Book Review | Caraval by Stephanie Garber


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

Caracel is Magic. Mystery. Adventure.

When the sisters’ long-awated 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.

For a debut album, I applaud Stephanie Garber for writing a great story. I do have to admit that Caraval reminded me a lot of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Here’s why:

  • Everything is just a grandiose performance, one that involves games, magic, and illusions. Where the performers never age for as long as they remain working in the ‘carnival’.
  • It is set in a  ‘carnival’ setting. One that only opens once the sun sets and closes at dawn/sunrise. A performance that only lasts a week or so.
  • Said performance/carnival never visits the same place twice, and is always moving and travelling all over the world.

So, the premise of where the book is set wasn’t very original – in my opinion. However, I still loved this world that Garber created. The Caraval does mess with your head, and there’s a lot of things that is hidden behind the scenes. There were a lot of times where I did wish that I was in the characters’ place instead! To go on an adventure in this performance-based game where anyone can be involved. Erm… count me in – I need more adventures and risks in my life!

Moving onto the plot of the book. It’s quite refreshing being able to read a novel where the main focal point is the relationship between siblings – in this case between two sisters, Scarlett and Tella. Great! Something original, and a book about a strong connection between sisters! A lot of you may disagree with what I am going to say next.

I didn’t think the relationships between the characters were fully developed – and therefore, it didn’t feel like there were anything real about them. Yes, this is a fictional book, it’s not meant to be real – but emotions and bonds and relationships are meant to be felt by the audience too, and I just didn’t feel it at all. There was a sense of that sisterly love that I was looking for – but it didn’t feel real. It just felt forced in a way. But, that’s just my opinion. I did feel bad for the sisters though, especially with regards to the way their father treats them. This is where I highlight the fact that they do experience domestic abuse, incurred by their father.


As for the romance. It was quite predictable where things were going. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t enjoy it though. Because I did. I ship Scarlett and Julian, really badly!

Now, let’s talk about the villain of our fantastical story… The Master of Caraval, Legend. I didn’t really know how to feel about him. Honestly, he didn’t feel much of a villain at all. Sure, he kidnaps people and maybe murder’s people. However, we are warned that the things that happen in Caraval are simply a performance. He was made out to be this mysterious, and maybe even dangerous individual. The person who controls everything within the Caraval. But, he was neither to me. Although I was intrigued about his past… I have to give him that, I do want to know more about him. And hence, why I cannot wait for the next instalment to this book!

Garber’s writing style is okay. It tended to tell you more about what was going on – and why you should feel sympathy or anger towards these characters rather than showing them. Which honestly kind of affected the way I felt towards the characters. In terms of the way the plot goes, the story does mess with your head – making you question whether things are what they seem or not. Everything is all jumbled up, and there’s so many sides to the story and so many twists being thrown around that – like Scarlett, you kind of doubt a lot of the things that’s going to happen in the story. In fact, I had a list in my ‘book review’ journal of questions about plot lines and the likes. Which, I’m happy to say – kind of got answered at the end of the book.

Overall, I thought that it was a really lovely read. It was very fast paced and I enjoyed every bit of it. As said before, Caraval is a great debut novel and I have to congratulate Stephanie Garber for penning such a fantastic world. It may have similarities with The Night Circus, but I don’t hate that – Garber was able to make it her own story and it worked.  Although I do have to say that there is a fair bit of domestic abuse within the book as mentioned before, and that’s one of the most important plotlines in the book.

Would I recommend this book?

Of course, it’s full of wonder and magic – and we can never have enough magic in our lives. And, one theme that resonates throughout the whole book is that there is hope.

“Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.”


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