Review// Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Caraval #1)

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.

This review contains no spoilers.

This book was bought with my own money.

Trigger warnings// suicide, domestic abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, kidnapping, death, murder, body horror, captivity, toxic relationship, implication of rape. Please inform me if I have missed something and I will update this section.

Let’s start this review with saying that I liked how original this was. Stephanie Garber has created a magical world I wanted to keep reading about. This book is full of suspense, plot twists, and mystery.

Scarlett, the main character, was not my favourite character. I think I would’ve liked it better if she were a bit more impulsive and less shy, so I could’ve seen more of Caraval and more dynamics between the other characters. She is very reserved and protective, and while that makes sense because she basically had to take care of her younger sister, I thought it wasn’t always fit for a seventeen year old girl. If it had just been Scarlett playing Caraval, and if the other characters surrounding her didn’t make it more interesting by distracting and confusing her, I would’ve liked the book a lot less for sure. Another weird thing about Scarlett is that she can see emotions in colour? I have no idea why or how, because this isn’t explained, or maybe it’s just some repeated metaphor I didn’t get. Maybe it was just a way of trying to sound poetic. I just thought it was weird.

I don’t have any siblings, so I have no idea what that bond is like. I thought the portrayal of Scarlett and Tella was quite accurate, but a little bit annoying at times. Scarlett mentioned her sister a lot. And I feel like the amount of mentions and attempts of actually saving her were not very balanced. Sometimes I wondered if she really loved her sister as much as she claimed she did.

That being said, I wish it had been a bit easier to follow along with Caraval. There are clues through out the book, the same ones the players get, but a lot of times Scarlett her actions appeared to be random instead of deducted from the clues she had gotten. But on the other hand, that could’ve made this story predictable. It surely wasn’t predictable now. It kept me hooked until the very end and was full of plot twists. There never was a dull moment in this book.

Caraval is the kind of book that takes place in an original world. One you can’t really imagine before reading about it. I got sucked into this book and it was very magical. I could clearly imagine everything and the descriptions could be very beautiful. And it even was a bit weird sometimes, it kind of had Alice in Wonderland vibes. The story takes place in some sort of dark festival inside a huge theater. Some parts of it reminded me of Venice, others of huge palaces, and sometimes I had a more medieval setting in mind.

At the almost end of the book there is a scene that’s very wrong and unnecessary. That easily could’ve been left out. (It has to do with the last trigger warning I gave at the top of this review.)

Caraval has an open ending that left me needing to read book 2.

I find it difficult to review this book. Caraval is just something you have to experience for yourself. I can’t discuss a lot, or I feel like giving away too much about the story. Because the less you know before reading it, the more you’ll like it. While reading the book I really enjoyed it, but while reviewing I notice that a lot of the things I’m writing down are negative. But when I look back at reading this book, I don’t feel negative at all. I even gave it 5 stars immediately after finishing it. So I’m going to conclude this review with: give this book a chance if the blurb sounds interesting to you!



  1. January 25, 2019 / 5:44 pm

    Honestly, it’s been a while since I read this book but I do remember something about Scarlett annoying me on some level, but I did really love the world that was created and was excited for the scope that could come from future books. I haven’t read Legendary yet (I need the paperback so that the series matches!) but I am excited as to what is going to happen in it. I might need to re-read this book before I get around to reading this though to refresh my memory!

    • sophies99
      January 25, 2019 / 6:12 pm

      You really should read Legendary soon, I liked it even better than Caraval! (It’s from Tella’s point of view, so less annoying, haha.)

      • January 26, 2019 / 6:28 pm

        Ohhh I didn’t realise that the perspective changed in the second one, that’s interesting. I recently read a book from a different series that switched perspectives between book 1 and 2. I’ve got the paperback of Legendary on pre-order so whenever that ships I will finally read it!

      • January 26, 2019 / 8:38 pm

        Ohhh I didn’t realise it was from a different point of view, that will be interesting. I just finished a book that had two different perspectives between books 1 and 2. I’ve got the paperback on pre-order so whenever that dispatches I will get it in my life!

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