Book Review: “Caraval” (No Spoilers)


Taylor Garland

A picture of the front cover of “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber.

If you’re looking for a new fantasy book to read, “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber might be for you. The first book in the trilogy contains sisterly love, twists and turns, romance, and 448 pages of pure magic.

The annual Caraval is a carnival-like puzzle game where players must follow clues over a five-day period to find victory. Those who participate must always remember that Caraval is only a game, and the consequences of getting too swept up in the magic can be fatal.

“Caraval” opens with the main character’s, Scarlett’s, letters to the Caraval Gamemaster, Legend. Nobody knows his real name. Once a year, for six years, Scarlett has written to him requesting for him and his performers to come to the Isle of Trisda, a small conquered island where she and her beloved sister, Donatella, live under the rule of their cruel and abusive father. Every year, she receives no response.

In the seventh year of writing letters, Scarlett tells Legend that she is to be married, and it would probably be best if he did not come to Trisda this year. Conveniently, this year, he finally responds. He sends her three tickets for her, her sister, and her fiancé.

The book reveals that Scarlett is set to marry The Count very soon, someone she had only ever met through the letters he had sent her.

Scarlett tells Donatella, better known as Tella throughout the book, about the tickets. A sailor who was passing through the island overhears, and offers to take the girls to participate in the game in exchange for one of the tickets. Tella is elated, but Scarlett declines, as she is content marrying The Count. She also mentions that, because of the girls’ father, it would be far too dangerous to leave the island before Scarlett marries.

Later that night, Scarlett meets Julian on a beach. She offers him all three tickets to leave the island without either of the sisters. Unbeknownst to Scarlett, Tella is there waiting for her, and she and Julian take Scarlett and sail off into the night.

Scarlett wakes up on a boat with Julian, who says that Tella will be waiting for them when they arrive. He explains that he and Tella made the sisters’ disappearance look like a kidnapping so that the girls can participate in Caraval, and still go back to Scarlett’s arrangement after the game ends.

After more than a few obstacles, Scarlett and Julian arrive on La Isla de los Sueños, or the Island of Dreams. They find the entrance of Caraval and the place they will be staying for the duration of the game.

The duo quickly discovers that Tella has been kidnapped by Legend, and whoever finds her first will be deemed the winner of this year’s game.

Scarlett and Julian must find Tella before the five days are up, or Scarlett’s sister disappears forever. Not to mention, they must be back on The Isle of Trisda before her father finds her, and in time to marry The Count.

This action-packed, fast-paced novel keeps you guessing right up to the very end of the book. Will Scarlett be able to find her sister before the dangers of the world, in and out Caraval catch up to her? Read “Caraval” to find out! Just remember: It’s only a game.