Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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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 know Caraval has already received plenty of raving reviews, but I am happy to add to it! I really enjoyed this book. It was an extremely fresh and unique debut from Stephanie Garber. I think from the synopsis you can guess that Caraval is about a game- a twisted, crazy carnival-like game that becomes much more serious as the book goes on. Or does it? What I loved most about Caraval is that most of the time, I had no idea what was real and what was part of the game. To be honest, I’m still not sure! I applaud Stephanie Garber for immersing her readers in the game in Caraval as much as her characters.

We are first introduced to sisters Scarlett and Donatella who live on the conquered Isle of Trisda. The book opens with the letters Scarlett has written to Caraval Master Legend, the mind behind the famously magical game of Caraval. Scarlett is enticed by the promise of the magic in this game, and desperately wants to get an invite for herself and her sister. We also learn that Scarlett and Tella live in an abusive household, their vindictive father punishes them by beating the other sister.

Scarlett and Tell have a close relationship and truly love each other. While the relationship between Scarlett and Tella was both strong and heartwarming, the overall world-building left something to be desired. Where were these conquered Isles? How is their world run? These are questions that are never answered throughout the story. However, I was able to overlook this because we are quickly immersed into the magical, exciting game in Caraval.

When Scareltt finally gets an invite to the game, she is hesitant. She has an upcoming engagement to a blind suitor that she is almost certain will save her and Tella from their abusive father. However after a kidnapping by the handsome and mysterious Julian, Scarlett soon finds herself in the heart of Caraval. 

While Scarlett’s world may have lacked world-building, Caraval was magical. It reminded me a bit of Wonderland with its kooky shops and characters. When the players shopped or searched for clues, they often paid in secrets, fears and desires rather than money. Scarlett is quickly thrust into the game, searching for her missing sister. What I loved about the book is that I had no idea what was supposed to be part of this “game” and what was real. I was constantly on edge and guessing- the other reviews aren’t lying when they say you can’t trust anyone. 

There is also some romance for all us fangirls and shippers. Julian was very swoony! Even though it is fairly obvious from the beginning Julian has his fair share of secrets, I really enjoyed his and Scarlett’s relationship. They had some very tender moments but these moments didn’t overshadow the overall goal of the game- to find Scarlett’s sister. I actually really enjoyed the romantic aspect of this book. It added to Scarlett’s overall character development and played an important part in the story. 

The ending itself was also very satisfying. It wasn’t a cliffhanger but definitely left me wanting MORE!  Caraval was the right mix of action, twists and character development. I highly recommend this unique debut in the YA genre. I hope you enjoy it!

5/5★

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13 thoughts on “Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber”

  1. I really enjoyed this too! But I found that the author spent more time developing Caraval so we didn’t get much info about the world and the magic. :/ I’m really excited for the next book! I didn’t know this was a series until I reached the ending of Caracal haha.

    Liked by 1 person

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