Caraval by Stephanie Garber (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Garber, Stephanie Caraval. Flatiron, 2017 [416p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-250-09525-1 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-250-09527-5 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10

After years of brutal abuse from their father, sisters Scarlett and Tella find a way to depart their tiny island home when tickets to the legendary Caraval mysteriously arrive for the girls. This year the elaborate circus-like game is offering a single granted wish as a prize, a wish that could put the siblings out of their father’s grasp for good. When they arrive, however, Tella is kidnapped and becomes the center of the game, the person whom the players must find to win the prize, and Scarlett becomes even more desperate to win. Enter the handsome and mysterious sailor, Julian, who’s played the game before and seems oddly willing to help Scarlett along. Of course, nothing is as it seems in Caraval, and as Scarlett gets caught up in the game, she loses her guard and her cool, and she must face demons past and present to retrieve Tella. An enchanting mix of mystery, romance, and magic, this immerses readers in its gorgeous setting with lush prose. The setting is a captivating blend of beauty and danger, with potions to steal color from one’s vision, secrets to trade for fortunes, tunnels that lead to nameless horrors. And then, of course, there’s the romance. Both Scarlett and Julian are admirable and complex in their own right, but their chemistry together is intoxicating. The relationship between Scarlett and Tella is important as the driving force for Scarlett’s quest, and their reunion is bittersweet. The backstory to Caraval’s wonders is one of heartbreak, matching the slight touch of melancholy that ends the book. Readers will want a return ticket to this one.

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