Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

You remember that movie The Game with Michael Douglas? Well, replace the two brothers with two sisters, add a crap ton of whimsy and magic, a much more relevant love interest and you've got Caraval...and I mean that in the best possible way. I like that movie.

Scarlett and Donatella Dragna have lived their lives under the merciless rule of their abusive father and longing for the day that they get to see Caraval, a fantastical show full of magic and wonder. As they get older it seems they'll never get a chance to see Caraval, especially when Scarlett is set up in an arranged marriage. Donatella has other plans, however. She whisks her sister away with the help of a handsome and enigmatic sailor and to see the show. But when Legend, the mysterious owner of Caraval, kidnaps Donatella, it's up to Scarlett to play the Caraval game and find her sister before the game sweeps them away.

Like any fantastical world, the setting and overall feel of the Caraval has a great balance. Sure it's colorful and magical and the kind of place you'd love to see but there's also a threat about the place. Caraval is a game, one that can be either watched or played. If you watch, you're safe but bored. If you play, you get to have an adventure but you also put yourself in danger. Every action has a consequence and none of the magic comes for free. Everything has a price, be it a possession or your deepest, darkest secret. The whole thing possesses that kind of dangerous fun you'd get out of jumping out of an airplane, which can be both thrilling and dangerous. In that sense, the show is kind of it's own Rorschach test: some see it as an amazing adventure and others see it and think who in their right mind would want to go through all that.

But the game itself is one thing, the heart of the story is the relationship between the sisters. It's made pretty clear early on that both Scarlett and Tella have a very deep relationship and would do just about anything for each other. The key to the story is just how much Scarlett cares about Tella and does she care about her as much as she says she does. As is the case with most siblings in these types of stories they're very different people. Scarlett is the down to earth and serious one while Tella is the outgoing, rebellious one. Basically, Scarlett is Elsa and Tella is Anna. Unlike that story, however, it's the serious sister trying to help the younger one whose gone and gotten herself into trouble. This makes it a deep study into Scarlett as a character. When she's tempted with things and possibilities she may never have had before, things she's never allowed herself to have before, her dedication to her sister is thrown into question. It gets to the point where you honestly don't know what she'll chose and, as the story progresses, the stakes become even higher. The story does this very well, building tension and making every choice mean more and more.

Overall, the book is very well written and has a lot of character and charm. Sure, I thought the color/emotion thing was just a little gimmicky for me and there are one or two things that seemed a bit cliche or a little too convenient, but other than that the story really comes together. It also avoids committing a really annoying sin that a lot of books are doing lately: sacrificing the story of the first book in favor of sequel fodder. While it is clear that there is another book in the works, the integrity of this one is unhurt by it. In fact, this book could be a stand alone and I'd be just fine with that. It is a good book on its own and, for that, I give it props.

Final Verdict
Intriguing, mysterious, adventurous, Caraval possesses both style and substance. The story is gripping, any flaws are forgivable, and I've gotta say that this story is worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Also find me on goodreads at

Next Time: Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters just got competition

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