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4/5 (296 ratings)
376 pages
5 hours
Jan 31, 2017


The acclaimed New York Times bestseller! Welcome, welcome to CaravalStephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of the unbreakable bond between two sisters. It’s the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world...

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

New York Times bestseller
#1 IndieNext Pick
Publishers Weekly Flying Start
Entertainment Weekly Best 10 YA Books of 2017
Teen Vogue Best YA Book of the Year

Amazon Best Book of the Year
Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Year
BuzzFeed Best Book of the Year
The Hunger Games meets The Night Circus. Grade: A-.”Entertainment Weekly
“Impressive, original, wondrous.USA Today
“Spellbinding.” US Weekly
“Magnificent.” Publishers Weekly, starred review
“I lost myself in this world.” —Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes
“Beautifully written.” —Renée Ahdieh, author of The Wrath and the Dawn
“Shimmers with magic.” —Marie Rutkoski, author of The Winner’s Curse
“Darkly enchanting.” —Kiersten White, author of And I Darken
“Decadent.” —Roshani Chokshi, author of The Star-Touched Queen
“Like stepping into a living dream.” —Stacey Lee, author of Outrun the Moon
“Destined to capture imaginations.”Kirkus Reviews
Ideal for fans of The Night Circus, Stardust, and The Hunger Games.School Library Journal

Jan 31, 2017

About the author

Stephanie Garber loves Disneyland because it’s the one place on earth where she feels as if the fantastical stories she loves to write about could actually come to life. She is the #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Caraval series and Once Upon a Broken Heart. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages.

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Caraval - Stephanie Garber



It took seven years to get the letter right.

Year 50, Elantine Dynasty

Dear Mister Caraval Master,

My name is Scarlett, but I’m writing this letter for my sister, Donatella. It’s going to be her birthday soon and she would very much like to see you and your amazing Caraval players. Her birthday is the 37th day of the Growing Season and it would be the most wonderfulest birthday ever if you came.

Most hopefully,

Scarlett, from the Conquered Isle of Trisda

Year 51, Elantine Dynasty

Dear Mister Caraval Master,

It’s Scarlett again. Did you get my last letter? This year my sister says she’s too old to celebrate birthdays, but I think she’s just upset you never came to Trisda. This Growing Season she’ll be ten and I’ll be eleven. She won’t admit it but she’d still very much like to see you and your wondrous Caraval players.

Most hopefully,

Scarlett, from the Conquered Isle of Trisda

Year 52, Elantine Dynasty

Dear Caraval Master Legend,

I’m sorry I got your name wrong in those other letters. I hope that’s not why you haven’t come to Trisda. My little sister’s birthday wasn’t the only reason I’ve wanted you to bring your amazing Caraval players here, I’d love to see them too.

Sorry this letter is short, my father will be angry if he catches me writing to you.

Most hopefully,

Scarlett, from the Conquered Isle of Trisda

Year 52, Elantine Dynasty

Dear Caraval Master Legend,

I just heard the news and I wanted to send my condolences. Even though you still haven’t come to Trisda or responded to any of my letters, I know you’re not a murderer. I was very sorry to hear you won’t be traveling for a while.

Most kindly,

Scarlett, from the Conquered Isle of Trisda

Year 55, Elantine Dynasty

Dear Master Legend,

Do you remember me, Scarlett, from the Conquered Isle of Trisda? I know it’s been a few years since I wrote. I heard you and your players have started performing again. My sister told me you never visit the same place twice, but a lot has changed since you visited here fifty years ago, and I truly don’t believe anyone would like to see one of your performances more than I would.

Most hopefully,


Year 56, Elantine Dynasty

Dear Master Legend,

I heard you visited the capital of the Southern Empire last year and changed the color of the sky. Is that true? I actually tried attending with my sister, but we’re not supposed to leave Trisda. Sometimes I believe I’ll never go farther than the Conquered Isles. I suppose that’s why I’ve wanted you and your players to come here so badly. It’s probably futile to ask again, but I do hope you’ll consider coming.

Most hopefully,

Scarlett, from the Conquered Isle of Trisda

Year 57, Elantine Dynasty

Dear Master Legend,

This will be my final letter. I’m going to be married soon. So it’s probably best you and your players don’t come to Trisda this year.

Scarlett Dragna

Year 57, Elantine Dynasty

Dear Scarlett Dragna,

from the Conquered Isle of Trisda—

Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. I am sorry I cannot bring my players to Trisda. We’re not traveling this year. Our next performance is by invitation only, but I would look forward to meeting you and your fiancé if you could find a way to leave your isle and join us.

Please accept the enclosed as a gift.

From the pen of Caraval Master Legend


Scarlett’s feelings came in colors even brighter than usual. The urgent red of burning coals. The eager green of new grass buds. The frenzied yellow of a flapping bird’s feathers.

He’d finally written back.

She read the letter again. Then again. And again. Her eyes took in each sharp stroke of ink, every waxy curve of the Caraval master’s silver crest—a sun with a star inside and a teardrop inside of the star. The same seal was watermarked onto the enclosed slips of paper.

This was no prank.

Donatella! Scarlett plunged down the steps into the barrel room in search of her younger sister. The familiar scents of molasses and oak snaked up her nose, but her scoundrel of a sibling was nowhere to be found.

Tella—where are you? Oil lamps cast an amber glow over bottles of rum and several freshly filled wooden barrels. Scarlett heard a moan as she moved past, and she caught bits of heavy breathing as well. After her latest battle with their father, Tella had probably drunk too much, and now dozed somewhere on the floor. Dona—

She choked on the last half of her sister’s name.

Hullo, Scar.

Tella flashed Scarlett a sloppy grin, all white teeth and swollen lips. Her honey-blond curls were a mess as well, and her shawl had fallen to the floor. But it was the sight of the young sailor, with his hands wrapped around Tella’s waist, that made Scarlett stutter, Did I interrupt something?

Nothing we can’t start up again. The sailor spoke with a lilting Southern Empire accent, far smoother-sounding than the sharp Meridian Empire tongues Scarlett was accustomed to.

Tella giggled, but at least she had the grace to blush a little. Scar, you know Julian, right?

Lovely seeing you, Scarlett. Julian smiled, as cool and seductive as a slice of shade in the Hot Season.

Scarlett knew the polite response would be something along the lines of Good to see you, too. But all she could think about were his hands, still coiled around Tella’s periwinkle skirts, playing with the tassels on her bustle, as if she were a parcel he couldn’t wait to unwrap.

Julian had only been on the isle of Trisda about a month. When he’d swaggered off his ship, tall and handsome, with golden-brown skin, he’d drawn almost every woman’s eye. Even Scarlett’s head had turned briefly, but she’d known better than to look any longer.

Tella, mind if I pull you away for a moment? Scarlett managed to nod politely at Julian, but the instant they’d woven through enough barrels to be out of his hearing she said, What are you doing?

Scar, you’re getting married; I would think you’d be aware of what occurs between a man and a woman. Tella nudged her sister’s shoulder playfully.

That’s not what I’m talking about. You know what will happen if Father catches you.

Which is why I don’t plan on getting caught.

Please be serious, Scarlett said.

I am being serious. If Father catches us, I’ll just find a way to blame it on you. Tella gave a tart smile. But I don’t think you came down here to talk about that. Her eyes dropped to the letter in Scarlett’s hands.

The hazy glow of a lantern caught the metallic edges of the paper, making them blaze a shimmery gold, the color of magic and wishes and promises of things to come. The address on the envelope lit up with equal luster.

Miss Scarlett Dragna

Care of the priestsconfessional


Conquered Isles of the Meridian Empire

Tella’s eyes sharpened as she took in the radiant script. Scarlett’s sister had always liked beautiful things, like the young man still waiting for her behind the barrels. Often, if Scarlett lost one of her prettier possessions, she could find it tucked away in her younger sister’s room.

But Tella didn’t reach out to take this note. Her hands remained at her sides, as if she wanted nothing to do with it. Is this another letter from the count? She spat out the title as if he were the devil.

Scarlett considered defending her fiancé, but her sister had already clearly expressed her thoughts on Scarlett’s engagement. It made no difference that arranged marriages were very much in fashion throughout the rest of the Meridian Empire, or that for months the count had faithfully sent Scarlett the kindest letters; Tella refused to understand how Scarlett could marry someone she’d never met in person. But wedding a man she’d never seen frightened Scarlett far less than the thought of staying on Trisda.

Well, Tella pressed, are you going to tell me what it is, then?

It’s not from the count. Scarlett spoke quietly, not wanting Tella’s sailor friend to overhear. It’s from the master of Caraval.

He wrote you back? Tella snatched the note. God’s teeth!

Shhh! Scarlett pushed her sister back toward the barrels. Someone might hear you.

Am I not allowed to celebrate now? Tella retrieved the three slips of paper hidden within the invite. Lamplight caught their water seals. For a moment they glowed gold, like the edges of the letter, before shifting to a dangerous shade of bloody crimson.

Do you see that? Tella gasped as swirls of silver letters materialized across the page, slowly dancing into words: Admit One: Donatella Dragna, of the Conquered Isles.

Scarlett’s name appeared on the other.

The third only contained the words Admit One. Like the other invites, this was printed above the name of an isle she’d never heard of: Isla de los Sueños.

Scarlett imagined this nameless invitation was meant for her fiancé, and for a moment she thought of how romantic it could be to experience Caraval with him once they were married.

Oh, look, there’s more! Tella squealed as new lines of script appeared on the tickets.

To be used once, to gain entrance into Caraval.

Main gates close at midnight, on the thirteenth day of the Growing Season, during the 57th year of the Elantine Dynasty. Anyone who arrives later than this will not be able to participate in the game, or win this years prize of one wish.

That’s only three days away, Scarlett said, the bright colors she’d felt before turning to her usual dull shades of gray disappointment. She should have known better than to think, even for a moment, that this could work out. Maybe if Caraval were in three months, or even three weeks—sometime after she was married. Scarlett’s father had been secretive about the exact date of her wedding, but she knew it would not be in less than three days. Leaving before then would be impossible—and far too dangerous.

But look at this year’s prize, said Tella. A wish.

I thought you didn’t believe in wishes.

And I thought you’d be happier about this, Tella said. You know people would kill to get their hands on these?

Did you not see the part where he said we need to leave the isle? No matter how badly Scarlett longed to go to Caraval, she needed to get married even more. To make it in three days, we’d probably have to leave tomorrow.

Why do you think I’m so excited? The glimmer in Tella’s eyes grew brighter; when she was happy, the world turned shimmery, making Scarlett want to beam along with her and say yes to whatever her sister desired. But Scarlett had learned too well how treacherous it was to hope in something as illusive as a wish.

Scarlett sharpened her voice, hating herself for being the one to crush her sister’s joy, but better she than someone who would destroy even more than that. Were you also drinking rum down here? Have you forgotten what Father did the last time we tried to leave Trisda?

Tella flinched. For a moment she looked like the fragile girl she pretended so hard not to be. Then, just as quickly, her expression changed, pink lips curving once again, shifting from broken to unbreakable. That was two years ago; we’re smarter now.

We also have more to lose, Scarlett insisted.

It was easier for Tella to brush aside what had happened when they’d attempted to go to Caraval before. Scarlett had never told her sister the entirety of what their father had done as retribution; she’d not wanted Tella to live in that much fear, to constantly look over her shoulder, to know there were worse things than their father’s standard forms of punishment.

Don’t tell me this is because you’re afraid it will interfere with your wedding. Tella gripped the tickets tighter.

Stop. Scarlett grabbed them back. You’re going to crinkle their edges.

And you’re avoiding my question, Scarlett. Is this about your wedding?

Of course not. It’s about not being able to get off the island tomorrow. We don’t even know where this other place is. I’ve never heard of Isla de los Sueños but I know it’s not one of the Conquered Isles.

I know where it is. Julian stepped out from behind several rum barrels, flashing a smile that said he’d make no apologies for listening in on a private conversation.

This doesn’t concern you. Scarlett waved him away with her hand.

Julian looked at her strangely, as if a girl had never dismissed him. "I’m only trying to help. You’ve never heard of this isle because it’s not part of the Meridian Empire. It’s not ruled by any of the five Empires. Isla de los Sueños is Legends private isle, only about two days’ journey, and if you want to go there I can smuggle you onto my ship, for a price." Julian eyed the third ticket. Thick lashes lined his light brown eyes, just made for convincing girls to lift their skirts and open their arms.

Tella’s words about people who’d kill for the tickets echoed in Scarlett’s mind. Julian might have had a charming face, but he also had that Southern Empire accent, and everyone knew the Southern Empire was a lawless place.

No, Scarlett said. It’s too dangerous if we get caught.

Everything we do is dangerous. We’ll be in trouble if we get caught down here with a boy, Tella said.

Julian looked offended at being referred to as a boy, but Tella went on before he could argue. Nothing we do is safe. But this is worth the risk. You’ve waited your whole life for this, wished on every fallen star, prayed as every ship came into port that it would be that magical one carrying the mysterious Caraval performers. You want this even more than I do.

Whatever youve heard about Caraval, it doesnt compare to the reality. Its more than just a game or a performance. Its the closest youll ever find to magic in this world. Her grandmother’s words played in Scarlett’s head as she looked at the slips of paper in her hands. The Caraval stories she adored as a young girl never felt more real than they did in that moment. Scarlett always saw flashes of color attached to her strongest emotions, and for an instant goldenrod desire lit up inside her. Briefly, Scarlett let herself imagine what it would be like to go to Legend’s private isle, to play the game and win the wish. Freedom. Choices. Wonder. Magic.

A beautiful, ridiculous fantasy.

And it was best to keep it that way. Wishes were about as real as unicorns. When she was younger Scarlett had believed her nana’s stories about Caraval’s magic, but as she’d grown, she’d left those fairy tales behind. She’d never seen any proof that magic existed. Now it seemed far more likely that her nana’s tales were the exaggerations of an old woman.

A part of Scarlett still desperately wanted to experience the splendor of Caraval, but she knew better than to believe its magic would change her life. The only person capable of giving Scarlett or her sister a brand-new life was Scarlett’s fiancé, the count.

Now that they were no longer held up to the lamplight, the script on the tickets had vanished and they looked almost ordinary again. Tella, we can’t. It’s too risky; if we try to leave the isle— Scarlett broke off as the stairs to the barrel room creaked. The heavy tread of boots followed. At least three sets.

Scarlett shot a panicked look at her sister.

Tella cursed and quickly made a motion for Julian to hide.

Don’t disappear on my account. Governor Dragna finished his descent, the sharp odor of his heavily perfumed suit spoiling the pungent scents of the barrel room.

Quickly, Scarlett shoved the letters into her dress pocket.

Behind her father, three guards followed his every step.

I don’t believe we’ve met. Ignoring his daughters, Governor Dragna reached a gloved hand toward Julian. He wore his plum-colored gloves, the shade of dark bruises and power.

But at least he still had the gloves on. The picture of civility, Governor Dragna liked to dress impeccably, in a tailored black frock coat and striped purple waistcoat. He was in his mid-forties but he’d not let his body turn to fat like other men. Keeping with the latest fashion, he kept his blond hair tied back with a neat black bow, showing off his manicured eyebrows and dark blond goatee.

Julian was taller, yet the governor still managed to look down upon him. Scarlett could see her father appraising the sailor’s patched brown coat, and his loose breeches tucked into scuffed, knee-high boots.

It said much about Julian’s confidence that he didn’t hesitate before offering the governor his own, ungloved hand. Good to meet you, sir. Julian Marrero.

Governor Marcello Dragna. The men shook hands. Julian attempted to pull away, but the governor held on tight. Julian, you must not be from this isle?

This time, Julian did hesitate. "No, sir, I’m a sailor. First mate of El Beso Dorado."

So, you’re only passing through. The governor smiled. We like sailors here. It helps our economy. People are willing to pay a lot to dock here, and they spend more money while they visit. Now, tell me, what did you think of my rum? He waved his free hand around the barrel room. I imagine that’s what you were down here tasting?

When Julian didn’t answer right away the governor pressed harder. Was it not to your liking?

No, sir. I mean, yes, sir, Julian corrected. Everything I’ve tried is very good.

Including my daughters?

Scarlett tensed.

I can smell from your breath you weren’t sipping any rum, said Governor Dragna. And I know you weren’t down here playing cards or saying prayers. So tell me, which of my daughters were you tasting?

Oh, no, sir. You have it wrong. Julian shook his head, eyes widening as if he would never do something so dishonorable.

It was Scarlett, Tella broke in. I came down here and caught them in the act.

No. Scarlett cursed her foolish sister. Father, she’s lying. It was Tella, not me. I’m the one who caught them.

Tella’s face blazed red. Scarlett, don’t lie. You’ll only make this worse.

I’m not lying! Father, it was Tella. Do you think I’d really do something like this, weeks before my wedding?

Father, don’t listen to her, Tella interrupted. I heard her whispering about how she thought it would help with her nerves before the wedding.

That’s another lie—

Enough! The governor turned to Julian, whose brown hand was still firmly grasped in his perfumed plum glove. My daughters have the bad habit of being dishonest, but I’m sure you’ll be more forthcoming. Now, tell me, young man, which of my daughters were you down here with?

I think there’s been some sort of mistake—

I don’t make mistakes, Governor Dragna cut him off. I’ll give you one more chance to tell me the truth, or— The governor’s guards each took a step forward.

Julian’s eyes darted to Tella.

With a sharp shake of her head, Tella mouthed the name: Scarlett.

Scarlett tried to grab Julian’s attention, tried to tell him he was making a mistake, but she could see the resolve in the sailor’s face even before he answered. It was Scarlett.

Reckless boy. He no doubt believed he was doing Tella a favor, when he was doing quite the opposite.

The governor released Julian, and removed his perfumed plum gloves. I warned you about this, he said to Scarlett. You know what happens when you disobey.

Father, please, it was only a very brief kiss. Scarlett tried to step in front of Tella, but a guard pulled Scarlett back toward the barrels, grabbing her roughly by the elbows and yanking them behind her, as she fought to protect her sister. For it wasn’t Scarlett who would be punished for this crime. Every time Scarlett or her sister disobeyed, Governor Dragna did something awful to the other as punishment.

On his right hand, the governor wore two large rings, a square amethyst and a sharply pointed purple diamond. He twisted both of these around his fingers, then he pulled his hand back and struck Tella across the face.

Don’t! I’m the one to blame! Scarlett screamed—a mistake she knew better than to make.

Her father struck Tella once more. For lying, he said. The second blow was harder than the first, knocking Tella to her knees as streams of red poured down her cheek.

Satisfied, Governor Dragna stepped back. He wiped the blood from his hand on one of his guard’s vests. Then he turned to Scarlett. Somehow he appeared taller than before, while Scarlett felt as if she had wilted in size. There was nothing her father could do that hurt her more than watching him hit her sister. Don’t disappoint me again.

I’m sorry, Father. I made a foolish mistake. It was the truest thing she’d said all morning. She might not have been the one Julian had tasted, but once again she had failed to protect her sister. I won’t repeat it.

I hope you mean that. The governor put his gloves back on, then reached into his frock coat and retrieved a folded letter. I probably shouldn’t give this to you, but maybe it will remind you of everything you have to lose. Your wedding will be ten days from today, at the end of next week, on the twentieth. If anything gets in the way of it, more than your sister’s face will bleed.


Scarlett could still smell her father’s perfume. It smelled like the color of his gloves: anise and lavender and something akin to rotted plums. It stayed with her long after he left, hovering in the air around Tella while Scarlett sat by her side, waiting for a maid to bring clean bandages and medicinal supplies.

You should have let me tell the truth, Scarlett said. He’d not have hit me this badly to punish you. Not with my wedding in ten days.

Maybe he wouldn’t have struck your face, but he’d have done something else just as vicious—broken a finger so you couldn’t finish your wedding quilt. Tella closed her eyes and leaned back against a barrel of rum. Her cheek was now almost the color of her father’s wretched gloves. And I’m the one who deserved to be hit, not you.

No one deserves this, Julian said. It was the first time he’d spoken since their father left. I’m—

Don’t, Scarlett cut in. Your apology will not heal her wounds.

I wasn’t going to apologize. Julian paused, as if weighing his next words. I’m changing my offer about taking you both from the isle. I’ll do it for free, if you decide you want to leave. My ship sets off from port tomorrow at dawn. Come find me if you change your mind. He divided a look between Scarlett and Tella before he disappeared up the stairs.

No, Scarlett said, sensing what Tella wanted before she said any words aloud. If we leave, things will be worse when we return.

I don’t plan on returning. Tella opened her eyes. They were watery but fierce.

Scarlett was often annoyed by how impulsive her younger sister was, but she also knew that when Tella finally set her mind to a plan, there was no changing it. Scarlett realized Tella had made her decision even before the letter from Caraval Master Legend arrived. That’s why she’d been with Julian. From the way she’d ignored him as he’d left, it was obvious she didn’t care about him. She just wanted a sailor who could take her away from Trisda. And now Scarlett had given her the reason she needed to leave.

Scar, you should come too, Tella said. I know you think your marriage is going to save and protect you, but what if the count is as bad as Father, or worse?

He’s not, Scarlett insisted. You’d know this if you read his letters. He’s a perfect gentleman, and he’s promised to take care of us both.

Oh, sister. Tella smiled, but it wasn’t the happy sort. It was the way someone smiles just before they say something they wish they didn’t have to. "If he’s such a gentleman, then why is he so secretive? Why have you only been told his title but not his name?"

It’s not because of him. Keeping his identity a mystery is another way of Father trying to control us. The letter in Scarlett’s hands proved as much. Look for yourself. She gave her sister the note.

The rest of the page was missing. Not only were her groom’s words cut off, but her father had been kind enough to remove any traces of the letter’s wax seal, which might have given Scarlett a further indication of who she was marrying.

Another one of his twisted games.

Sometimes Scarlett felt all of Trisda was under a dome, a large piece of glass that trapped everyone inside while her father looked down, moving—or removing—people if they weren’t in the right places. Her world was a grand game board, and her father believed this marriage would be his penultimate move, putting all that he wanted within his grasp.

Governor Dragna had more fortune than most island officials, from his rum trade and other black market dealings, yet because Trisda was one of the Conquered Isles, he lacked the power and respect he desired. No matter how much wealth he amassed, regents and nobles from the rest of the Meridian Empire ignored him.

It didn’t matter that the isle of Trisda, or the four other Conquered Isles, had been a part of the Meridian Empire for more than sixty years; the Islanders were still thought of as the uncouth and undereducated peasants they’d been when the Empire had first subjugated them. But according to Scarlett’s father, this union would change all that, joining him with a noble family that would finally grant their own some respectability—and of course it would give him more power as

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What people think about Caraval

296 ratings / 69 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    This was a very creative, fun ride. The premise behind Caraval was great, the back story dolled out at a good pace, and the characters were well developed.

    I wish the romance less of a factor in the story, but that was probably because I wasn't expecting it in doses.

    The book ended abruptly (though an epilogue shortly follows.) I had hoped to meet legend, and suspect that perhaps we did.

    All in all, a good book.
  • (4/5)
    Sometimes you will do anything to escape the life you are living. For the last 7 years Scarlet has written to Legend begging for either Caraval to come to her town, or for her and her sister to be invited to Caraval. Many of my fellow readers assumed Caraval was a circus or carnival with a fancy french name. But it is missing that pesky letter n. A real carval was a sailing ship in the 18th century. So I guess that does come into play. I mention this because I was expecting a book about a wild carnival and got less and more than I was expecting.Scarlet and Donatella live in an abusive home. Donatella is the younger daring sister of Scarlet the rational protective older sister. Their mother disappeared seven years ago and ever since, Scar has wanted to take Tella to Carval to make her happy. After sending her last letter to Legend, the leader of Carval, stating that she no longer wishes to go, she finally gets tickets. But being the rational sister, there is no way she can skip off. She is to be married in a week and that is the only way she can see to escape her household and protect her sister.When I said Tella was daring, I meant it. She enlists the help of Julian, a roguish seaman to kidnap Scar and abscond to Caraval. Everyone attending Caraval makes the choice to watch, or to play. For those who play, they are told over and over again to remember that it is just a game. Play wrong and you could go crazy, play well and you could win a wish. This is a crazy world and a crazy book, that while a little slow reading, is thoroughly engrossing. Magic is all around, and the world is practically turned upside down. You play at night and rest in the day, give secrets to pay for new dresses, etc. It is almost like an expanded Wonderland, but animals don’t talk (at least not in this book). While a sequel has not been formally announced, you can not get the end and not go “sequel please” because there are big unanswered questions. It has an ending like first Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movie where right is left, left is right, and who is who? While the twists and turns are mind bending, you are ready and waiting for more. So please, don’t make us readers wait too long.
  • (3/5)
    I think I'm in the minority here as most people are raving about this book. In fact, I was really excited to finally get a hold of a copy because I've heard nothing but good things. Perhaps if it hadn't been so hyped up, I would have enjoyed it more. Alas...I'll begin with the positive. Caraval is fast paced and I found it very addictive to read. It contained mystery after mystery, I just ate it all up and found it hard to put the book down just because I wanted to find the truth. I wanted to know who Legend was, what secrets Julian was hiding and whether Scarlett would win her wish. However (without spoiling anything), I was left unsatisfied. The solutions of many of the mysteries were mundane and Caraval ultimately had little depth.The novel is pure style. Caraval is beautiful, magical and evocative, but there is no substance beneath this. The world building is shallow. We learn little of the structure of the world and so many things are explained away by "magic". That's all there is. Magic without limitation that seems to be able to do anything the author desires. It was enough to wet my appetite, but I was still left hungry for more. Yet explanations were absent, metaphors often bordered on purple prose and I was left with the sense that Garber had barely scratched the surface of her concept.I also felt that characters were lacking. Some of them I liked. Scarlett did receive a lot of development and it was nice to see her finally gaining the strength to oppose her oppressors. I also liked Julian. Although their relationship developed quickly, I found myself rooting for the two of them because the chemistry between them felt very genuine.However, not all of the characters were so well fleshed out. Scarlett's father was largely 2-Dimensional, existing purely as a violent bully, and Scarlett's fiance was ultimately a bit of a non-entity in the tale. I also wish that more had been done with Legend, as he had far less of an impact on the story than I had expected from early chapters. Hopefully, he will be more significant to future instalments in this series.All in all, it was a pretty read and strangely compelling but I ultimately was left feeling unsatisfied. I will definitely read the sequel, but the story wasn't as gripping as I'd hoped it was going to be.
  • (5/5)
    I was loving this book from the first page. The excitement, the perils, the twisted and turns and whose fooling who was a great touch in the elusive but captivating tale of two desperate sisters trying to escape with their lives no matter where they seem to be.
  • (4/5)
    A fantasy novel, Caraval, takes you to an unusual world where you may not escape.Scarlet has always wanted to visit Caraval. She’s written yearly asking the creator, Legend, to perform on their conquered island, as she nor her sister are allowed to leave. Their father, the governor, is cruel. They tried to escape before, but his punishment has kept them from leaving again. Their only hope is Scarlet’s marriage. Her father has arranged for her to marry a count, although she doesn’t know his name. She only knows that his letters are kind. She gives up her dream of ever attending Caraval, writing Legend that she is marrying and he won’t receive any more letters asking for a ticket. Only then do tickets arrive.Scarlet’s sister Tella wants freedom from their island and especially their father, and she’ll do absolutely anything to achieve this goal even if it means dying, as death would be an improvement over life with him. She hires a sailor to kidnap her sister Scarlet in order to get her to Caraval. When they arrive, Caraval is nothing as one would imagine. Tella is kidnapped by Legend; the game is to find her in the five nights that Caraval takes palce. Scarlet soon discovers that both she and Tells were lured to Caraval. Scarlet only has the mysterious sailor to help her find Tella, not die, get back in time to marry the Count, and be free. While playing the “game,” Scarlet uncovers the truth about Legend’s past and her own family’s past. This novel is unique. It did take a few chapters before I got interested. Once I was into the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s definitely room for a second novel, but this one ends--at least finishes one story. Caraval is a weird, magical place where no one can believe what she sees or hears, so you’ll guess the entire time as to what is really happening. There are hidden passages, deaths, mysteries, and even love. Go ahead--read it!
  • (3/5)
    As I started reading the first few pages, I thought, "Huh, this is mildly interesting." And that's pretty much where it stayed. While I enjoyed some descriptions of setting & costumes, Scarlett & her boy were both flat, predictable tropes. The plot's twists felt more like downhill slopes. The climax felt more like a slog than a race. Overall, decent writing, but very mediocre story. ★★★☆☆.
  • (4/5)
    I read Caraval in June and although nearly another month has passed, here I am writing my thoughts about the book. Caraval is really a one I will suggest for you to read, if you have been looking to read and yet, haven’t The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern , because this one is sooo much better. This one creates the magic for you in front of you, even you have heard the warning it is all illusion and not read, still you get the sense of it and fall for everything that’s written. Opinions may differ and some of you have loved The Nigh Circus, where’s I didn’t and I find it as one of the over-hyped books everyone is planning to read if they haven’t.Caraval is trilogy’s first book, the writing is well written and I didn’t feel turning pages, until I was finished with reading, I basically lived in the story line. Caraval is about Scarlet and her sister Donatella, both of whom are longing for magic and the stories, where Caraval and Legend creates one, while in reality they both live together with despotic and cruel father who has never shown any pinch of love towards them both. Their mother abandons them without saying goodbye, so Legend and daydreaming becomes something impossible, yet…wished for. Scarlet and her sister Tella has never left the island where the live, they have no idea how other places and kingdoms look.Scarlet is the elder, responsible sister and Tella is the one who takes risks…they are about to find their true colours at the end of the book, but they are much more than they think they are, and what they are capable for. Scarlet longs for security and get away from her father by marrying someone her father has chosen for her and relying on his good judgement… Tella is supposed to be naive, but is she?When book takes them to Caraval, there’s a beautiful and yet unpredictable romance. As the warning says – nothing is serious, I was questioning most of the plot and having conspiracy theories, yet, it surprised me, some notion I could sense, the other were surprise. But I loved the atmosphere and someone surrealism there. The ending seemed rushed and a lot of hits given to what will happen in the next book #Legendary. Which I am hoping to read in August.
  • (3/5)
    This book seemed an awful lot like "The Night Circus" but for young adults. It wasn't bad, but it didn't quite tickle my fancy. It was a little too fanciful, over the top, and nonsensical. Nothing quite added up. What was part of the "game?" What was magic? What was death? What's the point? Caravel is basically a magical 5 day event where participants are invited to solve the game or riddle to win a wish. It's invite only, there are no rules, and participants don't know what's real or not. When Scarlet gets invitations in the mail she's excited, but knows there is no way she can go. She's due to marry a man she's never meet in two weeks, plus their father will NEVER let her and her sister leave the island. But then her younger reckless sister, Donatella, won't take no for an answer and whisks them off the island with the aid of a young sailor. When they arrive at Caraval, Donatella mysteriously disappears and Scarlet must solve the game to save her sister. The only trouble is, she has no idea how to play. Whimsical and unique. I don't know if I like it enough to continue with the series though.
  • (4/5)
    It took me a bit to get hooked by this one but once I did I was all in. The story was a fun journey of secrets, lies, and deception, but it was only a game. I had no idea this had a sequel so the end totally caught me off guard. But this cover... 😍😍😍 🌟🌟🌟🌟
  • (4/5)
    An interesting read, which just like the game the visitors are playing, will have you wondering which parts are "real" and which parts are just part of the game. I enjoyed this book and by about half way through struggled to put it down as I was very keen to know what happened next. I'm curious about the second book, and will for sure pick up a copy.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this book, but I didn't love it. It did have a lot of good things going for it though. The characters are well written and relatable. The story is fast paced and keeps you wanting to turn the pages to see what happens next (Was that real? IS ANY OF THIS REAL? WHO IS LEGEND? BUT WHAT ABOUT TELLA?) The book answers all your questions and leaves you with a might big one in the end to get you excited for the next book in the series. The setting is really magical and you can get immersed in it really easily (Also, the map in the front of the book helps a LOT). The imagery is beautiful.

    However, I feel like I didn't love this book as much as I thought I would. I think maybe I went in with my expectations too high since this book was SO hyped up.

    It's still getting a good rating though because I did enjoy it and it did keep me entertained which is the whole job of a book :). 4 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book.
  • (4/5)
    Caravel by Stephanie GarberEscape into the game. A slightly mad world. A slightly terrifying premise of magical situations.Two sisters run away from their brute of a father to the Caravel. The promise of a wish granted draws them into the game. Will it destroy them in the end?A fantasy with an abundance of color. Entertaining and engrossing. Probably young adult more for the rather innocent mindset of the heroine. Lots of intrigue and misdirection. I enjoyed this mystery fantasy. I received a copy of this book at BEA.
  • (4/5)
    A lush a magical adventure that reminds me of a combination of The Night Circus and the ballroom scene from Labyrinth. Full of whimsy, but is this world the sisters enter dangerous? The story is grand escapism so full of action it will keep you up at night. As with any experience of magic, there is also slight of hand. The novel plays like a romantic love story (not will-they-or-won't-they so much as should-they-or-shouldn't-they), yet aspects of familial love (and self love) supersede in the end. Just as the winding world of Caraval, the story is full of both small and large twists and turns that keep you guessing. And just when when the game is over and the winner is announced, another twist shows why this is the first in a series rather than a stand-alone book.
  • (5/5)
    Loved loved loved this book. Magical. Provoking. Mysterious. Suspenseful.
  • (5/5)
    I inhaled this book. It was recommended for those who love Harry Potter and it was delicious. Two sisters run away from their abusive father to go to Caraval and participate in the mystery. One sister disapeers and becomes the prize for whoever wins the game. I loved it. You didn't know what was real and what was acting and how serious are the consequences. Just a delight.
  • (4/5)
    Mark your calendars for January 31st!

    There is no doubt about it, Caraval will be the next big thing to hit YA shelves. Stephanie Garber has penned a breath-taking debut full of magic and twists and delicious, dangerous atmosphere.

    The Premise:
    Two sisters, Scarlett and Tessa, escape their home to participate in the fantastical Caraval. Headed by the mysterious Legend, Caraval is an event the sisters have wanted to see since they were very young. Then, Tella is taken, as a part of Caraval's game. Scarlett, with the help of Julian, an unexpected ally, has to find her sister within five days.

    The Setting:
    This book shines with it's imaginative and descriptive look at scenes of Caraval. Things are glamorous, weird, decadent, and creepy. You can buy things with secrets, nightmares, or days of your life. The people around you may be allies or enemies. Nothing is as it seems.

    The Characters:
    I loved the strong sisterly bond between Scarlett and Tella. They both want to protect each other. I also loved how Garber showed the differences in their personalities: She showed both Scarlett's fear and Tella's recklessness. Then, of course, we have Julian. He was such an intriguing character, and the romance was exciting and well-done.

    The Special Effects:
    Now I come to what I call the "special effects" of Caraval. And by that I mean all the clever twists and games Garber has put into her book. You will be addicted to turning Caraval's pages, waiting for what will happen next. I finished it in two days!

    In Conclusion:
    I cannot wait for the sequel! (And I definitely have a long wait!) Caraval has a complete story arc on it's own, but Garber teases us with so many more questions to be answered and characters to meet and a world to explore in her epilogue.

    4.5/5 Stars

    P.S Isn't the cover stunning?
  • (4/5)
    Ever since she was young, Scarlett has dreamed of visiting Caravel with her younger sister Tella in hopes of escaping their abusive father. Based on stories, Caraval is a magical place where participants are invited by its creator, the mysterious Legend, to solve a series of clues and win the ultimate prize: a wish. But Scarlett is now betrothed to a count and no longer thinks her dream of visiting Caraval will ever come true.Then Scarlett finally receives an invitation from Legend, and Tella, with the help of a sailor named Julian, whisks Scarlett off to Caraval. Once there, Scarlett learns that Tella has been kidnapped and is now part of the game. Scarlett must figure out a series of clues in 5 days and find Tella, or forever lose her. But in a place like Caraval, things are not what it seems and everyone is playing a part, even those she trusts the most.Magical, mysterious, romantic, exciting, this book is a page turner. I like that the story and characters are unpredictable. Yes there is a romance angle, but more than that, this is a story of sisterly love which made me like it even more. I read this book in one sitting and give it 4 out of 5 stars. I'm keeping an eye out for the sequel.
  • (4/5)
    “Fate left her feeling powerless, and hopeless, and with an overall feeling of lessness. To her, fate seemed like a larger, omnipotent version of her father, stealing her choices and controlling her life without any regard for her feelings. Fate meant that nothing she did mattered.”Caraval is drenched in many of the stereotypical young adult novel clichés, but instead of cringing at the fact I found that it kind of works with this book. Scarlett is the oldest daughter of an abusive father. She’s mostly level headed and does everything in her power to keep her younger sister safe and out of trouble. Her mindset makes her a bit of a stiff character at first, and a bit of a ‘daddy’s girl’ gone wrong, but her enthrallment with Caraval and Legend keeps her shinning.Tella is the wild child of the family, constantly putting stress on Scarlett by going against their father and getting in trouble. Though they both love each other dearly, Tella is the more reckless of the two.The romance between Julian and Scarlett is almost insta-love-ish, but it’s one of those cliches I mentioned before that didn’t bother me all that much because it worked with this book, or more importantly, it worked with Julian. He’s brash and harsh and is hiding more secrets than Legend himself.On to Caraval! Caraval is… strange. It’s a place that can cause wonder or madness, and where shopping can cost you a little secret, a lie, or something you’re not all that willing to give up so easily. From the beginning you’re told it’s only a game and you shouldn’t get swept away too deep into the performance, but other’s warn that that’s only what they want you to think. Is your head spinning yet? Mine was trying to follow who was really who and what was really what! Think of Scarlett getting a one way ticket to Wonderland.I recommend Caraval to anyone who likes light fantasy with plenty of twists. Just don’t let yourself get swept away!
  • (5/5)
    Scarlett and her younger sister Donatella grow up on the island of Trisda with an abusive father. One day, shortly before her arranged marriage, Scarlett receives an invitation from Caraval Master Legend with tickets for her and her sister to attend the game, but Scarlett doesn’t want to risk anything that would jeopardise her wedding, which she sees as her only chance to escape the island. But someone has other plans, and so Scarlett inadvertently finds that she’s a major player in Legend’s dangerous game, where nothing is as it seems.Be prepared to be enchanted by a wonderful, magical and imaginative story written in the most delicious prose, which owes much to children’s fairy tales (and I mean this in the best possible sense). It draws on those stories told during one’s childhood when you listened, spellbound, while your parent/grandparent told stories of castles, magic, a dreadful curse, true love, and a wish granted to the one person who managed to remain brave and true to defeat the villain; in Caraval Scarlett finds herself caught up in her very own dark fairy tale, and she has to several important lessons to learn, to grow up quickly and to shed her fear in order to win Legend’s prize of a wish granted.Though written in the third person, the novel is definitely told from Scarlett’s point of view, while the feelings and motives of the other players remain obscure for the most part. Stephanie Garber’s prose is a thing to be enjoyed and savoured and the only author in my not inconsiderable library to describe her character’s emotions and thoughts in terms of synaesthesia (the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body); in Scarlett’s case, everything is connected to colour (e.g. ‘Scarlett could still smell her father’s perfume. It smelled like the color of his gloves; anise and lavender and something akin to rotted plums.’), and you encounter a riot of it: there is periwinkle, cerise, turquoise, teal and vermillion, among others. This amplifies the senses and the enjoyment of the book, enriches the novel’s atmosphere, fuels the imagination and helps explain Scarlett’s character so much better than sentences filled with adjectives.Caraval itself is a game, a little like a travelling performance, enhanced by magic, where the boundary between reality and illusion becomes increasingly blurred, and Scarlett can’t trust anyone. The reader observes how she turns from a scared young woman, afraid of taking risks, into someone who makes her own choices and knows her own mind, and is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in; the game opens her eyes and she learns not only about herself but also about others close to her, and to trust.The ending hints at a possible sequel, and if the author decides to continue Scarlett and Donatella’s story, then I’ll definitely be on board again.(This review was written for Amazon's Vine programme.)
  • (2/5)
    I could not finish this book. I was looking forward to it but it was such a let down. The writing needed more refining - too repetitive. The dialogue was very forced and the characters were flat.
  • (5/5)
    Believing that she will never be allowed to participate in the annual Caraval performance when her ruthless father arranges her marriage, Scarlett receives the invitation she has always dreamed of before her sister, Tella, is kidnapped by the show's mastermind organizer.
  • (5/5)
    THIS BOOK THOUGH!!!! This was amazing, and now truly one of my favourite books ever. It reminded me of the magical feeling I had when I first fell in love with Harry Potter and it was so whimsical in a way that could only be topped by Alice in Wonderland, and personally nothing could be better in my opinion. It was so dark and twisty yet beautifully wonderful at the same time. I literally feel like I want to cry because this book was so amazing and I wouldn't change a thing about it. The more I think about it the more I love it, if the sequal is even half as good I don't know what I will do!5/5 Stars!!!
  • (5/5)
    Loved! Multisensory, layered and rich...a world you can see, smell and taste! Loved Scarlet who is a realistically imperfect heroine. The love and bond of sisters is a theme. Monstrous villains. All kinds of twists. Highly recommended and hoping there's more to come from this author and advancing the characters' stories.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed Caraval by Stephanie Garber! I think I read this book in 2 days. The author does a wonderful job of creating a world full of possibilities and wonder. She kept me guessing until the very end.
  • (4/5)
    There's little I appreciate more than getting lost in a good story and Caraval is definitely the kind of book to get lost in. Believable characters, just enough fantasy and magic to build an intriguing world, and the kind of deception that keeps you guessing until the final pages. Anyone who enjoys young adult fantasy should read this book.
  • (5/5)
    This is the first book in the Caraval series, the follow up book to this “Legendary” has also been released. This is a planned trilogy. I absolutely loved this book it was full of so much magic and mystery. Scarlett has always dreamed of going to see Caraval with her sister Tella. Scarlett and Tella have a horribly abusive father and the only way Scarlett sees to escape her father is marriage. She has long given up on her dreams of Caraval and is looking forward to her arranged marriage and finally leaving her father’s house, when it finally happens...she gets an invite to Caraval.This book reminded me of Alice in Wonderland in a lot of ways...strange I know. Caraval has that same magical and slightly disturbing vibe to it and was just perfect for me. This book also reminds a bit of a teen-safe Westworld (HBO series). People journey to Caraval to get away and live life in a magical world for 5 days; they can take part in the game or just watch and enjoy.The writing in this book is absolutely stunning. The descriptions are beautiful and magical and made me feel like I was in Caraval. I loved the characters; they were all complex and interesting. I just don’t know how better to describe this book; it was absolutely enchanting and darkly magical. I just loved it!Overall I enjoyed this a ton and am eager to see where the story goes in Legendary! I would recommend to those who enjoy darkly magical fantasy YA reads. This is seriously one of my favorite books of the year and I struggle to explain why because I connected with this story so easily. I think it was mainly the beautifully descriptive writing and the amazingly magical setting.
  • (4/5)
    The characters in this book were wonderful. From the protagonist, Scarlett, to her sister Tessa to Legend, each one is captivating in their own way. The story was full of fast-paced mystery and magic.Stephanie Garber weaves an entire world with imagery that brings it to life. I read this book too quickly! Which is a sure sign it was a hit for me!
  • (4/5)
    Sisters Scarlett and Donatella live in fear of their abusive, authoritarian father. When invitations to Caraval, a mysterious immersive game, arrive, Tella sees it as their ticket off the island where their father is governor. But Scarlett is less sure -- she's been counting on her arranged marriage with an unknown count as her means of escape, and she's always planned to take Tella with her. But perhaps she can experience just a little of Caraval and still get back to the island before her wedding day? When Scarlett and Tella are separated, Scarlett must keep her wits about her -- which is hard when you're caught up in a game where nothing is as it seems...I'm having trouble pulling my thoughts together for this review, because this book didn't really do it for me -- but I don't want to discourage others from trying it. I was exasperated with Scarlett for most of the book, I never bought in to the romance in the book, I kind of hated Tella, and I thought the writing was a bit too flowery and purple. However, I was also listening to the audiobook, and I'm not sure how many of those issues would have bothered me if I had been reading instead. So, I would say that you should give this a try if the premise intrigues you -- but if you are not a fan of young adult fantasy, particularly the type with lots of flouncy dresses and steamy kisses, you should probably give this one a miss.
  • (5/5)
    this is like a flowery, whimsical dream on a rollercoaster where you are blindfolded and constantly asking "where are we going?" and "are we there yet?"...in a good way In a world where nothing is certain but your unwavering love for your sister and the undeniable fact that you're dad is an evil lump of rotted plum smelling $h!t, what will you do to escape? What will it take to save your sister in the process? What alliances will you forge and what sorted things will you allow in those pursuits? This dreamy, beautifully whimsical, oft times overly colorful, action packed marvel will keep you guessing until the epilogue and long after. PLUS there are phenomenally developed characters and even a few swoon worthy ones (no Insta love ANYWHERE to be found). Who will you root for and who will you absolutely detest? Who can be trusted, can anyone be? I was team Julian all the way. Now I won't tell you if they get their Happily Ever After but I will tell you that the journey they did take together was perilous and full of surprises EVERY twisty turny chance it got. I listened to this one on audiobook which was not only an enjoyable way to share this with the hubby (who happened to love it as well) BUT was economical to boot because there were innumerable plot twists and untimely deaths that my ereader would have been thrown against the wall in protest...repeatedly. Now I don't want to spoil a single expertly crafted moment for you but I will say that I didn't want it to end and I'm SOOO freaking curious to know what happens next, what was promised and who exactly is Legend?!?!? I wish I could experience it again anew but alas, I cannot but you...you can so why are you still here? Go on now and enjoy every last morsel this book artfully dishes out! You'll (most likely) thank me later
  • (3/5)
    Think of the Venetian Carnival – the equivalent of the Mardi Gras of the hot southern climes - but more mysterious, dignified and exclusive. Caraval shares the magic and mystery, not to mention the canals, of this pre-Lenten Festival. Scarlett, and her younger sister Tella, live under the cruel and tyrannical thumb of their father: Scarlett is eager to marry an unknown suitor who will take her and Tella away from their sadistic father, but when she receives an invitation to attend the magic circus run by Master Legend Santos, she cannot resist. Scarlett, Tella, and a ‘golden brown’ sailor Julian, reach the magical island and take part in the game of Caraval. Rich, luscious, and intriguing, Caraval is an exciting read.