Scarlett and Tella’s mother disappeared years ago, leaving them to be raised by an increasingly cruel father. If he perceives one has misbehaved, he hurts the other as punishment. Their father is the governor of an island and has forbidden his daughters from leaving. However, to improve the status of his name, he has arranged the marriage of Scarlett to a Duke on the mainland. Scarlett has never met the Duke but envisions he will protect her and her sister and end their life of torment from their father.
Their grandmother told the girls stories about Caraval created by Legend – a magical play where the invited guests solve a mystery to win a wish. Every year, Scarlett has written Legend to ask they bring the play to the island. One year, she receives an answer and tickets to Caraval, located off the island. The girls manage to get themselves to Caraval with the help of Justin, who joins Scarlett in the game . . . a deadly game with dire consequences.
Scarlett in many ways is a stereotype: protective big sister, marriage as a way out of a bad situation, poor judge of character, naive. And there is a rather lot of introspection that the reader must endure. Scarlett takes many missteps but that is fine. For her first foray off the island and into this magical world of intrigue and deception, she does fairly well. Caravel feels like a blend of Alice and Wonderland, Disney World and Murder Mystery Theater. Tella is an interesting character that looks to have a larger role in the next book. This is good and unique for YA lit. Adventure, mystery, romance and magical games where nothing is as it seems.
eGalley review Publication date 1.31.17