Caraval Review


Caraval (Caraval, Book 1) by Stephanie Garber

Synopsis: 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 . . .

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.

About the Author: Stephanie Garber loves Disneyland because it’s the one place on earth where she feels as if the fantastical stories she loves to write about could actually come to life. When she’s not writing young adult fantasy, she teaches creative writing at a private college in northern California, where she’s known for turning assignments into games and taking students on field trips that involve book signings. Caraval is her first novel for young adults. She would love to hear from you on social media.

Genre: YA, fantasy

More Info: hardcover, 416 pages, published on January 31, 2017 by Flatiron Books



Welcome to the magical world of Caraval!

Filled with magic, mystery, and love, Caraval will capture your attention from the very beginning. Scarlett is set to marry…someone. Even she doesn’t know. But she hopes that her new husband will whisk her and her sister away from their abusive father. When she receives tickets to the elusive game, Caraval, her plans change.

Taken to the Legend’s private island by a scoundrel of a sailor, Julian, Scarlett starts her Caraval experience with less than ideal circumstances. When she finally enters the game as a player, she realizes that the prize, along with one wish, is her sister. If she ever hopes to see Donatella again, she has to win.

To win, Scarlett must play the game. She has to work with many people, reveal secrets, find clues, and keep her composure. To complicate things, Julian becomes an unsteady presence in her life.

If she doesn’t win the game in time then lives are at stake, including her own. Will she be tricked by the performers or ensnared by maddess, like Legend? Or will she succeed and reclaim her family but also her freedom? You have to play the game as a watcher to find out.


Ok. That was dramatic, but it totally fit the book. Starting with the cover; it is gorgeous! When I first saw this book it was the cover that caught my eye. All editions, including the ARC, US, UK, and more are all beautiful. Plus there are special editions for the UK books:

Scarlett is dedicated to her sister and they are connected by more than just a family bond. They are opposites in many ways. However, while Scarlett feels responsible for her younger sister, she aspires to gain Donatella’s free spirit. While there is somewhat of an emphasis on sisterhood, there is minimal interaction between the sisters throughout the book. Their relationship is still well developed through flashbacks and Scarlett’s thoughts, but they didn’t connect like I thought they would.

Julian is hiding something, and I certainly feel just as suspicious as Scarlett as events continue to unfold. She has to trust him to win, but that’s hard when you don’t really feel like you can believe him. There is definite tension between the two of them. Julian likes to do things his own way, and doesn’t always consider his feelings…especially when he teases her. He is handsome, a scoundrel actually, but he has an occasional sweet side. There is no love triangle and no insta-love = YES!

Caraval, Legend, the island, the mystery…most of the elements in this book reminded me in some way or another of Alice in Wonderland. For example, Legend’s signature is his top hat. One of the shops on his island is called the Hatter and Haberdashery. All of the stories about Legend paint him as magical and mad. By playing the part of a villain in his game, he has supposedly become one. It’s hard to know whether or not you have met Legend, because he hides…yet Scarlett still feels his gaze as she traverses Caraval.

Overall, the writing is quite good and the setting, unique. I was captivated for most of the novel. Scarlett’s growth is well developed. However, she was a passive character. She had minimal agency; only occasionally does she go out of her comfort zone to become fierce rather than docile. People really read into each element and I know I certainly over-thought many of the situations. This suspicion is what kept me most motivated during my reading. Many of the clues and plot were less than what I expected, almost losing my attention but not by much. The performers in Caraval were interesting and I would love to get a behind-the-scenes look at the setup for this magical game.

I had my suspicions throughout the book, about the clues and people in the game. However, none of them actually compared to the reality of the plot twist. In fact, I think some of my assumptions were more outrageous, making the truth seem almost anti-climatic. The falling action was all around less dramatic than I thought it would have been due to the intrigue in throughout the book. However, the finale is like one of those movies where they leave the ending upon for another movie. You are content with the story, though still interested and asking questions, even if there is no sequel. And you are also happy when there is a second movie. To me this is the ending of Caraval. I just so happen to know that there absolutely will be more in this series which makes me excited to see where the story will go.

As Garber’s debut novel for young adults, this book is perfect and I can’t wait for more. Caraval lives up to some of the hype.

Trigger warnings: abuse, suicide (The plot is partially spurred on by these serious issues.)

Here was my Waiting on Wednesday: Caraval

Buy it here:






6 thoughts on “Caraval Review

  1. A.M.B. says:

    The cover IS gorgeous. I don’t know whether to put this one on my TBR list. It’s intriguing, but the use of suicide to spur the plot doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t expect books to be perfect, but I can see myself really having a problem with that.


    • Jessica @ Pore Over the Pages says:

      I know a few people who have been put off for the death and abuse plot points, so I wanted to make sure I put the trigger warning in my review. Because of the twists at the end, I questioned the severity of some of the unsavory plot pieces, but I know others were more affected. This book can be dark, but intriguing because readers question everything. If you are unsure, there are many other amazing books to read. 🙂 My newest favorite is A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.

      Liked by 1 person

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