Caraval, by Stephanie Garber
Scarlett Dragna and her sister Tella live on a tiny island that their cruel, unloving father rules with an iron fist. Their mother disappeared without a trace years ago but used to tell Scarlett and Tella about the enchanting traveling Caraval. For years, Scarlett has been writing to the Caraval Master Legend in hopes he will bring some magic to her island. Her letters go unanswered for seven years then miraculously she receives a response: Caraval won’t be coming to her island but the Master Legend has sent tickets for Scarlett, Tella and a companion to attend elsewhere if they’re able to leave the island.
Scarlett isn’t sure – she’s supposed to be married in a week’s time but Tella insists they attend and enlists the help of a sailor named Julian to take them to the secret location. When they reach their destination, things begin going awry as Tella is kidnapped as part of the game Master Legend is playing at this year’s Caraval.
Everything that happens within the game is just a part of the performance but as Scarlett desperately tries to find her sister before anyone else, the magic starts to seem very real and she’s soon entangled in a dangerous web of love, lies, death and heartbreak.
Stephanie Garber has created a beautiful, imaginative world with lush descriptions and an enchanting story that grabs you from page one and keeps you enthralled to the very end. Scarlett isn’t your typical heroine – she’s not especially confident, seems insecure and is afraid to stand up for herself. Years of abuse by her father have broken her down but one thing remains – her love for her sister and the desire for a better life. Their relationship is the driving force behind the twist and turns of the story and over the course of 400+ pages, Scarlett begins to find herself.
Caraval is a quick read, the storytelling is superb and the ending unexpected. No doubt there will be other installments in the series as Garber leaves the door open for a sequel. So far the best YA novel of 2017 and quite possibly “the next big thing” in the genre. If you’re a fan of magical world building, read it now!