STARRED REVIEW
January 31, 2017

Dangerous delights

By Stephanie Garber
Review by

For seven years, Scarlett writes letters to Legend, the head of the mysterious traveling half-carnival, half-game Caraval. And for seven years, she gets no reply. Then, just before Scarlett is supposed to wed a count she’s never met—an arranged marriage that will rescue herself and her sister from their abusive father—three Caraval tickets appear. Soon Scarlett, her sister, Tella, and a new acquaintance find themselves swept into the magical world of Caraval, where they have five nights to win the game and its tempting prize: the granting of a single wish.

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For seven years, Scarlett writes letters to Legend, the head of the mysterious traveling half-carnival, half-game Caraval. And for seven years, she gets no reply. Then, just before Scarlett is supposed to wed a count she’s never met—an arranged marriage that will rescue herself and her sister from their abusive father—three Caraval tickets appear. Soon Scarlett, her sister, Tella, and a new acquaintance find themselves swept into the magical world of Caraval, where they have five nights to win the game and its tempting prize: the granting of a single wish.

Caraval is full of sensory delights, from glittering castles to carousels made of rose petals to edible silver bells. But darkness lurks below the surface-level gaiety: Caraval’s magic traps its players inside their lodgings from sunrise to sunset; nightmares and lies serve as currency; and a labyrinth of underground tunnels intensifies players’ fears.

Debut author Stephanie Garber weaves a suspenseful mystery as Scarlett interprets (and misinterprets) clues, navigates hidden identities and attempts to solve the puzzles of Caraval. But Garber’s true strength is her use of multisensory imagery. When Scarlett first enters Caraval, for example, “soft golden lights licked her arms,” heat envelopes her that “tasted like light, bubbly on her tongue,” and she finds herself surrounded by “a canopy of crystal chandeliers,” “plush cranberry rugs” and “golden . . . spindles that arched around heavy red velvet drapes.” A teaser at the book’s end promises a follow-up novel that readers will fervently anticipate.

 

Jill Ratzan matches readers with books in a small library in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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Caraval

Caraval

By Stephanie Garber
Flatiron
ISBN 9781250095251

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