Author: Stephanie Garber
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Audiobook Length: 11 hours 24 minutes
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.
Caraval is an interesting trilogy as the first installment focuses on Scarlett, the second focuses on her sister, Donatella (Tella), and the third includes both. In the first novel, I did not like Tella at all, as she came across as immature and annoying. I am very glad that she became the main character in this story as I, as a reader, experienced a different side. She became a very well-rounded and enjoyable character. In this novel, Tella is now a player in her own Caraval game that is nothing like the first. Scarlett is still present, but she faded into the background, similar to Tella in the first installment.
The new Caraval game is put on for Elantine the Empress’s 75th birthday and once again hosted by the elusive Legend. The story itself involves Tella trying to navigate finding the identity of legends and a mission involving the Deck of Destiny. When she becomes involved with Dante, a player, Jacks, a Fate, and communication with Legend, the host, and another Fate, her story becomes a tangled spider web of feelings. Dante is ever-present to assist while maintaining a sense of mystery about his intentions. The same can be said for every character in this story, as it is never clear which pieces are real and which are just part of the game. I loved the hints along the way. Although it made the story predictable for me in regards to Tella’s portion, I loved the build-up to each reveal. Even though Scarlett was a background story, I greatly enjoyed her complicated relationship with Julian. At the end of the first story, it initially seemed to be a clear-cut happy ending; however, it is a lot more complex.
While I loved the potential of the first novel, the writing improved in this story. There was a part of me that wished there was a re-write of the first installment with the style of this novel as it would have given that story the attention it deserved. Though I am 99.99% sure how Tella’s romantic storyline will end through clues given along the way, I was surprised that I cannot pinpoint Scarlet’s as there is more to her story and I am very curious to see how it plays out when we revisit her as a lead in the next installment. The story goes through many twists and turns and ends on a nice cliffhanger that lines itself up perfectly to lead into the final installment. For me, I found there to be a lot of predictability so there were not a lot of elements that surprised me, but I still enjoyed every second.
Overall, this novel was a fantastic look at Tella and to add even more tension that needs to be solved in the next novel. There are lingering questions from the first novel with some addressed in this one and others left as a mystery. So far, this series has flowed well from one novel to the next even though each had a different main character. I missed the whimsy from the first novel, but I liked the tension in this one. With the two novels working well together, while being unique tales, I am curious about the style and set-up of the final installment. I did see that there will be perspectives from both Scarlett and Tella, so I am excited to see their stories weaving together and leading to a conclusion!