Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Nothing is as it seems in this YA/adult cross over that leaves us gasping on a precipice we hadn't expected. Gripping in a darker, more surprising than Willy Wonka way.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: January 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473629141

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Scarlett Dragna has had one desire all her life: to visit a Caraval. These interactive events put on by magician and entrepreneur Legend are world famous but very exclusive. It's therefore a huge surprise when Scarlett and her sister Tella receive tickets. These will take them away from their sadistic father and prison-like island home for the first time. Caraval is never what one expects though and when Tella is kidnapped, Scarlett experiences the sinister side of a game in which nothing is what it seems.

When a book attracts a film company like 20th Century Fox before it's even published, you know there's something about it. Caraval is such a book and justifiably so.

You'll soon realise, I'm reviewing around the edges here, not because I've skipped or skimmed any pages. On the contrary, I found myself creeping downstairs at 4am one cold winter's morning because I desperately wanted to know what happened next. It's just that this novel, more than many others, relies on surprising chains of events and I daren't even hint at a chain for fear you'll successfully form the links. So what can I say?

Stephanie Garber's YA/adult adventure is a very dark thrill ride that has hall of mirrors type shocks. Knowing that nothing is what it seems from the moment we read the book blurb we try to second guess but we… well, I anyway… was totally taken aback by 95% of the revelations. At one point I even wondered whether the 5% I guessed were left out for us by Stephanie to lull us into a false sense of our own cleverness.

Caraval itself only comes out at night (participants being hotel-bound on site during the day) and necessitates each competitor following treasure hunt type clues. There's only one prize but it's a prize that brings out the devious darkness in many: the winner gets their greatest desire. When the chips are down though Scarlett realises she's playing for higher odds than anyone else.

The book starts gently with an almost fairy tale/misty fable beginning as we meet the two sisters and a wicked father who rules his daughters' lives and choices. The girls need to escape and Caraval is their opportunity. However when we realise the punishment on offer at chez-Dragna and the lengths to which their father will go to retain control, we realise that, if this is a fairy tale, it's more sadistic Grimm than Walt Disney.

Similarly the wonderfully enigmatic Legend begins the tale as a kind of magical, non-cocoa-related Willy Wonka until…

Parents may want to read the book before they hand it over to their teens which, I'm betting, will lead to said parents wanting to keep the book for themselves. I'm not suggesting it'll be too scary for the average teenaged offspring, just that the urge to have a copy of our own will be more compelling than the thought of sharing something this good.

Oh and you know when you get to that bit at the end and you think it's all over? Turn the page; another letter awaits that will ensure we're on total tenterhooks while we wait for the sequel. Yes, 20th Century Fox knew what they were doing!

(A huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you enjoyed this and would like further proof that the YA label isn't a barrier to older adults, we also heartily recommend Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo for all teens, past and present.

Buy Caraval by Stephanie Garber at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Caraval by Stephanie Garber at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Caraval by Stephanie Garber at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Caraval by Stephanie Garber at Amazon.com.


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