Hello everyone!

I am here with a very special post today. I have my review of one of the most anticipated books of 2017, Caraval by Stephanie Garber as well as an interview where she answers some of my questions about the book!

First I will share my review. Thank you so much to Raincoast Books for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

This book is so hyped. Going into it, I was a little nervous, because a lot of the time, when it's a book everyone is talking about and seemingly loving, it doesn't live up to the extraordinarily high standards set by early reviews and publishers. I am happy to report, however, that this book more than lives up to the hype.

The first in a new fantasy series, this book follows Scarlett and her sister, Donatella. They've never left the small island where their father rules as governor, he would never allow it. However, as Scarlett's wedding to a mysterious count in a neighbouring land approaches, she finally gets a response from Caraval's leader, Legend, inviting both her, her fiancé and her sister to participate in this year's games. Caraval is a magical game where nothing is what it appears, but the players must remember that it is all a game, or else they may go mad. Following a situation with a sailor, Scarlett and Tella decide it is time to escape to Caraval, experience it all, and be back in time for Scarlett's wedding. As they journey to the magical island where this year's Caraval games are held, Tella gets kidnapped by Legend. This year's event focuses on the mystery of Donatella, and you have to find her in order to win the prize, one wish.

Even though he was only meant to get the girls to the island, the sailor, Julian, poses as Scarlett's fiancé and joins her in the game. But Scarlett knows she can't trust anyone, least of all the sailor she just met.

I think my favourite part of this book was the witty dialogue, especially between Julian and Scarlett. They would banter back and forth, Julian giving insight to the game he's played before, and Scarlett explaining that she didn't need his babying. They were so great together, and I really liked how their relationship transformed.

Characterwise, Scarlett starts out very hopeful for her arranged marriage, her fiancé seems like a decent man, at least from his letters. Her father would never allow them to meet before hand, and Scarlett tries to resist Julian. At the same time, you, as the reader, are just waiting for her to realize that the count could be even crueler than her father, and just be with Julian already. She's not a traditional lady, but she's not an early feminist either. And I enjoyed that. She isn't looking to start a rebellion, but she's not complacent.

Julian, oh Julian. He was such a great character. I was getting a strong Flynn Rider womanizer vibe from Tangled mixed with Captain Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles (who, by the way, is my favourite character in that series). He was seductive and flirty, but he also genuinely cared about Scarlett, especially towards the end, and he stood up for her when she needed someone to. I kind of figured out what was going to happen with him in the end, but it didn't deter from the story at all. Plus, he called Scarlett "Crimson" which, I guess isn't the most unique nickname, but I loved it.

The world-building in this book was spectacular too. In my ARC there wasn't a map yet, but I could see everything nicely in my mind. The magical land where the games are held, the shops where you pay with your greatest fear, or your last lie, instead of coin.

Most importantly, this story is about Scarlett finding her sister. There is a romance interwoven, but it doesn't take centre stage. Scarlett never forgets her mission to save her sister, she fights every day looking for her. I was really glad this didn't turn into a story where she forgets all about her sister, falls madly in love and then is like "oh yeah, my sister is here somewhere." But they work together beautifully, there's never a harsh jump from Caraval, to the romance, to finding Tella. Everything is seamlessly connected.

For the most part, this story wasn't predictable. There were a few very minor things that I thought might happen, but I could not predict the enormity of the situation, and how deep things actually went.

Because this book is the first in a series, I was a little concerned about the ending. Would Scarlett find Tella, or would that be a cliffhanger ending to get you to read the next book? Without spoiling anything, I will say that the ending of this book is very satisfying but still, opens up for the next book. I need to read book two because there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Overall, read this book. It definitely lives up to the hype and has a great cast of characters.

And now for the Q&A that Garber was kind enough to do for me!

What was your inspiration behind the idea for Caraval?
Caraval was inspired by a number of things. I’m tempted to say it started with the Fall Out Boy song Centuries, which first inspired me to create Legend’s character. The lyrics start out with, “Some legends are told. Some turn to dust or to gold. But you will remember me. Remember me for centuries.” 
I had the idea for the game of Caraval before I heard this song, but when I heard it I knew that I wanted to create a character that embodied this—I also knew I wanted to name him Legend. So even though the story revolves around Scarlett and Tella and the game, it really began with Legend.

The world in Caraval is so different from anything I’ve read before. What is your process for creating such an elaborate and unique world?
I had the idea for the game portion of Caraval long before I started writing the book. I knew I wanted to create a game that blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. But for a long time I didn’t actually know what that looked like until I figured out who Legend (the master of the Caraval) was. Once I sketched out his character, I then spent time trying to figure out the rules of the world, which I tried to keep pretty simple, because I wanted to create a world that would be accessible for people, even if they aren’t typically fantasy readers. I also knew I wanted to create a world that people would enjoy spending time, so as I thought about each location I tried to make them all as appealing and magical as possible.

I really loved how this book was focused mainly on Scarlett trying to find her sister, and not all about her relationship with Julian. Why was this an important element of the story for you, and how did you ensure you kept the balance between both elements?
Oh, this was definitely an important element for me. I have a younger sister, and she is my very best friend. I didn’t base Tella’s character on my sister, but I did want to create an authentic and loving sister relationship, so I definitely pulled elements from our relationship and put them into the book—I may or may not have been an extremely overprotective sister growing up.

As far as balance goes, when I write romance I really try to let my characters decide who they want to become involved with, rather than forcing relationships to happen. As I wrote, I honestly didn’t know where Scarlett and Julian’s relationship was going, I just knew that for Scarlett, no matter what happened, her sister would always come first in this book.
When I was reading the story, I really loved Julian’s character; I definitely got some Flynn Rider (from Tangled) and Captain Thorne (from The Lunar Chronicles) vibes from him. Who/what was your inspiration for Julian’s character?
Thank you! Julian was actually kind of an accident. He wasn’t originally meant to be a significant character in the book. As far as inspiration goes, rather than thinking about anyone I knew, or characters I liked, I tried to think of what I thought Scarlett needed, which was a character who would push all of her buttons, which Julian does.

What is your favourite part about the book? Any specific scene, element or character?
My favorite part of the book is actually kind of a spoiler, but since that is a terrible answer, I’ll say that my favorite characters are probably Julian and Tella—I had so much fun writing both of them. They both say things that I would never dream to say, and they’re both much braver than I am as well.

And finally, without giving too much away, I saw on Twitter the other day that you’ve finished the first draft of book 2 (yay!). I know things will probably change, but is there anything you can tell me to help hold me over until book 2 comes out? 
I wish I could talk about book two right now, but since it’s still in the early stages, I’m afraid that anything I might say could change drastically before it comes out. Though, I do think it’s safe to say readers will get to meet some new characters and some new exciting places in book 2, and I’m really excited about both these things!

And there you have it! Special thanks to Stephanie Garber for taking the time to answer all my questions as well as to Raincoast Books for setting every thing up.