**This is a spoiler free review**
"Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world"
I just finished reading Caraval in less than 24 hours. This book has received a lot of attention over the past while, and when I found out the vibe was a "magical circus/carnival at night" I immediately felt like this had already been done and assumed it wouldn't live up to the hype.
I was wrong. I loved this book! The only bad thing about it was that I didn't realize it was the first of a series, so now I have to wait a while until the next book, but given that I'm happy with the ending, I think I'll be able to handle the wait. I would say that in terms of waiting for next books in a series, this one is a good one to read when you know you have to wait.
I really enjoyed the twists and turns. Despite thinking I had anticipated some of the plot twists, I was off on my predictions several times, and there were definitely turns that I did not see coming. The story starts off with two sisters, Scarlett and Donnatella who want to see Caraval. From the moment they arrive, you follow their journey through Caraval and all the magic that comes with it.
The whole point of Caraval is to win the game; it runs for a week and visitors search for clues to solve a mystery, and whoever solves it first wins a prize. The magic in Caraval is real, and the most entertaining thing about the experience is that it's so 'real' it can be hard for visitors to tell what is actually happening and what is an illusion or trick. As the reader, the same is definitely true which is one of the things I think makes this book so enjoyable. As the characters try to navigate Caraval, so do you and it's hard to tell what is magic and what remains true outside of the enchanting experience of the game.
The story moves at a fast pace- every chapter brings some new, key development to the plot- that is rarely accomplished in a 400 page book. There is lots of action, the story doesn't lag, and I can guarantee you will find it hard to put down. Overall, the action-filled plot, the characters, and Caraval itself totally stole my heart. If you enjoy mystery or fantasy or both, then this book is for you.
Advice for Reading: Don't read any more reviews or potential spoilers- go read it and have no idea what is going to happen, because it will be such a better experience as a reader if you jump in with no assumptions or guesses. So go read it now!
You'll like this book if you enjoyed: The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern); Hunted (Megan Spooner); Daughter of the Pirate King (Tricia Levenseller); Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen); Stardust (Neil Gaiman)