After seeing so much hype around this book, when I saw it the other day in the shops I decided to buy it. It sounded right up my ally, and like nothing I’d ever quite seen done in YA (Plus that cover!). It looked intriguing and magical and I loved the idea of a circus type game where the audience is involved, since I’ve always been fascinated by the circus and freak shows. I was praying that it would live up to the hype and it most definitely did.
I started Caraval after finishing Crooked Kingdom and possibly on the verge of a book hangover. This book pulled me right in though and I couldn’t. Stop. Reading. It’s instantly captivating with letters that Scarlett sends the Caraval Master over the years, asking him to come perform on her island.
Scarlett was a really interesting main character and you could really see how protective she was of Tella and how she felt responsible for everything that happened to her. Their father is a very abusive man and when one of the girls does something wrong, he punishes the other one so that they feel to blame for the other girl’s pain. Because of this, Scarlett was very untrusting and was always questioning whether a person was lying to her and actually had her best interests at heart. Still, she pushed through all of it because of her devotion to Tella and finding her and for this, I really admired her. Scarlett’s character development throughout the novel was really amazing and there were times I wanted to clap for her and the things that she did.
One of the many things I enjoyed about Scarlett was the fact that she saw all her emotion in colours. It added a whole new element to the novel and really brought her feelings to life as they were each associated with a shade. I’ve never seen this in a novel before so it was nice to have something so unique to this character.
Tella was definitely the mischievous of the two sisters and wasn’t very responsible at all. There were times I questioned her love for Tella and why she did certain things, but at the end of the novel she really surprised me and a few things were explained.
Julian I think was my favourite character. There were so many layers to him that kept being unraveled throughout the novel, and although it was frustrating at times because I didn’t know whether to trust him, I really enjoyed it. He was sarcastic and funny, and really helped to bring Scarlett out of the bubble of suspicion and mistrust she lived in. There were so many cute moments between them and I loved the way he called her ‘Crimson’ instead of Scarlett. I’m looking forward to learning even more about him in the next novel, as I suspect we’ve only just scratched the surface of who Julian is.
I absolutely loved the concept of Caraval itself. All of it’s rules and quirks were so backwards and mystical which I absolutely loved it because it reminded me of Wonderland from Alice in Wonderland which is one of my all time favourite novels. Caraval just felt magical and even though some parts were dark and twisted I still loved it and wanted more. The writing really brought it to life and the fact that you never knew who was a player and who was a performer really added to the mystery surrounding the game.
I enjoyed all the smaller magical touches that added to the game as well, like Scarlet’s magical dress that had a life of it’s own, and things being payed for, not in coins, but in secrets.
This book was so fast paced and I was constantly second guessing myself and I didn’t trust anyone, even Scarlett herself because I didn’t know if she was a part of some overall plan. Even though it got a little bit slow towards the middle, it picked up again in the last 100 pages and that ending completely threw me, since I did not see any of what was coming. Often I had to stop myself from flicking ahead because I wanted to know what happened in that very moment and couldn’t wait.
When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about it and wondering what was going to happen and coming up with ideas of whom everyone was and what their actual identity was. Every time I thought I had picked whether somebody was good or bad, I had to think again and almost every time I tried to guess where the story was going, a plot twist came and told me off for thinking I knew what was going to happen.
This book was pure magic and finishing it was like waking up from some crazy, amazing dream. Caraval is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone looking for a unique, suspenseful read, but especially fans of fantasy. I’m giving this whirlwind of a novel five stars and I’m so excited to see what the next wonderful book has in stall for us.
(Also, a shoutout to my friend Amanda for editing this review and putting in forgotten commas!)