This book received so much hype I couldn’t help but buy a copy. Caraval is the place where magic comes to life and each time one is held the master of the experience will grant the winner one wish. Caraval hasn’t performed in years to Scarlett’s disappointment, wanting to escape a life with her father with her sister Tella she finally gives up hope in Legend, the master and settles for an arranged marriage which she believes will give her and Tella the life they have always wanted. That is until she receives an invitation for her and one other, for their first performance in years. Thus the journey begins to the legendary Caraval where everything is not as it seems and remember, it’s only a game.
I really enjoyed the book. Pure escapism, magic and lots of intrigue coupled with mind games that further the plot to its wondrous conclusion. I kept reminding myself throughout that it is all a game and that everybody and anybody could be lying. This may have hindered my enjoyment slightly as I was suspecting everybody of being Legend and thinking of outrageous plots of how they could be involved when in the end, everybody was just playing their part as stated at the beginning. That being said I think Garber could have played on this intrigue more and added more thriller elements into the story. It certainly would have fit with the intrigue and the constant reminders that it is only a game.
Scarlett is a likeable character but there is nothing really special about her. Her love for her sister is undeniable but that seems to be her only trait. Throughout the novel she is with somebody, such as Julian, her travel companion and game partner or she is with other players or performers. We never see her truly alone and I wonder if that is because she is reliant on others to be able to voice her thoughts or she can’t be a solo character? I don’t know but her willingness to suspend belief certainly played a big part in helping me to suspend belief and lose myself in the magic. Her developing relationship with Julian is one of the areas in the book I was able to see her as a separate person from her sister. Julian has his own part to play in the game which Scarlett tries to unravel as she searches for her sister and tries to deal with her feelings for Julian. I wasn’t sure on Julian and I was glad to my reservations were founded as I reached the novels conclusion. He is not what he makes himself out to be.
There is a lot happening within the novel in such a short space of time. The novel seems rushed to get to the end and reveal its big secret. I would have loved it if more time was spend on the magic and seeing the world of Caraval, seeing the performers and the different activities that were happening. The map at the beginning only has five labelled places which are visited and there is so much unexplored I hope in the next book we go back to Caraval and see more of this wondrous place.
This may seem like I didn’t like the book but I really did! I just think it could have been slowed down and Scarlett could have had more of a personality that wasn’t dependant on her sister. I am looking forward to the next novel and seeing how Legend makes his return to a novel where we never truly see him!