Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Review published on March 16, 2017.

Scarlett and her sister Tella have never left the tiny island that her father rules with an iron fist. Scarlett is betrothed to a Count, someone who her father knows, although she has never met him. But, before she gets married, she wants to attend Caraval, a performance and game that takes place on another island. She has been writing to someone called Legend for a number of years begging to be invited, and she has not heard a single thing. Until now. An envelope appears with three invitations in, one each for her, her sister and her fiancée. She is desperate to go, but knows that her father will refuse. A set of events is set in motion, she finds Tella wrapped in the embrace of a strange man, an altercation with her father, and suddenly she and her sister are fleeing the place that they have known all their lives to play Caraval.

Almost immediately after arriving on the island, Tella is kidnapped by Legend, the mastermind behind the game. Scarlett is alone and up against experienced players of the game as this year, the winner of the game will be the one who finds Tella first. Scarlett finds a set of clues to assist her in the desperate search for her sister and she has five nights to solve them. The game is supposed to be an elaborate and theatrical performance, but what sounds like a piece of fun initially has suddenly become a lot more sinister, because if Scarlett doesn’t find Tella, she may loose her forever…

This is Garber’s debut novel and, for a first book, it is reasonable. I liked the way that the game was set on an island and way she manages to convey the atmospheric events that take place at night. It is not a bad plot, though there are some odd discrepancies. While there is tension as Scarlett seeks her sister, it has a more melodramatic and gothic feel to it. There really wasn’t a lot of character depth though; they all came across as slightly two dimensional. The magical elements felt like they were dusted on rather than integral to the world Garber has created and there was more romance than I normally read, but that is my preference rather than a fault with the book.

Paul Cheney 3/3

Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Hodder & Stoughton 9781473629141 hbk Jan 2017

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