I was thrilled to join my friend Laura at the Chapter 5 Proof Party a few months ago, which was a super fun bookish evening organised by Hodder & Stoughton's YA team where I picked up three amazing proofs. It was hard to decide which one to dive into first, but the stunning cover of Caraval by Stephanie Garber, not to mention the unanimously amazing reviews online, eventually made me pick this one – and what a fantastic choice it was!
Caraval is an annual theatre performance, festival, treasure hunt and life-changing game all wrapped into one magical package. Ever since her mother disappeared when Scarlett Dragna was a little girl she has been writing to Legend, the Master of the Caraval, to ask him to travel to her island so she can watch a performance. For seven years her letters go unanswered, until she finally receives a reply and tickets to a special invitation-only Caraval in a private location.
However, it is just days before Scarlett's wedding and there wouldn't be enough time for her to travel to Caraval, take part in the entire game and travel back. She hasn't met her future husband yet, but his letters show him to be a kind man and he has offered to take in Scarlett's younger sister Donatella as well. All Scarlett ever wanted was to take Tella away from their abusive father, and going to the Caraval would risk losing that opportunity. And yet... this year's winner will be granted a wish, which would solve all of Scarlett's problems.
Of course Scarlett never really had a choice and both sisters are soon a part of Caraval in very different ways. Before they even enter the island they're wrapped up in a dangerous game far bigger than them as nothing, and no-one, is quite what it seems. And with Legend possibly having a far more sinister reason for sending Scarlett the tickets, it is more than her marriage and a father-free life that are at stake.
The reviews for this novel have been incredibly positive and before I started reading it myself I thought that it couldn't possibly live up to the extremely high expectations set, but it did – it even went beyond them. In a young adult market over-saturated with similar titles exploring similar worlds and themes, it's a rare joy to find something so unique, imaginative and exciting as Caraval. This is a world, and novel, that is impossible to compare to any other books, as it's so unlike anything I've ever come across before. It has elements of a fantasy, a dystopia, a fairy tale and oodles of magic, packaged into an adventure of a lifetime.
It wasn't only the originality that set this novel apart from so many others, it was also the beautiful writing and the wonder that leaps off the pages with each new discovery within the Caraval. The story and writing are rich and enticing, and he sense of place within the pages was incredible. Even though I mostly read it while commuting into work, the storytelling completely pulled me into this atmospheric tale so that throughout reading this book I truly felt I was exploring the island where the game was taking place alongside Scarlett.
Adding another layer of marvel to the book is its stunning design, from the eye-catching cover to the red-sprayed edges, right through to the swirly chapter headings, maps and notes within the pages. With each turning page there is some form of visual reminder of the magnificent world of the Caraval, which highlight how special this novel is.
You'll notice that in the review bit of this post I've shared very little about the story or characters central within the novel. This is because I want readers to fully appreciate each character development, revelation, and plotline with as much awe as me. I won't tell you what I thought of anyone – I want you to discover it for yourself.
I will say that Caraval is one of the most innovative, atmospheric and highly original YA novels I've ever read. I cannot wait for January to come around so you can all discover this fantastic world and we can gush over it together!
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Caraval will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on 31 January 2017 and you can pre-order the novel now from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
Connect with the authorWebsite: stephaniegarberauthor.com