Review: “Caraval”

“Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

Flatiron Books, 416 pages, $18.99, Jan. 2017, Goodreads


Two sisters test their bond and learn about love while playing a game of cat and mouse in this wonderfully magical debut by Stephanie Garber. Scarlett and Donatella are two sisters who have never left their tiny island being imprisoned by their brutish father. Scarlett has always dreamed of partaking in the enchantment fueled game of Caraval, a once traveling game where the audience either watches or participates and that only happens once a year.

Scarlett would do anything to get her and her sister off their home island and into the ring of Caraval, so when invitations arrive from the creator of Caraval himself it seems like the opportunity is too good to be true. Tella and Scarlett are whisked away, but things start to go wrong when Tella is taken and made the heart of this year’s game. Scarlett must find Tella before anyone else does, or she may never see her sister again.

So, I really had a hard time putting this book down. Not only was the plot thrilling it took unexpected twists at every turn. It was so unpredictable and I found that to be refreshing in a story which uses magic as a setting and theme, which I also enjoyed. Every step of the way I found that I was asking myself what was real and what was part of the game just like Scarlett was.

Another thing that Garber does really well are characters. I could understand Scarlett’s motivations and the pressure she puts on herself to protect Tella from, not only their father, but the world around them. It’s only through the game of Caraval, however; that Scarlett starts to learn to do things for herself and becomes a brave and dynamic character, on that is hard to be reckoned with.

The progress of the plot in accordance with characterization was diabolically on point. The story had a slow burn that was also all at once fast paced and deliberate. Garber was sure not the let anything fall through cracks, and her way of writing prose complimented that attention to detail well. For a debut, this was a great foot to step out on, and it’s no wonder that the hype of this book preceded its release. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern.

This is Stephanie Garber’s first novel. You can catch her on Goodreads, on Twitter at @sgarbergirl and on Instagram at @stephanie_garber.

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