Spoiler Warning for both Caraval and the Six of Crows duology here!
We start with the story of Del Ojos Beach, where Scarlett has set up this meeting, and how Scarlett was told as a kid that it was filled with pirate bones. We get some purple prose about the beach and the moon, and then we get the story of what happened the last time Scarlett and Tella tried to leave.
Apparently one of her friends, Felipe, had booked them passage on a schooner, but they were caught just as they we boarding. She watched as her dad drowned Felipe, and was told that is she ever did anything like that again, her sister would suffer the same fate.
I want to take a moment to compare the Governor here to one of YA’s other horrible dads- Six of Crow’s Jan Van Eck. Van Eck is also filthy rich, basically controls an island, and is horrible towards his cinnamon roll of a son, Wylan. But unlike the Governor here, we a) see some redeemable-ish qualities, and b) we don’t get told everything upfront. Van Eck is ruthless in his business, but he’s not portrayed as bad for this alone-Kaz is also ruthless, and admires that quality in others. His public image is also one of respectability and piousness-people don’t tend to fear him, but they respect him. He’s also shown to care for his young new wife, making sure she lives in comfort, and spent a good amount of money on tutors and education for Wylan. It is slowly that we learn how twisted his goals and motivations are, and the extent he will go to for them. Also, we’re not really told what he does to Wylan so much as we are shown. One of Wylan’s conflicts through the book is him learning to reconcile with the fact that his father is evil, and it works great because of the slow, gradual reveals of how horrible Van Eck is. This character development and depth is why I think he’s a more effective villain figure than the Governor, who we are told is horrible, shows up to do arguably the same horrible things, then leaves.
Anyways, Scarlett never told Tella about what happened (though wouldn’t Tella have been right there? And also, Tella probably hasn’t missed the fact that her father is much harsher with her), and restates that the only way to safety is through getting married, which again isn’t the worst of plans, especially when you already have assurance that you can leave and take your sister with you.
And Julian shows up! He thought this little midnight rendezvous was going to be with Tella, but he’s not unhappy with seeing Scarlett again. Not shaken by the earlier events of the day either, apparently. He’s wondering if she’s actually coming with them now, but Scarlett is here to make a counter-offer to whatever money Tella is promising him-the tickets for Caraval. Never mind that only one is actually usefull, because two others have names on them, but still, a pretty alright offer.
“You can have all three. Use them or sell them, as long as you leave early, and without Donatella.”
“Ah, so it’s a bribe.”
Even if it is, is it any different than Donatella’s proposal? Way more safe too, because you’re not running around with two young women who are DEFINETLY going to be missed.
“My sister is impulsive. She wants to leave with you, but she has no idea how dangerous it is. If our father catches her, he will do far worse than he did today.”
“But she’ll be fine if she stays here?” Julian’s voice was low, slightly mocking.
FUCK YOU, JULIAN.
Yes, let’s mock the abuse victim with a relatively solid exit plan! Let’s ignore the fact that you’re going to have to sneak past someone who apparently has competent guards, and likely a fleet of fast ships! And that Tella has no idea what she’ll do after Caraval is over! What if she doesn’t get the wish? What if someone on shore recognizes her and sends word back to her dad? Do you want to be able to step on this island again?
“When I get married I plan to take her with me.”
“But does she want to go with you?”
“She’ll thank me for it later.”
Julian bared a wolfish smile, the whites of his teeth shining in the moonlight. “You know, that’s exactly what your sister said to me earlier.”
AND THEN HE KIDNAPS HER!
Like, legit chloroform-over-mouth, grabbing-her-from-behind kidnap. And Tella stands there preaching about taking care of her sister!
Screw both of you, you’re terrible people.
Scarlett flits between consciousness and memories of the past. Conveniently, it’s memories about their grandmother, and when she would tell them about Caraval. Specifically, about Caraval’s founding and the man behind it, Master Legend. Legend was a charming, more-handsome-than-angels man that came from a family of talentless performers. He wanted to impress a girl, Annalise, with talent, so he went to a witch and got one gift granted:
to be the very best performer that no one ever was to lead the greatest troupe of players the world had ever seen. Sidenote: I kind of want this guy to meet Kvothe of Name of the Wind.
Anyways, the magic comes with a caveat: Whatever role he performs, he becomes. So if he plays a villain, he becomes a villain, ect. So Annalise falls out of love with him and goes to marry another guy. Dramatically, he swears never to love again.
Who wants to bet he falls in love with out protagonist?
Also, who wants to bet that we’ve already met him in the form of Julian? Who else would be both mysteriously exotically handsome and so invested in getting the girls to Caraval?
Anyways, Scarlett wakes up on a tiny rowboat with Julian. He informs her she was out long enough to make the trip, which I should remind you was something like 3 days. Julian, wtf did you give her? Someone being out that long cannot be healthy, unless they were constantly drugging her, and it could lead to significant brain damage.
Scarlett is understandably not enthused about this. In a moment of shock and confusion, Scarlett slaps him.
Horror filled Scarlett at what she had done….She clutched the edges of her bench, waiting for him to strike back.
But the hit never came.
Julian’s check was a blaze of angry red, his jaw nothing but a series of tight lines, yet he didn’t touch her. “You don’t need to be afraid of me. I’ve never hit a woman.”
Look, while you shouldn’t hit anyone except out of self defense, how is she to know? She’s been physically abused her whole life, YOU kidnapped her, she has literally no recollection of the three days your journey took and has woken up in the middle of the ocean.
She calms down a little, but then realizes that Tella isn’t with them.
“If you’ve done something to Tella I swear-”
Hey jerk, if you have someone who is at the least an important political hostage, at most a terrified, confused girl who is also a very important political hostage and could get you drowned, maybe you should get her name right.
Anyways, Tella is already on the island because this rowboat only has room for two.
The isle on the horizon looked nothing like her familiar Trisda. Where Trisda was black sand, rocky coves and sickly looking shrubs, this bit of earth was lush and alive.
That would be because the author is trying to contrast the two to make sure we get that Trisda is a bad place with bad people and Scarlett needed to leave. Oh, and it’s also magical, probably.
“You’re lucky you slept on the way here. The rest of our voyage wasn’t nearly this scenic.” Julian said as if he’d done her a favor.
Yes, because a boring voyage is so much worse than getting kidnapped and potential brain damage, you douche-canoe.
It turns out that Tella did kind of plan for them coming back- she left a ransom note in Scarlett’s room, so it would appear both had been kidnapped. Because faking a kidnapping and then going to a crowded, famous place where you’re tried to get to for multiple years is a good plan, right?
Julian, predictably, mocks her for wanting to get married. Scarlett does want to go, but she also knows that the consequences for a few nights of adventure likely aren’t worth it. Julian argues that she’s been writing letters for years to Legend, and drops this tidbit:
“…You’ve probably heard that [Legend] never ages. And I’ve heard he has a way of making people fall in love with him.”
She says she doesn’t want to go anymore, she’s grown up and now she just wants safety for her and her sister.
“Don’t you think your sister wants the same thing?” Julian stopped rowing and let the boat drift over a gentle wave. I might not know her well, but I don’t think she has a death wish.”
Welp, I don’t think she has much foresight either.
“I think you’ve forgotten how to live, and your sister is trying to remind you,” Julian went on. “But if all you want is safety, I’ll take you back.”
Yeah, how dare an abuse survivor want safety and a secure future! She’s not being scared and cautious guys, she just doesn’t know how to live.
Julian keeps arguing with her and splashing her with water from his oars, and we learn that she was writing the letters as a coping mechanism after her mother left without a trace. Scarlett says that she doubts her father was involved, because he turned the island upside down looking for her, but I don’t know if I believe that. Though knowing this book, it was more likely something to do with Caraval.
Scarlett decides that she’ll check it out and get Tella back, which is fortunate because she wouldn’t have had much of a choice anyways. Their tiny boat is suddenly sinking, and they have to strip and swim a hundred yards to the island, prompto!
No, seriously. Apparently their clothes will weight them down too much? I get this since Scarlett is probably wearing a huge dress, but does Julian have to strip too?
“But what will we wear when we’re on the island?”
“I think we just need to worry about making it to the island. And by “we” I mean you.” Julian unbuttoned his shirt, revealing a row of brown muscles that made it clear he’d have no problems in the water.
Then, without another word, he dove into the ocean.
May you get eaten by a giant squid, Julian.
Especially because he’s right- as soon as she hits the water, Scarlett’s dress starts weighting her down. She starts to drown, but of course our valiant Julian saves her at the last moment.
He cuts her dress a la Jack Sparrow in a scene that gets Scarlett all flustered and reminds her that she’s never been this close to a boy. Girl, he kidnapped you and left you to drown. I’m sure even without the arranged marriage you could do better.
They make it to the island, only for a twist- Tella is gone.