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Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Spoiler Free)

Thursday, May 25, 2017


May 25, 2017

“Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or performance. It's the closest you'll ever find yourself magic in this world.” ― Stephanie Garber, Caraval

It's only a game...or is it?

I went into reading Caraval by Stephanie Garber completely blind and it was the best decision I could have made. Caraval was not what I expected at all. I had gotten vague descriptions of the plot from various Instagram friends, but nothing compared to the actual story itself. The synopsis is as followed: 


FROM GOODREADS: 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.


Now when I first read that (it's on the inside jacket of the book) I was interested, but still not sure how it would play out in the novel. I began reading it on the 22nd of this month and I couldn't put it down. It was just supposed to be a leeway novel in between my last read and "Lord of Shadows", but it turned into so much more.


First things first: the setting. I have this obsession with Victorian/Dickensian type worlds or basically anything that involves top hats and coattails. There is something so whimsical about it that I just love! It also reminds me of Tim Burton films and that just makes me love it even more. So as I read this book and that seemed to be the theme with long gowns, top hats, cravats, parasols, and velvet waistcoats, I was sold. The book takes place on two different Isles and of course inside Caraval which is basically like a huge theater with a city inside...it will make sense when you read the book. There were elements of the circus and Victorian England and I LOVED IT. 

To add to the incredible setting, the characters were pretty great as well. Although, it did take me a while to like and understand the main character, Scarlett Dragna. She is a very naive but passionate woman and in the end I really liked her character, but at the start I found her to be a bit...nettlesome. The other main character, Julian, made my head spin around in so many different directions. I wasn't sure what his prerogative was it made me crazy! Then there is Donatella or just Tella, Scarlett's sister who is a major player in the book. I found her to be the most interesting character of all and I hope we get to know more about the inner workings of her mind soon!

The rest of the characters are fun, mysterious, dangerous, and outright infuriating, especially Scarlett and Tella's father...yikes. There were so many moments that I wanted to punch him in the throat...repeatedly. As for the elusive Legend, the Caraval master, well...you're just going to have to read and find out why I don't know if I hate him or not. 


The entire time I was reading this book, my mind was going haywire. It reminded me of when I read the "Six of Crows" duology by Leigh Bardugo and I spent both books just trying to piece together the man that was Kaz Brekker and try and understand his game. This book is the same. The whole time I was trying to decipher Caraval and even when I thought I knew what was going on or who was who, I was completely wrong. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised at the revelations made. I hope you will be as well. 

My favourite thing about this book is the amount of plot twists. It keeps you on your toes and makes it a definite page-turner. I found the book to be exciting, heartbreaking, happy, sorrow-filled, thrilling, mysterious, and overall: MAGICAL. There really isn't anything else that sums it up. The magic in the world isn't straight forward and neither are the answers to questions or how you would pay for something. Certain aspects of Caraval reminded me of old faerie tales in which one would not gain something without giving something up important like a firstborn or a lock of hair. It was all very exciting!

I have heard that there may be a sequel and I hope so because the epilogue really leaves it open. I have a lot of questions now that really need answers. I am pretty sure I have more questions now after I have read it than when I began the novel. I give this book a 5/5 start rating and hope to read more from Stephanie Garber in the future! If you are a big fan of fantasy novels that involve a lot of thinking and puzzles you will love Caraval! 


Happy Reading! 

- Haley

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