There is a fancy grocery store near me called Fresh Market. It’s the kind of store that people go to when Whole Foods is too big. There are bins for candy, nuts, and other things by the pound, an expansive deli section, and a bakery where there is an assortment of individual desserts to choose from. My favorite thing to do is to get a small dessert when we go there, because it’s like having a gourmet dessert made just for you.
But what do I pick? The flourless chocolate cake with the miniature chocolate chips coating the outside edge of the frosted slice? The puff pastry, stuffed with real whipped cream and strawberries, all told as big as your head? The creme brulee, crystallized before your eyes? Each choice is rich, colorful, and delicious – just looking at the case would make your mouth water.
Garber’s book is a feast for your senses. Emotions and feelings are colors in Scarlett’s experience, and even the names of our two sisters: Scarlett and Donatella, are luxurious. You can see, taste, smell, and hear all the exciting twists and turns of this book. We discover that both sisters have been writing to the leader of Caraval, Master Legend, requesting that he grant them entry to his game, Caraval. When Scarlett has a marriage arranged for her, ‘Tella decides it’s time to take action. They escape their abusive father and become a part of the game. (That’s a lot to take in but the first few chapters mercifully set all this up in a clear, concise manner. Like, you hate dad from the get go, it’s not hard.)
One thing about this book that you might miss in the grandeur is the theme of escaping abuse. It is not as easy as it looks. It’s not just about escaping the actual, physical person, it’s also about overcoming the effects. The fear and the instinct to protect and preserve are difficult to get rid of, because you never know when they might come in handy again, you never know when a peaceful situation could turn violent.
Scarlett’s journey through Caraval, the magical game of deceit and intrigue, is actually her journey away from fear and towards a stable and healthy future. She learns to trust a little, give a little, and hold some things back. She learns what she is willing to give to keep her sister safe, but also what she is willing to give to have a life of her own.
This is a shiny, delicious, sensual book about women finding their own power and cleverness to escape the schemes of men. While Scarlett might have (partially) found her way, our rambunctious Donatella may have her own path to follow in the next book. I myself eagerly await book #2. Enjoy!