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Review: Caraval - Stephanie Garber

Caraval
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
My Rating : {★★★★☆}

Young Adult Fantasy
Expected publication: January 31st 2017 by Hachette Australia


Source: Hachette Australia via NetGalley
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.

**please keep in mind that all quotes are from a digital galley and may not be as they are in the finished copy of the book**

From the moment I first saw this one in Buzz Books 2016: Young Adult Fall/Winter I was intrigued. There was an amazing summary that leaves you wondering just what is Caraval - is it a game? Is it all just a performance? Or is there far more than meets the eye?

When I was approved for a galley of this book I was beyond excited as it was one that I had been eagerly anticipating. I was also nervous though because obviously the hype was/is very high surrounding this one and that's always a scary thing. I often find that when there's so much hype I'm easily disappointed. Thank goodness all my worries were in vain and my original sense of excitement held throughout the entire book.

There's a sense of whimsy, of magic and of enthralling adventure throughout this book all shrouded in a mystery that honestly I'm not sure I fully understand even to this day long after having finished this book. I was shocked in the very first chapter - well, technically the second chapter but it's the first chapter with a lot of WORDS since the first chapter was actually just a series of images of the letters that Scarlett sent to Master Legend. There's a quick build of the suspense of what Caraval is and what it entails and then there was a very sudden and brutal encounter with the girl's father that I really hadn't expected. I was hooked.

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.

The imagery is beautiful and well written and the prose just sucks you in further and further until you're wondering whether or not you're a player in the game yourself. It was deliciously addictive and totally unpredictable and surprisingly gritty.

I originally felt like it was going to be similar to The Forbidden Game and I continued getting those vibes however it wasn't - it was completely unique. Perhaps it was because the male lead's name was also Julian? I'm not sure. There was an almost Wonderland-esque feeling about the Isla de los SueƱos.

On top of being strangely quiet, none of the signs on the hatbox- shaped shops made any sense. Each was printed in a variety of languages. Some said Open: Sometime around Midnight. Other signs said Come Back Yesterday

There's some great world building here with so many small details that really bring this world to life and the characters too are rich and complex. I loved the bond between the two sisters and the way that Stephanie Garber made Scarlett so incredibly realistic. She was flawed and dimensional and didn't always make the right decisions; she wasn't infallible nor overly skilled in any way, but she was as brave and as clever a heroine as you could wish for with an unfailing love for her sister Tella.

It's a truly enchanting story with both a satisfying and absolutely frustrating ending. I had thought this was a standalone earlier in the year and now I know it is a series and while the first book hasn't even been published yet I'm sitting here wondering how and where I can get my hands on the next book in this yet untitled series! No pressure Miss Garber! No pressure at all. ;)

Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.