January 12, 2017

Five Nights Only • Caraval

Caraval book cover
Scarlett and her sister Tella have always dreamed of going to Caraval, an annual performance filled with magic and wonder where the audience is free to participate as they choose. Just when Scarlett has about given up hope and accepted the fate of her arranged marriage, their long awaited invitation arrives. Whisked away by Tella and her co-conspirator of a sailor, Scarlett finds herself arriving at the island where this year’s Caraval will be held… only to discover that this season’s performance revolves around finding Tella, who has mysteriously disappeared. Scarlett finds herself drawn deeper into an elaborate world of magic, mayhem and mystery, determined to find her sister at any cost and before she is lost forever.

Plot? Even though I laid out the basics of the story, I don’t think I truly succeeded in doing it justice. It does start off a bit slow, but it doesn’t take long to pick up and reel the reader in. I was definitely most invested once they arrived at the island and Caraval begins, because that’s really when things get exciting and wonderful and whimsical. It moves at a pretty steady pace from then on, building up into an excellent climax and resolution. Plus, apart from the main tale of the search for Tella, there are also things going on – Scarlett’s budding friendship (and more) with Julian, and her experiences with the individuals and world of Caraval. It’s seriously one of the most magical books I’ve read in ages.

Characters? Tella reminded me a lot of my younger sister, both with her brash nature, her riotous impulsiveness and her determination to do right by the one person who has always loved and protected her. It’s not surprising that I had a soft spot for the girl! As for Julian, well, he was definitely all too easy for me to add to my list of book boyfriends. I do so adore reading about boys with rough exteriors who are surprisingly vulnerable, plus the complexity of his situation made things interesting. Lastly, we have Scarlett, who I could see myself in when it came to that fierce need to protect her sister and her determination to make it through Caraval no matter what. It took me a while to warm up to her, because her attitudes about certain things grated on me the tiniest bit, but I did wind up appreciating how clever and strong she proved to be.

Writing? I already mentioned that this novel was magical, and that goes for the way it was written as well. I don’t think I’ve read a novel that was so completely immersive in a while! Garber has managed to bring to life a world of whimsy and wonder, of terror and trouble, and to make her readers feel like they are right there alongside the characters. Her ability lies in being able to balance description, dialogue and action, and she certainly did a bang-up job with this story.

Overall? I am so in love with Caraval. Any book that can transport me out of my real life and into its pages is truly well-written, and I’ve got to give credit to Stephanie Garber for writing a book that was such a treat to read. I was completely overwhelmed by the lush descriptions, the excellent storytelling, and I’m so thrilled to have fallen head over heels in love with this story. 

What is your favorite film or TV show that features magic? 

I have enjoyed quite a few films featuring magicians and masters of illusion (The Prestige and Now You See Me are the first two that come to mind), but I really felt like I needed to shout-out the The Magicians. Macky & I started watching the show on a whim last year, and immediately found ourselves obsessed. Based on the hit series by Lev Grossman (which I have yet to read), this show centers around Quentin and Julia, two childhood friends who believed in the magical world in their favorite book and who are introduced to the idea that magic is real by an invitation to study at a university of magic. Their paths diverge when Quentin is accepted into the school and Julia is not, and the show tells of the ups and downs, the good and the bad of magic. It’s brilliant and dark and utterly imaginative, and I’m really excited for the second season.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Series: Caraval #1
Publisher: Flatiron Books | Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Source: Manuscript received from the publisher at ALA (Thanks!)
(I'm a Book Depository affiliate! It would be lovely if you used my referral link if you wanted to buy this book, as I get a very small commission from it and will be putting that cash towards giveaways and other blog-related things.)


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