I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this one. I think that the concept was interesting, but part of it was a bit extra and another part was underdone.
The book is set around two sisters, Donatella and Scarlett. After their mother left, their father (the governor of their island) became controlling and abusive. The sisters would do anything to escape their father. Scarlett wrote to 'Legend' the master of Caraval, which is basically a travelling magical troupe that is also a game and begged him to visit their island for years. After her last attempt, Scarlett finally received an answer from Legend, inviting her, her sister, and her fiancée to come participate in the game if they could get off their island and travel to his own.
Caraval is a really cool setting. Magic is everywhere. It tricks you and you start to wonder what's real and what's part of the magic (super trippy). I think this could have been played up a lot. Feed into Scarlett's insecurity and paranoia about what's going on. It seemed like the author attempted to do this, but I feel like the feeling could have been a lot stronger. It also seemed like there were too many attempts at plot twists to try to confuse you, but it worked a little too well. By the end of the book I didn't really know what was going on. Up until the big reveal(s), I thought the book was pretty good but the ending just did not make sense to me.
I also think the main reason I didn't like this as much as I should have is because of the sisters. I'm not sure how old they are, but both girls acted like they were twelve pretty much the whole time. Stupid and innocent and naïve, but to the extreme. Scarlett is more worried about her wedding than anything as it's her chance to get away from her Dad. If I was Scarlett, I would have punched Tella in the face a long time ago. She's selfish and annoying. You're going to say that you were willing to DO ANYTHING as in LITERALLY DIE to escape your father, but the fact that Scarlett was willing to marry a stranger is just horrible. Setting the whole thing up to fake her death was quite melodramatic. I felt like there HAD to be a better way than to put her sister through all of that shit. And then there's Scarlett! Believes pretty much anything and everything except for the fact that her sister COULDN'T POSSIBLY fall in love with someone she just met. Hypocritical to the extreme.
As mentioned before, the ending was just really horrible. There's no need for a sequel, but of course that's put in there as an afterthought like hey somehow your missing mom is involved in all of this and there's secret deals and blablabla. Hopefully the next one is better.