From the book flap:
Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .
Welcome, welcome to Caraval—Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.
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.
Overall: “Welcome, Welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea.”
A steampunk Victorian carnival pops up annually in a different secret location and invites attendees seemingly at random. A mythical event whose legends are carried forth to every corner of the land via the high speed rumor highway, a ticket to Caraval is highly coveted. If social media existed in this world, #Caraval would be trending with gorgeous Instagram shots captioned by humble brags from those lucky enough to receive invitations. There would be counterfeit Caraval tickets all over Ebay. OF COURSE Scarlett wants to attend at any cost! Fortunately, or not, for her, not only does she get to go, but she’s completely swept away by the game itself.
Garber obviously spent a significant amount of time building this world and its rules. You can almost see her carefully drawn plans in the details of Scarlett and Tella’s childhood, the minor characters of the circus, the care with which costumes were described, how things and people seemingly appear and disappear out of nowhere and the hidden depths of Caraval. You could feel the way no detail was too small to ignore. In that respect, I felt like I was holding a fragile snow globe of a world in this book.
The characters of this world greatly assisted this grandiose story. Scarlett is the epitome of wholesome and all the white light of good. She borders on naive, but before you can discount her as weak, you find that she’s a determined girl who will stop at nothing to get what she wants and while she always tries to do what is right. She doesn’t necessarily always make the right choices, which just eats her up. She’s seemingly fearless and timid simultaneously. You see the world of Caraval through her eyes. There are so many other characters that make Caraval so interesting, but none as which I loved as much as Scarlett. Her sister, Tella, is a real troublemaker, but we don’t get much of her because of her disappearance. Julian, who gets the sisters to the island, is an enigma, a puzzle to be solved as the novel progresses. The Governor, Tella and Scarlett’s father, is quite convincing as a villain. Legend remains elusive to the end, a Jay Gatsby at his own party.
This book simply must be experienced. Fast-paced and so very intricate and bewitching, Caraval was a book I could not put down.
Judge a Book by its Cover: We were completely smitten with this cover from the start. It has inspired outfits (see below). The UK jacket, with its secret cover revealed only when you receive your pre-order, will likely inspire wars.
Me Talk Pretty: Told exclusively from Scarlett’s perspective and drawing from books like The Night Circus, the world of Caraval is all-consuming. Couple that with Caraval itself where everything is part of the game and you have a gorgeous mystery tricking you at every turn. This book seemingly had trap doors and trick mirrors that literally made you shake your head in confusion at times. Garber’s ability to grip and carry the reader away on this journey is one of the strongest elements of this novel. Her words are their own special brand of magic.
Body Count: A mystery shrouded in a secret invitation solving a puzzle. There could be a body count, but possibly not. It’s up to you, dear reader, to find out.
The Chosen One: Scarlett is chosen by Legend. Tella is kidnapped by Legend. Scarlett must find Tella before any of the other contestants. It’s all part of Legend’s Caraval…or is it more?
Don’t Believe the Hype: This is by far the most hyped book I’ve read since I started blogging and while I was hesitant to pick it up, I in no way regretted doing so. The one thing not hyped? It’s book #1 in a series. Don’t miss that tiny detail and be as shocked by the ending as I was.
Bizarre Love Triangle: Just like with everything that Legend touches, there is a bit of a mystery surrounding this one and I’m going to keep my mouth shut except to say that it’s in no way what you typically read and it’s MUCH more intrigue than you’d think.
Open tab/Last call: In a world inspired by Venice, I’m going to have the bartender make the Italian cocktail of choice–Negroni punch. I will request an entire bowl of punch at once so that Stephanie and I can kick back, laugh, and discuss Caraval #2.
The Caraval pre-order incentive is just FABULOUS and you can request it here.
Caraval will be released on January 31st 2017 by Flatiron Books, 416 pages.