Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Rating: ★★★★★
As a note, a printed galley of this novel was sent to me by the
publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my
opinions in any way.
Where to begin, where to begin? This review is going to be hard because I don't know that I can explain my love of this novel in a short, spoiler-free review, but I'm always up for a challenge. I never knew I needed this book until it was delivered to my front door one rainy afternoon. The thing about Caraval is that it's so incredibly vivid and unique. I was consistently blown away by the amount of soul that is in each paragraph and sentence and character. I don't think I've been this impressed by a novel, and its world building, quite so heavily in a long time.
What strikes me most is that this is Stephanie Garber's debut novel is that she is weaving a dark and delicious tale of magic and heart in a way that dances circles around people who've been working in the genre for many, many years. I can't stress this enough--Garber created a world so breathtaking (and at times terrifying) that you simply cannot put the novel down. I read it in one sitting and found myself revisiting it once already. I was thoroughly impressed with it in a way that made it an instant favourite for me.
The last time this happened, I think, was with Splintered by A.G. Howard or The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I'm calling it now: this is going to be my #1 release from 2017. I decided that even in 2016.
Caraval is an enthralling tale of one mysterious game and a pair of sisters who love one another in a way that is painted beautifully. It's a story of escaping the horrors of an abusive father. It's a mind-fuck (pardon my French I guess?) of a story that will keep you on the edge of your seats as the story grows. I didn't expect half of what was thrown at me and that was so very satisfying because I do love a good thrill-ride that keeps me on my toes.
Toss in a hint of romance and you've got an entirely delicious story that will attract many. I'm so fascinated by everything about it: the origins of the game, the backstory of Scarlett and Tella's family, all of the actors featured in the game, what will come of Scarlett's budding relationship and the arranged marriage her abusive father had in the cards for her--especially after we meet this fiancée.
If you're looking for the next great fantasy novel, Caraval hits all the right marks and will certainly be your next favourite novel. It's a standout in an over-crowded genre and I'm anticipating the second installment. I do think there's an important thing to note: there's mentions of physical (and mental) abuse at the hand of a parent and that's not going to be a good thing for some people.
That's my trigger warning for it. It's not a spoiler.
Overall, I loved the characters, the plots, the romance and everything about it. I thought that the relationship, the bond between sisters, for Scarlett and Tella was very important--and very, very flawed. I was very intrigued by Julian and Legend. And I'm going to stress this again: such phenomenal world building. It's dark and whimsical and unique and just entirely beautiful. Very easy to get lost in the words and Caraval is absolutely one of those novels where you can easily picture everything as it plays out on the pages.
I'm so excited to see where Garber takes us next and look forward to seeing this story continue. Fans of The Night Circus and Splintered will definitely find a new love in its development. I can't praise it enough and while taste is very subjective and this won't be everyone's cup of tea, I recommend it to anyone.
I have a feeling it only gets better--and more twisted--from here on out and I couldn't be more thrilled by this prospect. Caraval is one of the most compelling novels I've read in recent years and one of my favourite galleys of all time, I can't wait to get my hands on a finished copy.