Have you ever had a dream so immersive, so detailed, so captivating that it pulls you and makes you questions all of the dreams that came before it? Well Caraval, and subsequently, Finale, gave me those those kind of dreams. Vivid, cascading, not quite real, but no less thrilling than a real-life trip into a fearful but alluring Neverland. Well, I should correct that. As a child, I had no interest in Neverland, or the Lost Boys, or the Pirates who hunted them, or the Natives who protected them. No, I was interested in more grounded things. Worlds that were similar to our own, but took no flights of fancy to arrive at. If it involved clicking my heels together or flying out of a window in the dead of night, I was not interested.
I did however, spend hours contemplating how I could pass through the looking glass to Wonderland, tumble down a hill and land in a Hobbit Hole, or find the right bush in the park to lead me to the land of the Fairies. There was always a need in me be able to access another world by some sort of logical gateway located in this one. Caraval provided that gateway, just not in a way that I ever would have imagined.
I am a fully grown, mostly operational adult. My days of examining bushes in the park for fairy doors and checking every mirror for any telltale signs of entrances have long been over. My sleeping dreams now consist of the fear not being able to pay the rent, or abject joy of being so rich, rent is no longer a point of consideration. A bit on the nose, I know, but I say this to make a point. I no longer dream about the things that I read or see or at least not vividly anyway. The concerns of day-to-day life and the known constraints of reality have limited my imagination in ways that I believe most adults have learned to become accustomed to. But, that all changed once I started reading Caraval.
On the first night (after reading chapters 1-5), I dreamed that I was somehow at Caraval in a golden and plum dress. Golden…. and plum. I went around, exploring, meeting people… falling in love. Yes, I fell in love. After one brief and adventurous meeting, I had fallen in love with a nameless man who I would not see again until three weeks (and five Caraval dreams) later. The thing was, Legend, Julian, Tella, Scarlett, they were all minor players in my night time musings. I’d pass them while going on my own missions, running errands, searching for the literal man of my dreams.
I wasn’t just following a story, I was creating my own, mapping out Caraval as I did. Even after I would wake up, I could still smell the oak of wooden shop counters, and hear the faint sound of festival lutes. The dreams finally slowed, until finally, they stopped all together. Then Finale was given to me and not only did the dreams come back, so did the man who served as my partner in search of clues, and chaste boyfriend. Never did get his name and every time I see him, there is so much excitement in the air, so I never do. If this has ever happened to you, then you know how riveting/devastating this can be. Hopping for a particular dream, but not dreaming it. Falling asleep after a long and disappointing day, only to have your mind awaken in a land you’ve nearly forgotten existed. Heavy stuff.
For awhile, I thought that I might be alone in this dreaming of Caraval. But, when Finale started off with Tella being visited by Legend in her dreams every night, a feeling of kinship began to envelope me. Did the author know that her trippy tomes were giving people immersive dreams and so she wrote that bit in as an homage to us? Hard to say, but… maybe. Anyway, with nearly all explained and the series over, I’m glad that Stephanie didn’t let a world that many of us love so much, dull out or go up in flames.