If you're seeing this book here for the first time, prepare yourself to see a whole lot more of it. Caraval is this year's Hunger Games meets The Night Circus, and it's wonderfully done. Though it's touted as a young adult (YA) book -- and certainly has some of the elements that make for a popular young adult novel -- I think this one will appeal to wider audiences and especially those readers who enjoy mystery and magic wrapped in dangerous circumstances.
Scarlett and Donatella Dragna are sisters, daughters to a wealthy and abusive man and captives in their own island home. When they were little, their grandmother told them the story of Caraval, a fantastical event happening only once a year, a traveling game come to life. All Scarlett ever wanted was to see the show, protect her sister from their father's beatings, and somehow get the two of them off the island to a better life. For years, Scarlett wrote to Legend, the Game Master, pleading with him to bring Caraval to their island, and for years she received no response. Until, just weeks before she is set to marry, three tickets arrive to this year's Caraval.
What I loved about this book: the sumptuousness of it. There was sensory detail in every paragraph, and I particularly loved the way that Garber described Scarlett as experiencing emotions as colors. Also captivating was the way that Garber set up the world of Caraval -- it's only a game, and players are constantly reminded of its illusory nature, but it's disorienting all the same and difficult to tell who can be trusted. That also makes the romantic relationships rather tenuous, as you can never tell if someone is acting genuinely or simply acting while inside the game.
Caraval is the first in a duology, but there's no information yet on the second book's release. This first book has already been all over Instagram, but I predict you'll see more of it because the movie rights were snapped up even before the novel was published. Highly recommended for fans of the fantasy genre, and especially to those who enjoy a reading experience that keeps you guessing.
Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5
Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron 2017