Do you yearn for magic and mayhem? Do you wish to experience the wonders of illusion? Then step into the world of Stephanie Garber's Caraval. Many thanks to Hodder for the gorgeous ARC.
Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show. Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father. When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever
Rule number one. Trust nothing. Don't even trust your eyes. The Caraval players may be enchanting but they're also masters in the art of lies. They may tell you what you should hear - the clues to winning the game - but they'll also tell you what you want to hear. Coin is not currency; instead, secrets. They will twist your deepest thoughts; after all, that's part of the game.
Rule number two. Remember, it's only a game. Except when it isn't. For Scarlett there are real stakes at play if she doesn't win. Not only could she lose her sister for good, she could also be subject to her father's wrath, should she fail to get back to her own wedding in time. Scarlett isn't just playing to win, she's playing to live.
These were two of the most compelling pieces of the book, for me anyway. When reading I love distrusting characters and their motives, not knowing which way to turn, unsure of who is the hero and who isn't, if there even is one at all. I love being surprised, and this book surprised me in so many ways. Magical, enchanting, jaw-droppingly good entertainment; Garber's debut is absolutely wonderful.
I also adored the relationships between the characters; the intensity of the emotion within them. I've said it before, I love relationships in books. I love rooting not just for people but for relationships (not necessarily 'ships'), heartbreaking arguments or shocking deaths that leave you sobbing in a corner. In some ways (no spoilers!) Carnaval fits this bill completely, and I loved it all the more for it.
The relationships wouldn't be what they are without the characters though, and they were all amazing; the heart and soul of the story. Scarlett, our fierce heroine, was the epitome of a powerful woman. Though she did have help from Julian, she was not so easily swayed by his so-called expert knowledge of Caraval. She knew her sister, Tella, even knew Legend to an extent, but most importantly she knew herself. Thrust into a 'game' she hadn't wanted to play since she was a child, she was strong and independent, determined to find her sister. Though she was shown to have a softer side in some of the more emotional scenes, this only added to her character. Yes, she was worried for Tella, perhaps even for herself, and definitely afraid of her father, but she didn't let that stop her. If anything, she used it, allowing it to propel her forward.
Julian, the charmer, was also wonderful. Mischievous, coy, but with a good heart (In some ways...) he quite enhanced the book, its 'rules', and Tella's journey. Again I can't say much more without spoiling, but I'm certain you'll fall for him as I did.
As for Legend... well, he certainly lives up to his name, that's all I'll say.
Lastly the world is... well, despite not wanting to sound cheesy, it is indescribable, at least not without spoiling anything. Garber has carved a world that is both beautiful and yet dangerous, tempting and yet repelling. A world where life and death are almost intertwined, where secrets are both kept and used, and where lies are everything. Isla De Los Suenos is, in essence, illusion, and yet a convincing one where the characters live to play; where we want to play too. It's simply wonderful; the detail exquisite.
Caraval is the type of book I've been wanting to read for years, and I absolutely fell in love with it. Mesmerising is the only adequate way to describe it. I really do urge you all to check it out.
If you're still not convinced, check out the cover which I featured yesterday, here, including a close up look at one of the secret designs. Or check out my 5 Reasons To Read Caraval, here.
As always, thanks for reading and do feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!