Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Review: Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval (Caraval, #1) by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 407
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Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .
Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved 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 far-away, 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. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.


I totally get why people loved this, and I really really did want to fall head over heels for it, but there was a few things keeping me from that. It sort of ended up being a mixed bag for me.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game.

The concept: So I really loved the atmosphere of Caraval, a magical circus-esque game that may just be more than you could ever expect. I liked that you could never be sure what was real and what was fake, there was so much mystery surrounding Legend (the ringmaster of sorts) and Caraval.  It was part a story of two sisters and part romance wrapped up in a magical game. I enjoyed the players, the manipulation and mystery of the game. I struggled a bit with sisters plot and the romance.

The description: was often beautiful and could easily sweep you away. On the other hand, some of the metaphorical description took away from the story as I was trying to figure out what it meant and the world building isn’t as strong as it could be. And not necessarily a bad thing, but there actually wasn’t a lot of circus.

The characters: Our main heroine of the story is Scarlett and she drove me up the walls. I found her very Mary Sue, things happened to her, she didn’t do much. She was naive and judgmental and had a stick up her butt. Scarlett and I did not click. I did like Julian, our bad boy sailor, despite being your standard jerky pretty boy who turned out to be amazing. I felt he was a bit more fleshed out in comparison. He won me over even though I wasn’t in love with their love story. It didn’t have the depth to make me fall in love with them. Tella, the other sister, I’m indifferent to at this point though the setup for the next book has pique my interest and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Overall, an enjoyable read with a intriguing magical tale that didn’t quite sweep me away. I think this is more of a case of “it’s not you, it’s me” when it comes to any dislike. It has a lot of potential and I’m hoping the companion book will step it up and win me over.

About Stephanie Garber

My favorite place in the world is Disneyland because it’s the one place on earth where I feel as if the fantastical stories I love to write about could actually come to life.

When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where I’ve been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings. I’m also a blogger on PUB(LISHING) CRAWL. But I probably spend most of my time on Twitter where I tend to overuse exclamation points and emojis.

To help pay my bills during college, grad school, and the breaks in between, I worked as a barista, a waitress, a bartender, a customer service representative for an energy consulting company, and as a sales girl at Bath and Bodyworks. I also spent years working with youth; I worked as a counselor at space themed summer camp, volunteered at a school for deaf children in Mexico, and I took multiple groups of college students overseas to spend their winter vacations serving at youth hostels in Amsterdam. But out of everything that I’ve done, writing young adult novels has been my favorite job.


Author: Cyn

noun. a bum OT, procrastinator. reader. eater. sleeper. music listen-er. movie go-er. Loves food too much.

16 Replies to “Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber”

  1. Boooo, I’m sorry you didn’t totally love this one, Cyn. I definitely agree about the sister bond – well, I agree in that I did not care about Tella at all. Honestly I think I felt negatively towards her, more than anything else. I want to believe that the author is writing book two from Tella’s POV though, so maybe we’ll like her more in the next book (IF that is the case – I’m just speculating). It would be nice to get to know her better. I loved Julian as well. <3333

    Great review, Cyn! Have a fantastic weekend. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  2. Haven’t read this but I was intrigued. However, the reviews have mostly been mixed so now I may have to put this on the backburner for now… Also, I have been reading a lot of historical romance this year so I may even give this one a pass…

    Awesome review, Cyn!

  3. Although I adored this one Cyn, I completely agree with the lack of depth of character but I’m hoping in book two we learn more about the characters. I loved Caraval for the atmosphere. The writing reminded me so much of Laini Taylor, just lovely and lyrical. I didn’t know book two is going to be from Tella’s point of view, I’m even more excited now. I think her story might be far more engaging. Wonderful review Cyn, really enjoyed it <3

  4. I feel like I initially saw all 5 star reviews for this but have seen many more 3ish stars now. Sounds like it had some good and bad points. I still think I want to check it out for the atmosphere. Great review!!

  5. The lack of depth in the characters and your not being able to connect or like some certainly would be a negative factor for me.

  6. I prefer heroines who make things happen and make their own luck, too. The magical circus game world sounds cool. Nice review, Cyn!

  7. Seen so many people who have loved this that it’s nice to see someone who just thought it was okay. 🙂 Great review.

  8. It sounds like an interesting read. Your review actually made me want to read it. 🙂 ~Aleen

  9. It really is hard to love a story no matter how beautifully written if you can’t connect with the characters. So sorry this didn’t quite work for you like it could have.

  10. I’m sorry you didn’t love this one! I’m glad you liked Julian, at least, because I think he’s awesome 😀 Wonderful review! Have a great weekend 🙂

    Brittany @ Brittany’s Book Rambles

  11. It’s a shame this one didn’t live up to all the hype. That can be a problem when a book gets a big buildup – expectations can be a killer. This one is on my TBR list and I love the cover.
    Great review

  12. Sorry this was a mixed bag, I’ve seen a lot of hype for it and I’m curious? I kinda like the sound of the magical circus elements. Scarlett does sound a bit problematic, hopefully she improves in the next one??

    I might give this one a shot, I’m just not sure. 🙂

  13. I agree with you on pretty much everything. I enjoyed the book but I didn’t find it amazing like everyone else. Scarlett was really annoying the constant hand wringing really irritated me. I rated it 4 stars but only because of all the twists at the end. I’m intrigued by the next book too. Great review!

  14. I COMPLETELY agree with you. The book was ok. I wanted MORE of the worldbuilding and circus atmosphere. I didn’t really click with Scarlett. I liked Julian. I actually even wanted more imagery — what was there was ok, but it didn’t WOW me, and the hype this book had made me expect to be wow’ed by the descriptions/world. I did like the concept and the idea that you could be swept away in a world where you don’t know what’s real/a show. And overall that was handled decently, but I didn’t FEEL it. I REALLY wanted to be swept away and I just wasn’t. :/

    Great review!

  15. Aw, I’m sorry this was a bit of a disappointment for you Cyn. Characters make all the difference if you can relate to them so I hear you. It sounds like the magic and world was more impressive for you. I still have this to read and I’m hoping it works for me. Lovely and honest review!! 🙂

  16. Completely agree — I found Scarlett to be such an annoying character. I really felt with this book that the concept and setting were well-executed but the characters left something to be desired.

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