Book Reviews

Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber



This book was reviewed via Netgalley


Sub rosa.


Beneath the rose, nothing is safe, yet all is sacred.


Caraval whisked me away from word one. Garber has woven true magic, as only the best authors can, opening the door to a wondrous new world.


For years, Scarlett has written to the Master of Caraval, a unique performance of magick and mystery, beseeching him to bring his show back to her home island. For years, there is no response, until the day comes that Scarlett sends a final letter saying she will not write again, and that she is to be married. An invitation is sent to Scarlett, inviting her, her fiancé, and her sister Donatella to Master Legend’s private island for this year’s Caraval.


Despite the great risk, Scarlett and Donatella end up at Caraval, where they learn there is so much more to this game than they ever could have imagined. They will be tested to their very limits, in ways both subtle and overt, and will find strength they never knew they had. Strength to find themselves, strength to break the chains that bind them.


Caraval’s clarion call of mystery and magic draws you in, whispering seductive secrets. It rings with the scintillating prospect of self-transformation. Caraval lays you bare, revealing your deepest, darkest dreams, fears, and yes, even hopes. Beneath Caraval’s roses, secrets are safely revealed through elaborate illusion, weaving the strongest of alchemic transformation. If you pay close enough attention, you may find you’ve gone through your own alchemic journey along with Scarlett and Donatella.


I found Caraval to be a rich, grown-up version of beloved classics such as Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, and ACH Smith’s Labyrinth, with a touch of the surreal found in the movies Inception and Pan’s Labyrinth. I love that Scarlett seems to be a synesthete, experiencing emotions as colours she can ‘see’. This isn’t a concept played with too often in books I’ve read, and it is such a fascinating condition.


Echoes of the Stanford Experiment rang through this novel too. Caraval allows the players to let their innermost selves out, their Shadows, in keeping with the alchemic theme. It’s all illusion after all, and what happens in Caraval, stays in Caraval. Except it doesn’t, does it. It exposes your darkest self and deepest fears, and that changes everyone, and most people aren’t equipped to deal with that after the illusion is broken.
????? Highly recommended, if you love fantasy, especially books such as Labyrinth and The Neverending Story.  

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