Review: Caraval, Stephanie Garber

[I am currently on holidays until the end of August, I’ll be replying to you all, blog-hopping again and everything then! Thank you for understanding, love you all!]

There are no spoilers in this review.

Back at the beginning of the year, Caraval was on everyone’s most anticipated lists. Everyone read it, everyone praised it and loved it and reviewed it. If you know me a little bit, you know that I am one of the bloggers forever late to the hype, meaning I buy books a gazillion years after everyone. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even know if I would read Caraval or not. In the end, I’m glad I finally gave this book a chance.


“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself magic in this world.”


There is a whole, different and quite unique concept at the heart of Caraval: this game, taking place on a remote island, filled with performers, a big mystery to solve and a magical price to gain. This year’s price is a wish, and this year’s issue to solve is finding Tess, Scarlet’s sister. If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect this when I started reading and I was pleasantly surprised: I thought it would just be some kind of magical event with tricks and performers, yet it was more like a giant murder mystery game taking place in…well, a city-sized thing, with its little canals and boats, with its castles and small houses, with its magical shops and people. The whole concept and world-building surrounding Caraval was, without a doubt, one of the most interesting thing about the book: trying to decipher right from wrong in a strange place, filled with clues and magic dresses and performers. I really, really loved it.


“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”


Then the characters come into sight, and everything gets a little bit…well, I felt a bit less enthusiastic about the main character of this story, Scarlet. If I was rooting for her, obviously, to find her sister, I found myself a bit distanced from her as a whole and didn’t feel for her as much as I would have liked to. I really enjoyed her partner in this game, Julian, more and more as we got to know him a little better, but, just like Scarlet, I didn’t feel entirely satisfied: I felt like there was a bit of a lack of development or maybe connection, something to make me really feel for the characters, like I am always looking forward to in books. It’s probably just an “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of situation, though.

At the heart of the book is, obviously, the sisters relationship between Scarlet and Tessa. If you know me a little bit by now, you know how much I love and care for siblings relationships in books, so I was eagerly waiting to explore that one and fall in love with its complications and dynamics. I loved how both would take the fall for the other and I loved how close they were to each other…at least, how it was told to us in the book, because for some reason in the story I didn’t found that it really showed, especially when Scarlet was in the game. I would have to say the same thing for the romantic relationships within the story: if I could see it unfold, develop in front of my very eyes and if, by simply reading the book, I could figure out that their feelings changed, grew and turned into something romantic for the characters, I didn’t really feel the chemistry, which was a shame because I wanted to root for the characters a little bit more.


It sounds like Caraval was a bad book, from what I wrote here, but I didn’t think so. It was a good, entertaining story, with an original intrigue at its heart. With a little bit more of dimension given to the characters and their relationships, I think I might have fallen in love with it a bit more, but I still had a great time reading it. Also, the writing style got me hooked from the beginning, even if sometimes I felt like it was trying too hard to be poetic and speak to our senses – this didn’t work for me, unfortunately. ALL of that being said, I still found it to be a fast-paced read, filled with plot-twists and a little bit of magic, something definitely nice to spend an afternoon with.

Final rating:  3 drops!

Trigger warnings: suicide, violence, domestic abuse, kidnapping.

 Do you want to read Caraval? Do you read hyped books or end up avoiding them like the plague? Share your thoughts in comments!

Stephanie Garber, Caraval,  Published by Flatiron Books, January 31st 2017.


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.

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Book blogger, travel blogger, writer. 📚 |🌍 | 💞 Writing & Communications Graduate. French. Living on love, wanderlust and ya books.

38 thoughts on “Review: Caraval, Stephanie Garber

    1. I’m so sorry you were so disappointed by this, Carmen! I understand your point though – the world had so much potential, I wish I got carried away by all of its magic a bit more as well. Thank you so much for your comment ❤ ❤


    1. Second book? I forgot about that ahah thank you for reminding me! I’m curious to see what the second book will have in stores for us then…I’m a bit curious 🙂
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great review! I agree, it just felt like something was missing. I loved the world-building, but Scarlet was a miss for me as the main character. I definitely felt the author was trying too hard with some of the language.

    I’m usually the last one to read a hyped book, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy that book so much – I agree sometimes it felt like it was just too much, which makes me a bit sad.
      Ahah glad I’m not the only one forever late to the hype 🙂


  2. Great review! I remember when the hype for this book hit and IT WAS INTENSE. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing it and I almost gave in to reading it. Almost.

    I’m glad I didn’t though because I already have too much to read and if I’m honest, I’m not very interested in the synopsis…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I get the feeling – sometimes, even if you aren’t too interested in a book, the hype makes you curious…I’m glad you are focusing on books that you’d like better, though, Bridget! There are already so many books to read 😀
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, well…I guess you already had the feeling you wouldn’t enjoy it, right from the first pages? At least you didn’t lose too much time with it 🙂 I get it, I was hoping a lot more from this book as well, it makes me a bit sad :/
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes…sometimes it does feel like a contest. Some people are natural, I’m sure of it, but for some others I feel like it does feel forced, which is a bit of a shame :/
      Thank you so, so much, my holidays were a lot of fun 🙂 Thank you for your sweet comment! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Marie! Hope you had tons of fun and relaxation on your trip this month! ❤

    I'm SO SORRY to hear that this was such a disconnect to you… when I read books where readers say they can't connect it normally sends up warning signs that there are a whole host of storytelling problems… the reason these get picked up is because they are creative… (which is a good thing!)

    I've read reviews extolling the virtues of the different "carnival books" and ones like yours where its not bad but crucial storytelling elements are missing. It seems they not only share superficial similarities but similar reader struggles! I'm actually toying with the idea of reading all of the carnival books back to back to see which one feels like the best! Crazy idea, right?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dani! Thank you so, so much – it was a LOT of fun, I’m sad it’s over ahah ❤
      Oh no, I don't think it's a crazy idea – I actually think it's brilliant and I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about all of these, like, comparison elements and everything, which one worked best and why. That would be SO interesting.
      I really like the concept of carnival books, but haven't read any except for that one…yet 🙂
      thank you so much for your sweet comment, Dani ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so, so much, Raven! 🙂 It was really fun, even if I didn’t fall in love with it.
      I agree – sometimes it’s easy to get carried away by the hype and want to add ALL the books to your TBR without even reading the synopsis, ahah 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Agh, I hate when you can’t connect to the characters! It really makes the overall reading experience worse and unenjoyable. 😦 I’m glad you were able to like other parts of Caraval, though! I had this checked out from the library but I had to return it because someone had put a hold on it. 😦 I’m always late to the hype as well, though! Great review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yay, another late-to-the-hype-blogger ahah 😛 I feel less alone in this. Also, Caraval was a good book, it just made me sad that it didn’t stood out more for me to make it memorable. I hope you’ll still want to give it a try though, maybe you’ll love it? 😀
      Thank you so much for your sweet comments, as always, May, you’re the best ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review for this book Marie, I’m glad you enjoyed it but it’s a shame the characters couldn’t quite grab you the way they’re supposed to. The world-building in this book was one of my favourite parts, and the plot itself as well, so I’m glad those were two things you pointed out that you loved as well. 🙂
    Again great review, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this book. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This book its on the Want to read on goodreads and like you Im also a little late to the party when it comes to top YA novels coming out (Sarah J. Mass books excluded) but I really want to read it! From what you wrote it sounds interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great Review, Marie 💕
    I think I scored it 3 stars too and I had the same issues that you had. I had a hard time forming a connection with any of the characters and I totally get what you’re saying about the sisterly bond; it’s described, but it isn’t shown! I also felt that it could’ve been a bit more magical like The Night Circus. I’m excited for the sequel though and to see the direction in which Garber takes it 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh you’ve read The Night Circus? I have heard fantastic things about this book, but haven’t read it yet. I’m glad you found it magical! 🙂
      I’m glad you felt the same way about that one. I’m really curious to read the sequel as well, though and see where everything is going 🙂
      Thank you so much, Michelle ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. haha I wasn’t crazy about the mc either 😉 To be honest, I also struggled with the relationships as well- so it’s not *just* you :p And gosh yes I struggled with the writing so much- it really was a bit try-hard in my opinion- and while I like flowery language, a lot of imagery and metaphors were weird for me (the writing style was my biggest gripe of the book to be honest- so I might sound a little harsh 😉 ) And I did like the plot twists too- so that was good. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh I’m so happy you felt the same way about this book – it was a bit weird, right? The writing style was good, but at times it felt a bit like it was too much, which ruined it :/ thank you so much ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I had very similar feelings with Caraval when I read it a few months ago. There is definitely something there, BUT it wasn’t a home run either. I also had a hard time with some of the characters & character development, and also felt the writing felt forced at times. Overall, a worthwhile read. I am interested in seeing what Garber comes out with next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one with mixed feelings! It sounded so promising and, despite being entertaining, ended up being a little disappointing. With all the hype, I expected a bit more from it all. I’m eager to see what the author writes next, though – I hope it will be great! 🙂
      Thank you so much, Amanda! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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