Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.
Caraval was one of the more magical reads I’ve found this year: a high-stakes adventure that asks you to suspend your disbelief. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not anywhere near the top of my favorite magical reads (those would be the Harry Potter series and The Night Circus), but it did the trick as an escapist experience that I did not want to put down.
The world of Caraval is an inventive one. It is not strictly a magical world, but the Caraval players seem to exist outside the expectations of reality. This world, which is inhabited only at night, had magical twists and turns down every alley and a dark underbelly (literally).
The writing itself left a bit to be desired. I found the novel lacking in character development and Scarlett continuously annoyed me. She spent too much of the novel pitying herself, which is maybe the realistic reaction of a woman whose sister has been kidnapped, but isn’t fantasy about suspending reality? I craved more details about the world around her than I did about her feelings. In this original setting, I wanted more of a chance to explore the unique aspects of the playing field. Scarlett spent any moment when she was not actively making breaks in the case crying. Very little exploring was accomplished.
If you’re looking for something magical that takes place in a world unlike our own, check out this book. It’s a great cozy, winter read. Buy it here on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore.