Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.


Song For This Book: White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane 
Why? I know this is an Alice in Wonderland inspired song, but the fantastical atmosphere with the song and the lyrics just fit the atmosphere of Caraval so well.


The hype around this book was insane. Literally everyone was reading it, and everyone was gushing about how amazing it was. While the synopsis had caught my attention, I went into this book expecting something significantly less than what everyone was saying. I figured it would be good, but not to the calibre that hype would have you believe.

However, I loved this book. It was not at all what I expected when reading the synopsis and the reviews for it, and that took a bit of time to get used to. But once I got into it, and especially once the characters got to Caraval, I was completely sucked into the world of Caraval and in love with the story. It’s definitely one that worth all of the hype.

One thing that did catch my attention was that it’s categorized as young adult, but didn’t really feel like a young adult book. If we’re going by the age range anyway. It doesn’t seem as simple as YA can be, and the author doesn’t shy away from the violence and confusion.

The Good Points of Caraval:

The way that Garber handles the deception and truth throughout this novel is brilliant. Half the time, you’re just as confused as the characters are when it comes to what’s going on, and the way the truth gets revealed makes you wonder if you should have had that figured out all along. It definitely helps keep you hooked into the story.

The pacing in this book is perfect. You get just enough backstory and build up, only for the plot to take off on you, dragging you along for a crazy ride through Caraval.

The writing, while maybe a bit much at times on the purple prose front, is perfect for this sort of story. The wording and phrasing just adds to the mystery and atmosphere of the book and setting, helping to you get even more immersed in the story.

I liked the relationship between Scarlett and Tella, and how Garber depicts the positives and negatives about their relationship. Having a sister myself, I know what it’s like to care about them and be driven crazy by them at the same time, and I think Garber did a great job of depicting that.

The Downsides of Caraval:

The world building, considering this is a very unique, magical world, is seriously lacking. There are lots of great descriptions, so you can picture the places, but it’s honestly hard to keep everything straight. And even the map at the front doesn’t help. At the end of this book, I still knew very little about the isle that the sisters came from, or Caraval beyond some location specific descriptions. And it kind of worked, but it could have been so much better.

The characters were a bit on the flat side. And if they weren’t flat, they were boring and lacked interesting personalities. With the focused mostly on the action, this wasn’t a big deal. But the first hundred odd pages of listening to Scarlett whine incessantly about everything sucked.

Scarlett seemed to figure things out a little too easily. It’s clear from the beginning that she’s not the brightest bulb in the bunch, and true, she has help. But it all came so easily. Like she barely had to fight for anything, and had to make some *sacrifices* (barely sacrificing anything, honestly), but she found her sister without having to think too hard.

All in all, I did really enjoy Caraval, and it has definitely earned its place on my shelf. If you’re a fan of the Night Circus and reading it because it’s compared to that, you may find yourself disappointed, as it’s really not in the same league. But if you enjoy fantastical journeys, magical games, and fast paced books, you’ll likely enjoy Caraval.

Find Caraval on Book Depository

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13 thoughts on “Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

  1. I’m DYING to read this one! It’s been on my TBR list for forever it seems like. I’m glad you ended up giving it such a high rating, because I was really nervous for a second. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree the hype was insane, and I was also led to expect a different book than the one I got. I liked it, but I think the over-hype made me a little disappointed in a way that I would not have been if the book hasn’t been talked up as life-changing, ground-breaking YA, when to me it read as a solid and imaginative but fairly standard YA fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

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