddity of some of the things that went on here reminded me a lot of the imaginative detailing and world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Of course, that only added to my joy in reading this. On top of that, the mystery game at the heart of Caraval that its contestants could join in to solve for a prize was amazing. It was well-paced, with fun clues that kept Scarlett (and me) guessing for its meaning.
Honestly, Caraval has it all. Whatever you want in a book, it should have it within its pages. Whether you believe the hype or not, I suggest you read it for yourself with no expectations and just maybe, you’ll find yourself as surprised as I was at how much I enjoyed this.
(P.S. from Fives: absolutely a 5 Drink Me Potion MUST read. Highly, highly recommend)
Caraval is one of those rare books that just makes you believe in the world that you’ve stepped into, and makes it so hard to leave it. With a loyal and empathetic protagonist as Scarlett and a mysterious love interest such as Julian, the romance department here was just HOT. And the additional mystery that they needed to solve while at Caraval with the highest stakes possible only added to the pulse-pounding experience. A well-paced and overall imaginative story, Caraval hasn’t made it to many reviewers’ good graces for no reason. A definite recommendation.