Novel Spellbinds Readers with a World of Exquisite Nightmares and Stolen Dreams


Photo by Laura Renfroe

Caraval by Stephanie Garber whisks readers away into a whimsical world of deception and magic.

Laura Renfroe, Staff Writer

“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.”

Long lances of sunrise shone across the lush morning hours, shattering the deep quietness of the circus as people rushed through the entry gate, taking in the striped velvet tents and letting the popcorn drizzled with warm caramel sweeten their sleepy senses.

This might be the scene you could envision of the life of a bustling carnival. Scarlett Dragna and her sister Tella have never stepped foot outside of their tiny island until Scarlett receives a letter inviting her to the mysterious Caraval.

She is whisked away into this elaborate world of heartbreak, games, and magic. Will she remember this is all a game, or will she drown in the deception?

Stephanie Garber’s novel Caraval offers a dizzyingly sweet story dripping with twists, turns, and romance. The book was published in 2017 under Flatiron Books. The trilogy consists of three enchanting novels: Caraval, Legendary, and Finale.

Caraval was inspired by pretty much all of my favorite things—I wanted to tell a story that I would want to live inside,” author Stephanie Garber said in BooksInc. “My hope was to create a beautiful-over-the-top-place, full of magic and romance and wonder.”

And Garber undoubtedly has accomplished just that. The book has entranced countless readers, earning awards such as the Entertainment Weekly Best 10 YA Books of 2017, Amazon Best Book of the Year, and Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Year.

Stephanie Garber weaves an intricate and beautifully multilayered story about sisterhood and adventure. She manages to create this enigma cloaked in magic and deception, keeping readers guessing left and right.

The story begins on a secluded, lonely island where Scarlett and Tella Dragna suffer from boredom and life with their cruel father. Scarlett’s father prepared a marriage for her, but all that is on Scarlett’s mind is the allure of Caraval.

Scarlett eagerly receives the invitation and is swept away with the help of a mystic, roguish sailor named Julian. Once they arrive to this world of lost dreams and broken promises, Tella is almost immediately kidnapped by the mysterious mastermind of Caraval, Legend himself.

It is revealed to Scarlett that this whole game revolves around her sister. Whoever finds Tella first wins the elaborate games. Will she be able to find her sister and be the winner?

Caraval is a magnificent frenzy of amber skies, whispered dreams, love letters inked on torn parchment, and mysteries surrounding Legend and his traveling Caraval performers.

“A special kind of magic fills the air of a carnival. Garber manages to tap into that magic to create a unique setting for her novel,” commented PHS librarian Eles Renfroe.

“Into this magical feel, she infuses suspense and mystery. This atmospheric blend is intoxicating, making the reader want to explore this strange and wonderful world,” Renfroe finished.

The characters in the novel are beautifully woven, offering mesmerizing scenes that never create a dull moment. Caraval creates such complex and lovable characters it becomes hard to put the book down.

“I had fun with a lot of the characters in this book, but I probably had the most fun creating Legend. From the moment I decided there was a character named Legend, I knew I would have a good time with him,” stated author Garber.

“I also loved writing Donatella, my main character’s sister. She is wild and adventurous and says all sorts of things that I would never say out loud, so I especially loved playing with her dialogue,” she concluded.

Readers question what is real and what is simply part of the game right alongside Scarlett. The delightfully dark world crafted in the novel is like a shadowy version of Wonderland where the Mad Hatter pulls the strings.

Despite the plentiful positive reviews it receives, some critics argue the novel offers too much romance and not enough exposure to the actual world of Caraval. However, I thought the romance in the book was infatuating. The romance never crossed the line as “cheesy,” and Garber balanced the complex storyline with her Caraval world of melodious metaphors quite well.

The lush language of Garber’s writing is sure to dazzle you. The whole Caraval trilogy can be found at the PHS library or any local bookstores and experience the magic.