Book review: Caraval

I read “Caraval” by Stephanie Graber when I was 12 or 13 and instantly fell in love with the story. For a year I took it everywhere I went, just continuously reading and rereading until the rest of the series came out.
This book follows two sisters, Scarlett and Donatella, who have always wanted to experience the magic of Caraval, an immersive mystery game in the theme of a carnival, but the game is laced with magic. The game is a constant confusion of whether or not the experiences the players are in are real or simply magic, which can be extremely dangerous. Caraval takes place only once a year, and happens for about a week, during which the players only have that amount of time to figure out the mystery.
When Donatella and Scarlett join in the game, Donatella disappears and is nowhere to be seen. After searching for her younger sister, Scarlett is informed that her sister is the prize of the game-and anyone can win her if they win the game. Obviously, Scarlett is more determined than ever to play and win the game of Caraval.
The world of “Caraval” is extremely playful but mysterious at the same time because the game makes you question what reality is and isn’t. For example, one of the most popular quotes from the book is “Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game.” Garber does a fantastic job at maintaining her story’s world, describing the magic so colorfully, you’ll feel like you’re physically there with Scarlett and Donatella. Think of “Alice in Wonderland” but more vibrant and loud.
Though this book is character driven, it never takes away from the world around you when reading. The mysterious aspect of the book, the pace, and the plot twists makes the book impossible to set down, because you need to get answers as soon as possible. Scarlett is new to Caraval and struggles with trusting people too much to get answers about her sister, and the consequences of her actions will make you stressed, but you’ll still feel the need to keep reading. Scarlett will do anything for her sister, and their dynamic is beautifully written. You feel every single emotion throughout the book, including love, betrayal, anger, but also comfort because the characters are so relatable.
Garber has gone on to continue the “Caraval” series with two other books—“Legendary” and “Finale”—along with a spin-off series which as of now includes “Once Upon a Broken Heart” and “The Ballad of Never After.” I have yet to read Garber’s spin-off series, since I’m waiting for the third and last book in the series.
Overall, I give “Caraval” 5 stars, but the series 4 stars, simply because the first book is phenomenal and cannot be beat.