Review: Caraval

Remember, it’s only a game…

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.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

This was lovely. Really. I read it in a matter of hours, and was captivated the entire time. Honestly, I am very impressed this book has done so well. Not because I don’t think it deserve it – it most definitely does – but because it is so beautifully different from anything else I’ve seen in the YA of late.

Caraval was full of twists and turns, until the very moment it ended. Going into the book, I knew it was going to be very mind-bendy. It was, to say the least. I very much had to suspend all my preconceived notions on the story, because anything could happen in that world, and it seemed that anything did.

The world and the story reminded me a lot of a Professor Layton game. The mildly steampunk, Victorian aesthetic was obviously a huge factor. However, the way the magic worked was as well. In several of the Layton games, we see the characters being thrown into worlds were nothing makes sense at all, with a creepy magical carnival sort of vibe to it. Although that made absolutely no sense to you, it made sense to me.

I loved Caraval because it reminded me of a mix of Professor Layton and Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard. Caraval was a magical masterpiece that challenged the critical thinking of the reader as they experienced the magic along with the characters. This novel very much made it feel as if I was a part of the story, and was just as bewildered and amazed by what was happening in this bizarre world. It has been a long time since I read a novel that so beautifully included the reader in its madness – well done.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Maddie

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