Scarlett is a young woman who spends much of her time trying to protect her younger sister Donatella from their abusive father. Now that Scarlett is of a marriageable age, her father has arranged a union for her with a count who she has never met and doesn’t even know the name of. But seeing it as a chance to get Donatella away from their father, she steels herself to go through with it. Not that she has much choice.
Shortly before her wedding day, Scarlett receives an invitation to Caraval – a mysterious yet legendary performance where the audience participate in a game set by Legend – Caraval’s master, about whom little is known beyond rumours and myth. Thinking it an impossible dream, Scarlett resigns herself to having to pass up on the opportunity.
Donatella has other ideas, however, and whisks Scarlett off to Caraval with the help of a young sailor. But when they arrive, Donatella herself is kidnapped by Legend, and Scarlett must use all of her wits and resources to find Donatella and to get back home in time for her wedding.
Throughout the novel, I really liked Scarlett’s character. Thrown into an unfamiliar setting (almost) entirely against her will, all she wants to do is to find her sister and get back home in time for her wedding. She is naïve and far too trusting, and seems want to believe in an innate goodness in people. Yet while those around her seek pleasure and revelry, she remains true to her aim of finding Donatella, and I liked the perseverance and resilience that she showed as the novel progressed in resisting Caraval’s many temptations. She is a truly selfless character, and I couldn’t help but cheer her on.
Garber has chosen to give the reader very little information throughout the novel – as Scarlett learns something, so does the reader. This makes Caraval an extremely exciting read, and the twists and turns (of which there are many) meant I didn’t want to put this novel down. And even when you do think you know what’s going on, Garber throws in yet another curve ball. As the first in a two book series, it does end on a cliffhanger, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes next.
Caraval has all the hallmarks of a young adult novel, but I think that it will appeal to a wider audience. I think that anyone who enjoyed Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (comparisons are inevitable, although there are some notable differences between the two novels) as well as fantastical, magical and slightly dark adventures will enjoy this novel.
Caraval will be published on 31 January 2017. Many thanks to the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, for providing a copy for review via Netgalley.