Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
It felt like stepping into a world made of dreams and nightmares, laced with the spicy essence of desire and the cloying smell of fear.
❝ Remember, it's only a game. ❞
Oh, Stephanie Garber appears to be an expert at playing games, a master of manipulation and misdirection. My mind is still clouded, drunk in cider, unable to grasp the boundaries between sweet fiction and reality; I was her puppet numerous times, suspicious, disappointed, frustrated when she wanted me to, enamored yet terrified, always complying with her whims. Perhaps that's what makes Caraval so seductive.
❝ Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything. ❞
Scarlett and Tella. Tella and Scarlett. Two sisters bound by love and fear, two sisters abused by their father, searching for the way out. The chance was presented when a wickedly handsome sailor entered their lives at the same time when Scarlett found in her hands what she craved ever since she was a little child: tickets to Caraval, a week-long show that promised magic. Adventure. Escape. What Scarlett didn't predict, though, was that as soon as she stepped foot on Caraval, her sister would be kidnapped by Legend, the show's master. That her beloved Tella would become a part of the game, and that she would embark on a race against time, accompanied by the rugged sailor that hid dark secrets. That Caraval would blind, confuse, dazzle, ensnare her in its net of murders, deceit, and, well, magic. Scarlett must remember that Caraval is only a game before she loses her soul.
❝ Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or performance. It's the closest you'll ever find yourself magic in this world.❞
At first, Caraval was the source of conflicting feelings. While I sensed that Stephanie Garber was weaving a web of many-coloured yarns ready to trap me, there was one problem: the writing was overwrought, and it remained so for the rest of the book. I usually love whimsical writing, writing brimming with strange yet oddly fitting metaphors, but in Caraval's instance the purple prose of most descriptions somehow dampened my enthusiasm towards an otherwise enchanting read. However, that did not dissuade me from enjoying the story; hunting for clues alongside Scarlett and Julian, bearing witness to marvels and horrors and twisted imagination was my cup of tea afer all.
For me, Caraval will forever be associated with warmth. I can't pinpoint whether such warmth is the product of the delicious chemistry between Scarlett and Julian, the dangerous and sweet vibes that emanated from the ambience, the wild abandon of a magical event that unfolded at night, covering in mist sinister deeds and thoughts, or the idea of the show itself; a show where dresses and all kinds of peculiar goods are traded with secrets, dreams and blood. The truth is that whilst reading Caraval I lost connection with the world around me. I had fallen so deep into its cluches that the ascension back to reality took tremendous effort, like fighting against a current.
I ended up mesmerized.
I don't know how I feel towards the characters. They were intriguing, they were flawed, but I didn't actually elaborate on my feelings and impressions of them. They were simply there, a part of something bigger, my guides to a mysterious island and a world I long to discover. In the end, Caraval was more than a game. It pulsed, it breathed and it devoured me.