My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
I will gladly give this book a 4. In the beginning, there were moments where I thought this book would get lucky to earn a 4, but Garber proved me wrong.
The storyline follows two sisters, Scarlett and Tella, who live with their terribly abusive father. Caraval is a story the girls had heard about since they were children from their grandmother. It’s a place that holds a mystery-like competition where the players have to solve all the clues to win the prize. Scarlett became infatuated with the game after hearing the stories and would write letters to the “ring leader”, Legend, asking he send her and her sister a formal invite so they could escape her father. Just as Scarlett sends her final letter of hope, as her father has paid for an arranged marriage, her and Tella receive the letters they have most awaited for…CARAVAL!
With the help of a random boy that Tella met, Julian, the girls sail for Caraval. Scarlett and Tella are split up enroute to the island, and once Scarlett arrives she discovers her sister is missing.
With the unexpected help from Julian, Scarlett must solve the 5 clues in each of the 5 days of Caraval to be able to save her sister she believes to be kidnapped by Legend. Oh, she also must somehow arrive home as soon as Caraval ends so that she can marry her mysterious arranged fiancé whom has promised in past letters written to Scarlett that he will protect Tella. The common theme bounced around is to not trust your eyes at Caraval. Not everything is as it seems. Scarlett faces numerous trivial tasks that make her pay in lies, her deepest fears and hopes, and much more darker forms of payment. But she pushes through with only one thing in mind: saving her sister.
The first thing to bother me about this book: lack of MC development in the first half! Yes, we get she loves her sister, but heck I don’t think it’s asking too much to get a description of Scarlett??? What color are her eyes? What shape are her eyes? Her hair color I discovered much later on is blonde. And why does she “see” emotions in colors? That concept was hard to comprehend as I had just finished reading “Truthwitch” and that is one of the MCs’ powers…
The romance that develops between Scarlett and Julian was rough at first. He was so secretive and standoffish, then when she describes his facial expressions or actions she keeps saying “his undoing” or “my undoing.” Where did that come from and why is the term repeated??? It is an awkward term in the first place. Throw it in there like once or twice. And give the characters some romantic emotional growth before they start thinking they are each others’ undoings. Not when they are just talking to each other alone.
I love the character of Julian, however. His ending scenes sent my emotions through a roller coaster! His nickname for Scarlett is Crimson (insert eye heart emoji here for my teeny bopper-ness). He wants to be a better person and spill all his secrets to Scarlett but there is a part of him in inner conflict (read ending to discover why). His heroic actions and always looking to help Scarlett just make me swoon.
But not just Julian, this book sent me through a roller coaster of emotions. The ending left me with my jaw to the floor having to recall the entire book from the beginning to piece together the curveballs. And I don’t say curveballs lightly! I had read that the book was supposed to end at the last chapter, which would have been perfect fairytale happily ever after blah blah blah. Which I am totally not against, but that last page….the cliff hangar Garber left on the LAST PAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don’t know what to think. What to even imagine for the sequel. This being Garber’s first published book, I am amazed at her talent she was able to present in these pages. Her acknowledgment page even slightly addressed the hardships that early authors face just to get one of there many works published. 20th Century Fox, get to getting on this movie dang it!!!!!
“With Julian it wasn’t about protection-she just wanted to be with him. The boy who saved her from drowning in more ways than one.”