Caraval – Stephanie Garber

27883214Caraval is a legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participate, competing for a magical prize.

Scarlett and her sister, Tella, have never left their tiny island home, where they’ve spent their lives living in fear of their abusive father and dreaming of a chance to escape. So, when Scarlett receives invitations to that year’s Caraval performance, Tella enlists the help of a young sailor to whisk her and Scarlett to the show. Scarlett has always been told that Caraval is nothing more than an elaborate game, but when Tella disappears and Scarlett is left to find her, things start to seem like more than just a game. More sinister, and much more dangerous.

Caraval is pure fantastical perfection. The storyline is intense and thrilling, with constant twists and turns. It’s totally unpredictable, which aligns beautifully with the whole premise of the performance. The characters too, are wonderful (except Tella – her, I did not like). Scarlett is a brilliant heroine, Julian the perfect anti-hero and Legend is now one of my favourite book villains. (I didn’t like Tella, she was selfish and, in my opinion, just used Scarlett the whole way through, but she fit into the story well). And don’t even get me started on the setting. Everything was detailed and extravagant (as suited the story) but at no point did I feel like there was too much description, as so often happens in fantasy books. I really enjoyed the details given about Scarlett’s dresses, Dante’s tattoos, etc. My only real criticism is that the romance aspect left me feeling a bit hollow at the end (I can’t say why because spoilers), but it did still fit in to the story very well.

I haven’t read a story this detailed and twisty in a long time, and I loved it. It’s too easy to get muddled in such an eventful and colourful plot, but Stephanie Garber’s writing is so skilled; it’s easy to follow and doesn’t get bogged down in unnecessary information. This is the best YA/fantasy book I’ve read in a very long time (probably since The Hunger Games or Daughter of Smoke and Bone).

I definitely recommend Caraval to fans of fantasy and dark, intelligent storylines.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – Thank you so much!

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