A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.
After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.
The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.
Listen man, *pulls heart shaped lollipop out of my mouth with a pop noise and points it at you* I may be more into this series than originally planned….
Becoming re-obsessed with a story is probably the best feeling in the world. It feels like coming home, like “oh yeah this is why I loved you so much“. I stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading this book with my eyes itching and burning with tiredness and my vision blurring as I was fighting to stay awake to finish it and when I did, it felt like all of a sudden my lifeless corpse was dropped down by strings like a puppet and then it just started dancing.
So what is this book about?
Legend is hosting his second magical games in a single year in Valenda – the capital of the empire, and while Scarlett doesn’t want to play again, Tella, most interested, as always, in the thing that remains unknowable to everyone: Legend’s identity, and enthralled by the carefully cultivated sense of danger to him, gets enmeshed once again in the deadly game. But this time, the stakes have never been higher: the lives of everyone tied to Caraval are a web, and Tella, had somehow managed to do something to get herself stuck in the very edge of it. With the memory of the cursed Deck of Destiny she used as a child which prophesied her loveless future and the charged possibility of uncovering her mother’s whereabouts if she wins Caraval, Tella finds herself caught in an endless maze of reality and fantasy where everyone involved is suspended somewhere between the two.
“If you can convince yourself it’s true, you can convince anyone.”
In a book where nothing is at it appears, one thing is certain: this story is a genuine pleasure to read. The author created a captivating, delightful tale with several aces up its sleeve. But the real star here is Caraval and its secrets: an immersive and imaginative world brimming with energy, mystery, backstabbing, romance and even more unforeseen twists. A world where everything seems not exactly undone but unmoored, released from the ruts of logic, where the rules become flexible, blurring the edges in a way that highlights that place where stories and real life convene, where magic contains truth and the world as it appears is false, where the future seems to hold too many possibilities to bear and just about anything can happen. And outside the narrow circle of Caraval, other forces are at play, forces that emanate from a surrounding empire built on ancient mythologies, rumored gods and goddesses, and superstitions that have given Caraval and Legend their power, making the feeling of charge, of possibility, immediately more pronounced.
I loved this book. I loved how the story was wrapped in a riddle and tucked into an enigma, and through that writhing confusion and bewilderment, my mind was racing, fighting to puzzle out what was happening. I was struggling to wrap logic around everything that was occurring, formulating hypotheses and dismantling them. I felt Tella’s frustration whenever she manages to find the thread of a clue, to take hold of it and untangle its meaning, only to realize that someone, something is always a step ahead. I was also pleasantly surprisd by how the author pushed her world-building even further, expanding it to the complex machinations of the Prince of Hearts, Legend, and even the empress of Valenda.
Now I know this isn’t even remotely related to the actual events of this series, but what if – just hear me out, what if Legend is actually some sort of ageless nymph who just kind of came into existence sometime in the early 1800s and has been trying to share the magic and the otherworldly and transcendental beauty of Caraval with humanity ever since but everyone keeps interfering, spreading rumors filled with cryptic warnings about Caraval being a hazardous game orchestrated by a devilish someone with terrible powers who’s intent on destroying them all… propelling Legend to succumb to the innacurate myth that was built for him and proving that human race is a failure.
Anyway, the unfinished feeling of the story is definitely going to eat me from the inside out until the next book. This book has set up future volumes which promise to go bigger and I can’t wait!
“Not everyone gets a true ending. There are two types of endings because most people give up at the part of the story where things are the worst, where the situation feels hopeless. But that’s when hope is needed most. only those who persevere can find their true ending.”