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REVIEW: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

SYNOPSIS: Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy

RATING: ★★★★★ / All the fun and mysterious stars!

REVIEW: Okay, I feel like this review has been building for a while. Probably because it has. If you're following any sort of bookish social media then you've probably been hearing about and/or seeing CARAVAL everywhere for months. So by this point you're either sick of it or frothing at the mouth (laughs evilly...oh! who knew evilly was a legit word. I expected a word correction notice when I typed it, somehow it always seemed like an improper word...I'm getting off topic). The point is that CARAVAL's release date is finally here and I thought it was high time that I got back on track and wrote a freaking review!

I was lucky enough to get an early copy of the book in Autumn 2016. I actually finished it on Thanksgiving day, while carpooling to family dinner. I couldn't put the book down. I needed to finish it! I hadn't seen my brother and sis-in-law for a while and even still, nose in the book, I held up my hand to indicate "hold, please, I just need to finish these pages, and then I will greet you like a normally functioning human". True story, just ask them.

The story started a little slow for me, so my initial thoughts were that maybe this whole thing was over-hyped. BUT the story quickly picked up. For me the full-steam ahead moment happened at the end of chapter 4 - beginning of chapter 5, with a surprising turn of events for our main character Scarlett. I thought, well okay, this is going to be fun (seriously, sometimes writing reviews is so hard because I'm guarding against spoilers at every word!).

The entire book is so mysterious and intriguing and filled with amazing visuals. You feel as if you're catching things out of the corner of your eye and it keeps pulling you in deeper. The book's tagline is "Remember, it's only a game..." ...but is it? What's real and what isn't? Where does magic begin and end? What's really at stake? Who's behind this door and do I really want to go through it? When is a dress not just a dress? The story is built on mesmerizing questions and beautiful emotions. It feels like a dozen other magical books and yet it also feels completely new.

And swirling through all of this are the relationships, old and new. It's about two temperamentally different sisters and their love and trust in one another. It's about the push and pull of romance and responsibility. It's about blind faith and having faith in yourself. And it's about a whole lot of enraptured reading.

Overall, this book exceeded my expectations. The synopsis, pretty cover art, and hype may have drawn me in but the story, in my opinion, really does live up to all that is promised. And now I feel like I'm overselling and getting your hopes too high to ever actually nevermind, this book was bad (insert wry smile here). It was just okay, nothing special (cracks a bigger smile), so don't expect much...BUT YOU SHOULD TOTALLY READ IT, you, know, if you want to (wink).

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