Scarlett has always dreamed of escaping her abusive father, and going to the faraway world of Caraval with her sister, Tella. After years of writing to the founder of Caraval, Legend, she finally receives the invitation for she and Tella to participate in the magical world of Caraval. Once there, however, Tella is kidnapped, forcing Scarlett to rely on a mysterious sailor to both save her sister, and navigate the complicated and dangerous waters of the game.
Scarlett Dragna has always played it safe. She has never left the island she lives on, she never disobeys her merciless father, and she’s nothing like her rebellious yet beloved sister, Tella. Despite this, Scarlett has always had a dream: to visit the enchanted world of Caraval. A world where magic exists so strongly and powerfully that you have to remind yourself that it’s just a game. Even though Scarlett has written to Legend (the creator of Caraval) dozens of times, she’s never been invited to participate, and since her arranged marriage is coming ever closer, it’s looking like her dream may stay just that: a dream.
Until one day, shortly before her wedding, Scarlett finally receives the long-awaited invitation she’s been dreaming of her whole life. While she’s hesitant to accept, Tella is not, sensing their one and only chance of escaping their ruthless father. Tella and her new sailor friend, Julian, kidnap Scarlett, making the difficult decision for her, and forcing her to go to Caraval. Once Scarlett and Julian arrive on the island, however, they cannot find Tella, finally finding out that that Master Legend has taken her, and that whichever participant finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett, who was reluctant to come to Caraval, let alone participate, is now forced to not only play the game, but try to win so she can rescue Tella. Scarlett must work along side mysterious and near stranger Julian, and set aside her hesitations and fears to survive and win the game.