Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval Cover
Caraval Under the Dust Jacket
Caraval Map


Stephanie Garber

Series no. #1 of 2
Edition: Hardcover, top hat under the dust jacket
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 402
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: January 31st, 2017
Source: Borrowed from Mam
Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.0/5
Avg. Amazon Rating: 4.2/5

Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads | Author

Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea!
Stephanie Garber


Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett and Tella have never left the tiny island of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is an elaborate performance. But she quickly becomes entangled in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak.

And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

In Brief

Caraval has magic, mystery, and a squeeze of romance. If you’re looking for a book that will keep you guessing until the very end, then this is definitely worth a try. My mum said this was a good book when she gave it to me and I have to say it didn’t disappoint. In fact, I loved it way more than I expected I would.


What happens beyond this gate may frighten or excite you, but don’t let any of it trick you.
Stephanie Garber

I also loved the way it all came together in the end – I mean, I really liked the end full stop. Everything came together nicely and was explained in a way that made sense as much as magic can make sense. Even most of the character’s actions made sense afterwards. I wasn’t left with any big questions about the happenings of the book. Only questions generated by the ending that is delightfully set up for the sequel (and I can’t wait).

The setting was really quite something. I read some other reviews around the web and there are some complaints that there’s no world building at all but I feel the complete opposite. While you don’t learn much about the world outside of Caraval (but why would you want to when the story takes place within Caraval), the descriptions of Caraval themselves are wonderful. Perhaps a little purple prose-y at times if you must find fault with it but wonderful all the same and deliberately very magical.

While we’re on the subject of opinions in other reviews, another one that comes up quite often is that Scarlett claims to love her sister so much she would die for her but there’s “no evidence”. You love your sibling, right? I mean, I love my sister(s) even though they do a million and one things I hate and we argue like cats and dogs. But I would go a whole new level of crazy on your butt if you tried to hurt them. I think Stephanie Garber did a stellar job of not trying to overplay the affection between the two especially as there is very little of the book where they are in the same place. Personally, I feel all the evidence you need is at the end of the book.

Now, I don’t know how I feel about Scarlett having synaesthesia – it didn’t really add anything to the story. I’m not sure if it was a flimsy attempt at making Scarlett seem special or was just meant to make her voice unique?? Anyway, despite all that, I actually loved reading it. I felt it was really well written and blended really well with the rest of the narrative. It didn’t jolt me out of the story and, in fact, I hadn’t quite registered that it was what it was until this line: “Scarlett had always seen her own emotions in colour.”

Despite the good rating I have given this book, not everything was perfect so I’ll give you a whistle-stop tour through the things I didn’t like so much. Starting with the as named “insta-love”. I’ll try not to spoil this too much here. This actually didn’t bother me too much but I still feel that I should mention it. I definitely felt like there was absolutely no reason for her to fall in love with him, other than of course his dashingly good looks. Which is totally not a reason.

However, towards the end, her liking him becomes a tad more believable but their actions are more likely just a result of them already being in love rather than the cause of it. Still, there are some fun little moments that might set your heart aflutter. If it wasn’t for the total lack of reasons for them to like each other, I possibly would have shipped these two.

Next, and this is such a small thing, I’m not even sure why I’m including it but Scarlett and Tella’s names annoyed me. Or rather their names used together in one book annoyed me. Even though Tella’s name is Donatella it’s very rarely used throughout the book and I found Scarlett and Tella to just be far too similar. Like Tella could almost be a nickname of Scarlett. But, this is me just being nit-picky – I know!

I would love to tell you how I feel about Scarlett as a character but I’ve yet to make up my mind on whether she was good or if she just stumbled through the story with some good luck. Instead, I’ll tell you about the last two things:

The beginning is a little slow to start up and the book is definitely one that gets much better as you go along. But the stakes are set right at the beginning so even though it takes a while to get going you are quite invested in the girls’ lives from the beginning.

If you’re big on speed reading, then there are a few spots where you might get easily confused and have to flip back a page or two (this happened to me). So, slow down, enjoy the book and I hope that you’ll love it as much as I did!

Opinions From Around the Web

My opinion is not the only one around so I’ve included some other reviews of varying star ratings for you to get a taste of what everyone else thought!



I would highly recommend!

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