I first heard about "Caraval" by Stephanie Garber when it first came out at the beginning of 2016, but I only got my hands on a copy of the book a few days ago. I can't tell you how many times I stared longingly at this book in Barnes & Noble (which I often frequent), but for some reason, I never made the plunge and purchased it.
Honestly, after reading this book I DEEPLY regret not purchasing it sooner. At the same time, this book fell into my hands at what appears to be the exact right moment. I needed something good to reignite my love of reading. "Caraval" fit the bill perfectly.
To give you a brief rundown, "Caraval" is the story of a girl named Scarlett Dragna, who runs away from her home island of Trisda with her sister Donatella and a sailor named Julian to participate in the magic competition, "Caraval." She's been obsessed with the game for years, but this is the first year she's actually received an invitation. Although once she actually arrives, her sister is kidnapped and she (along with everyone else playing the game) are attempting to use the clues given to them to find her before the game ends.
It's so hard to not talk more about the plot because it's so rich and full of turns that I wasn't expecting. It annoys me when there is no element of surprise within a book's plot, but I didn't have that issue with "Caraval" at all. Pretty much every plot point that moved the story along ended up surprising me in some way or another, but it didn't feel slapped together or random. It felt well thought out, and when I look back on it, there were very subtle clues in the text that make a lot of sense now that I know how the story ends.
The concept of the game of Caravel itself was unique and definitely drew my attention. Set in a remote location, it's easy to get sucked into the rich world that surrounds the game. And while it originally sounded like more of a carnival type of attraction to me, Caraval definitely is not. If anything, it's more closely related to an interactive performance, but on a much larger scale than anything I've ever seen. You don't always know who the performers are, and who's actually there to play the game, so oftentimes it can be difficult for the people playing to determine what connections are real, and what is only make-believe.
In fact, before playing the game, the characters are warned to be careful of getting swept too far away by the magic of the game. While it most definitely was a valid warning, even I personally couldn't help getting swept away by the magic of Caraval. I was just as intrigued by the details of the game and its own little world as I was by the plot!
Again, I'm trying to keep this relatively spoiler free, but I can't help but talk about the characters for just a second. They were beautifully developed, and even the side characters felt like actual people. Not to mention Julian is definitely being added to my list of book boyfriends.
In other words, if you need a book to bring back the enchantment and wonderment of reading for you, then you just might need to find a copy of "Caraval."