Imagine a magical five-day party on a mysterious island in which guests are invited to play an adventure game against each other in an elaborate contest to win one powerful wish? That is the premise of Stephanie Garber’s dramatic and spellbinding Caraval.
This year, the ringleader of Caraval, Master Legend Santos, invites sisters Scarlett and Donatella Dragna to participate in this otherworldly performance that blends theater with adventure and fantasy with reality. Only he kidnaps Donatella and makes her the prize of Caraval, forcing Scarlett to win the game or lose her sister forever.
Though Caraval is marketed as a young adult novel, it won over this adult reader with the impeccable plotting of The Hunger Games, the elaborate innovation of Harry Potter and the topsy-turvy sensory overload of Alice in Wonderland.
The art for the book cover and chapter headings is stunning, and the detailed world that Garber has devised is just a feast for the senses. As Scarlett navigates a fantastical world in search of clues to find her sister, she sees “a passionate sky made of melting lemons and burning peaches,” hears “violin music, richer than the darkest chocolate” and tastes “golden drinks as rich and thick as honey.”
The sense of place—whether its “sparkling black sand” or “weatherworn white archways and … clay-tiled halls”--and decadent costumes just beg to be a motion picture. Indeed, Twentieth Century Fox has optioned the book for film.
Caraval is a crisp modern-day fairy tale. Scarlett’s mother is absent and her father is evil. She develops a love interest and fights her feelings for him until the very last pages even though he is impossibly brave and handsome. When the two finally kiss, “it tasted like the moment before night gives birth to morning; it was the end of one thing and the beginning of something else all wrapped up together.” It’s all very Brothers Grimm. I am not complaining.
The ending paves the way for a sequel. Legendary will hit bookstores in May 2018 and I cannot wait.
Best paired with a flute of honey, waffles dipped in the darkest chocolate and cakes that look like clouds.