Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

30964236Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 416
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★★.5
Note: We received this book from he publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

So today I have the pleasure of reviewing one of my most anticipated releases of the year: CARAVAL!  I knew this was going to excellent as it was being advertised as The Night Circus meets Laini Taylor…I mean? YES PLEASE! Caraval is a truly magical story full of twists and turns that will make you question whether it is all a game or if hearts and lives are really at stake. And the best bit is (drum roll please) at the centre of the story is THE LOVE OF SISTERS. That’s right, I’m going to go ahead and add Frozen to the pitch too. This is the story of one sister doing absolutely all she can to save her sister from herself.

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Caraval follows Scarlett, who has been desperate to see the magical show her grandmother has told her and Tella about. She’s written letters imploring the Caraval master to come to town but he doesn’t reply until she mentions that it’s too late: she’s getting married. And viola three tickets arrive! Then we follow Scarlett on her journey into Caraval where everything is at stake including her sister’s life, when the game becomes a lot more sinister than Scarlett was expecting. This was supposed to be something she did with her sister, not the handsome boy that got Tella into trouble in the first place.

I loved how the story is structured around the different nights in Caraval, it really added to the sense of a countdown and I was reading as quickly as I could to find out what happened next. Caraval will put a hook right around your heart and draw you in forever. I was ridiculously connected to Scarlett and Tella, especially because in the beginning we’re not sure if they’re really friends and the way that Stephanie Garber subverts expectations ALL THE TIME is magical. I could never predict where the plot was going and just when I thought I had things under control, the ground slipped out from underneath me and I didn’t know who to trust.

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All of the characters in Caraval are enchanting. Scarlett is so loveable because she’s got this dedication to her sister, but she’s also really humble and willing to do what needs to be done in order for them to have a better future (like getting married to a guy she’s never met!) Tella was equally as exciting, playing the coquette, and you’d think she was the polar opposite to Scarlett but they’re not too different under the surface. I just wish we’d got to see more of Tella, but I don’t think this is going to be the last we see of Caraval’s magic. There are still quite a few unanswered questions lingering in the back of my mind, the majority of which are centred around this mysterious sister!

There’s only one other main main character, and that’s Julian, who’s with us from the very beginning and has a much more interesting role than I was initially expecting and it’s hard to know how much detail to go into without spoiling anything, but I was second guessing this guy all the time. I don’t know what it was, but there was obviously something going on with him that meant I could put all of my trust in him. But that’s what’s so addicting about this book: you never know if you know everything you need to and you’re always second guessing yourself.

Other characters that need an honourable mention include Scarlett and Tella’s dad, who was a piece of work, let me tell you! Legend himself, though there’s still a bit of a question mark hanging over his head and the Caraval players themselves, I have a soft spot for one in particular so I hope we get to see more of her if there’s a sequel to this wonderful story.

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The romance isn’t hot and heavy, but it’s exactly the kind of romance that makes you blush every now and again. Most importantly, it didn’t take away from the story – it ADDED to it – and I never thought for a single second that Scarlett’s main priority wasn’t trying to find her sister. I really adored Scarlett and Julian’s relationship and how it built, it was teasing but gentle. Perfection!

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All I can say is: this book seriously lives up to all the hype, and I feel so honoured to be adding to it! The only thing – not negative, exactly, but…thing I was less impressed with? yeah let’s go with that – that I was less impressed with was the ending. Now, obviously, the ending of something like this is probably never going to go exactly how you want it to, because the whole point is to give you something you’re not expecting. So in that way Caraval succeeded in that aim wholeheartedly, I would never have guessed the ending. BUT, I felt the final section was too full of exposition as the characters told you how everything works and what their real role in the story was. I found it a tad confusing, like I was lost in the woods at night and the light guiding me home was from a matchstick rather than a flaming torch. I understood it, but my mind was already in so many knots – wow, I’m really going for the metaphors here – that I had to sit with it for a while. HOWEVER, now it’s my turn to take you back through the last loop I made by saying that I still LOVED the entire thing. If there is a sequel (which I really hope there is) then  it will clear everything up! Overall, I gave Caraval 4.5 stars, and strongly urge you to read it!

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