My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“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 . . .” Caraval is this indescribable world that you just need to fall into whole-heartedly.
The setting is so vividly described from the colours, to the buildings, and the people populating the game that you are instantly transported into the game yourself. Legend’s Island comes alive in your mind from the moment Scarlett passes through its gates until the final words of the epilogue. Caraval draws you in and doesn’t let go.
We are introduced to two sisters, Scarlett and Donatella who have always dreamt of seeing Caraval but they never thought it would truly happen. Stuck on their island with an overbearing father and no desire to cross him, they could only wish. Imagine their surprise when, finally, they receive a response and are invited to partake in the greatest game of mystery, illusions and intrigue – Caraval.
We are faced with the same questions that Scarlett is, who is Legend, where is Tella and will she be able to complete the game? The stakes of this year’s game are greater than the past, this year players must find Tella. As many race to discover the clues and don’t always behave in the most respectable manner – Scarlett must win without succumbing to the debauchery of the game or else she may never see her sister again.
The author keeps you guessing about each character’s motivation and desires, as Caraval sweeps you away. This book has frequently been compared to the Night Circus and while it has similarities, they are very different stories. Caraval is its own unique take on a story that’s magical, mysterious and expansive. It is also more fast-paced than the Night Circus. While I believe that readers who enjoy the Night Circus will also enjoy this novel, don’t expect it to be the same.
My favourite aspect of this book was the world building, as I mentioned previously. I am so impressed by the detail and love poured into this story, which is made even more impressive because this is a debut novel. The author’s writing sounds more like a seasoned writer than a debut novel and it’s fantastic.
The characters were well developed and diverse, adding to the atmosphere of the story. Scarlett is determined and likable, even if she occasionally makes poor decisions. You feel for her character and root for her success. Julian is enticing, but you never really know where he stands and what his motivations are so it makes it difficult to trust him. Even so, I still loved his character. Tella is less likable, in my opinion than Scarlett so I had trouble connecting to her throughout the story.
Make sure you give yourself time to read because once you pick it up, you’re not going to put it down. Highly recommended to young adult/teen readers who enjoy magic, fantasy, mysteries, and truly well written and expansive world building.