Stephanie Garber’s Caraval is effervescent, atmospheric, vivid. She masterfully creates a stunning world where sisters, sailors, and mysterious players revolve around one another in a game where nothing—or everything—is real.
What you can steal
1. Her sumptuous scene-setting.
I hesitate to call this worldbuilding—while Garber does invest in some intriguing worldbuilding, it’s her individual scenes that truly shine, with finely wrought details for all five senses.
In her keynote at the SCBWI annual conference, Garber mentioned that Caraval was inspired by Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, and it truly shows. Her novel bursts and dazzles with the same saturated splendor.
It’s a fine line between purple prose and gaudiness done right, but Garber absolutely nailed it. Her world is sweet without being saccharine; dark without being overdone. Caraval is a lesson in decadent descriptive writing.
2. Her true-to-life sisters.
I’m biased, of course, because I have a sister who I love, but the relationship between the main character, Scarlett, and her sister, Tella, grounds the story in deep love and gives weight to all the surface-level frivolity. It’s Scarlett’s desire to save her sister that sends her careening toward Caraval, the legendary game on a mysterious island.
And what could’ve been shallow escapism is instead a story of sisters trying to find one another—and finding themselves in the process.
If you want to escape—if you want to lose yourself in a fantastical world where the line between reality and fiction blurs and warps—read this book.