Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber

Firstly, thanks to Hachette Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: January 1 - 2 2017
Date Released: January 30th 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Warning: this review contains mild spoilers for the plot of the book.

"Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has 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.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval 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 only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed 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."


Again, warning, this review contains mild spoilers. Stop here if you haven't read the book.

Caraval has got to be one of the most hyped YA releases of 2017. Pitched as having Night Circus vibes (which I haven’t read) I wasn’t sure what I was expecting going into Caraval. I can say it definitely wasn’t what I expected and I don’t think it’s really what I wanted either.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I expected Caraval to be circus-y. A week long performance where participants are a part of the magical show - this is what the blurb tells me. Not sure what those performances would be but like I said I thought it’d be like a circus cross carnival with acts. Instead, Caraval is more like a game of Cluedo. The story is literally a search for Scarlett’s missing sister Tella. It’s a thriller more than anything.

I’m just going to be blunt and say Scarlett was not a character I liked. She was not a character I could relate to and this greatly affected how much I enjoyed Caraval. As frustrating and annoying protagonists go, she’s up there. Scarlett thinks she’s all that, being the bigger sister she’s soooo selfless and sacrificed soooo much for her selfish and immature sister who doesn’t love Scarlett as much as Scarlett loves Tella. I mean yes I could tell that Scarlett loved her sister and I admired how she was willing to die for Tella with the dangerous goings on of Caraval but really, every other page was her going on about how Tella didn’t care for anybody but herself and that Scarlett was the considerate one. This grated on my nerves so much. Then there’s the way Scarlett thinks she’s always right and because she’s braved her father’s abuse all these years, she’s such a great judge of bad character and getting out of trouble. Um no. Repeatedly throughout the book she’s proven to be wrong and gets herself into so much shit. I’m fine with that, if the character grows and learns from their mistakes. BUT SHE DOESN’T. LIKE OMFG SDJHFNSFJDS. My rage at this girl. She even acknowledges that she’s wrong but she doesn’t change. She’s so stubborn, constantly wallowing in self-pity that by the end I swear she had no character growth.

Hands down Tella stole the show for me and I loved this girl so much. While absent through the majority of the book, her presence resonates through snippets of memories and clues left throughout Caraval. She’s fiery, passionate, lives life on the edge. At first, seemingly selfish but bits and pieces slowly reveal just which sister is the more considerate and loving one. By the end I was kind of in awe of this girl and what she was capable of. My kind of girl.

How do I feel about the romance? I don’t know. Y’all know I’m a hopeless romantic but in this case I could have gone without the romance. Like either or it didn’t really matter. The romance didn’t give me lots of feels but I did kind of like the love interest. To me the romance was a plot device for Scarlett to grow and change and listen to her sister’s advice to take risks. I liked that but at the same time it kind of killed me that Scarlett needed a guy for her to change instead of her own personal journey to finding her sister, does that make sense? I don’t know haha.

The plot… like I said it’s literally Scarlett finding clues through Caraval to find her sister. That IS Caraval. It’s not a circus or a carnival of any sort. The show is a lost girl and the quest to finding her. The magic is vague and it’s all kind of like mind games. Honestly felt like real-life Cluedo. Where were the mazes or the trapeze artists, the fantastical elements of intrigue? I wanted chases through labyrinths of mirrors, being tricked into shooting water in a clown’s mouth for a clue, running through flaming rings OR SOMETHING. I felt let down in that regard. Someone tell me my perception of a circus/carnival is wrong because that’s what I expected.

The build up to the ending was mind blowing though. It felt like inception, games within games within games. The plot twisted round and over and I was left questioning every single one of the characters and their motives. Through it all, the illustrious Legend, creator of Caraval, oversees everything that’s going on but we never see him (or do we?). How much of it is orchestrated by Legend, is he truly evil? Or are those the actions of the players and their desire to win. It was chilling, thrilling and a real page-turner! I lived for that ending.

There is no denying that Garber is a talented writer though. I sped through Caraval, finishing it in 1 day. I didn’t want to put it down and I desperately needed to know what happened to Tella and how much of Caraval Scarlett had taken too seriously despite the warnings. Garber’s descriptions are lush and detailed and the story is grand in that regard. She really sets the atmosphere, creating an exotic and mystical nighttime when the game is alive versus a washed-out and empty daytime.

With gorgeous writing and an intriguing plot, Caraval is a real page turner! I guess I was left wanting a bit more though. I can say that I’m the black sheep with regards to this book though because looking at the Goodreads ratings, EVERYBODY loves Caraval, so I would say check it out!


  1. I kind of skim-read this review because I still haven't read it! I got a finished copy from the publisher, though, so it's high up on the TBR. And I've been seeing a lot of "meh" reviews, but I mean, she's a debut author so I hope she just gets better from here!

  2. Ohhh I'm so sorry you couldn't have enjoyed this more Jaz. Even though I loved it, I expected the same thing actually and a circus type world building. I loved the writing though, so lyrical and lovely. I'm so glad you were still able to enjoy it though Jaz, wonderful review! <3