Caraval by Stephanie Garber (5 out of 5)
I have a confession to make. I stole this out of Holly’s advance box from St. Martin. She was working an off-site event for a week and as I came and went that week, this book kept calling me. In deep, seductive whispers. Like the sort I usually hear when confronted with a bag of Cheetos. I finally grabbed it and told myself I would get done with it before she got back. And I would have…but she just couldn’t stop herself from coming in on her only day off, and my deception was uncovered. I also didn’t do myself any favors putting it in my “to be read” pile and posting it on Facebook… but anyhow, I digress. I really love this book! It’s out in January, 2017, so put it on your TBR list.
The back cover compares it to “Night Circus”. I would agree, except that I hated “Night Circus”. I did not hate this, so I am not tying this in. Except I sort of just did, but the ARC back cover said it. Not I. I am not quite sure I can compare it to anything, except I would say “Treasure Island” meets “Moulin Rouge”. That’s the best I have. I can say that I will throw it up on the recommends when it comes out.
Scarlett and her sister Donatella live their solitary lives on the island with their domineering, borderline brutal father. He hasn’t been kind to either of them since their mother fled the island. Scarlett has been writing to Master Legend of the infamous Caraval for years, begging for admittance for her and Donatella to come and play the game of Caraval. After Scarlett is promised as the bride to an unnamed Lord, that golden invitation finally arrives. Scarlett is terrified to leave and miss her chance to marry someone who may finally skirt her away from her nightmare father, but Tella talks her into it, aided by the help of a charming sailor named Julian. Tella takes off ahead of time and Scarlett is forced to flee the island with just Julian. A rapport is established on their flight to Caraval…one that leaves Scarlett breathless and questioning everything. Scarlett gets Caraval and things are definitely NOT as it seems. She doubts Julian when she realizes her sister is in trouble and loses him, and is cast out on her own. Scarlett’s emotions often take place of logic, and after some very terrifying close calls, she advances and finds Julian, in a tough place, and makes amends. They try to figure out what Legend is going to pull next, but Scarlett is panic-stricken at the thought that her sister is in danger, and misses some important clues. She and Julian get to the end of the game, and downright puzzling becomes downright frightening as the reality of the game begins to take a terrifying turn. Does Scarlett win? Does she save her sister? What is Julian’s real deal? Is Legend really the douchebag we believe, or is he a master of alternate realities that blend time, dreams, and the unknown? Can time really stop in this magical game? What’s fantasy and what’s fiction? What I can tell you? There is one scene that will absolutely stop your heart. The book itself? SPELLBINDING!!!! There’s darkness, the fierce and often misunderstood bond between sisters, emotional tumult, magic, and the many unanswered questions of time and its mysteries. It’s a hell of a lot better than “Night Circus”, but more for the young adult set. This is probably the first YA book I picked up in months that transfixed me the instant I started reading it. Do yourself a HUGE favor and get a copy as soon as it comes out in.