Scarlett and her younger sister Tella grew up hearing their grandmother reminisce about visiting Caraval as a young woman. Scarlett writes to Legend every year hoping against hope the he might bring Caraval back to the small island of Trisda in the Conquered Isles. When tickets to Caraval finally arrive, Scarlett knows she won't be able to go. Not when being prepared for her upcoming arranged marriage, which can free Tell and herself from their abusive father, is far more pressing. Except impetuous Tella has other plans and recruits a disreputable sailor to help bring Scarlett to the magical show.
Caraval is meant to be a game and a decadent diversion for both players and spectators. But Tella's disappearance is very real and, Scarlett soon realizes, central to this years game. As Scarlett tries desperately to follow the clues to her sister, the dangers of the supposed show become very real. If she fails to find Tella and win the game, Scarlett risks losing her sister forever.
Caraval is Garber's debut novel and the first book in a series. The book is written in close third person following Scarlett's perspective. Although the epilogue promises twists and turns, I think this novel functions as a standalone.
Right away I felt a connection with the sisters, Scarlett and Tella. After their mother abandoned them Scarlett took on the older sister role seriously and raised her younger sister Tella. This was difficult since Tella was often reckless and often breaking their father's strict rules. Breaking his rules often led to physical punishment, which Scarlett often received to protect her sister. It was awful to see the abuse the girls had to endure so I was cheering them on to run for safety.
I also believe the word "Caraval" is magic! The title appears to be a circus or carnival themed book but in fact Caraval is a mysterious island. All the details were unique and enchanting. From Scarlett's gown magically changing to match her mood to the price she had to pay to purchase items. (I WILL NOT SPOIL IT), I was blown away by the author's imagination. This story has so many twists to it that I was guessing all the way to the end. This book is not just about the game but about taking chances.
4 out of 5 stars.