REVIEW: Caraval ~ Stephanie Garber


I was unfortunately disappointed with this novel, after having high expectations from a number of rave reviews.

I have seen this book get lots of good reviews, but I found myself disappointed. Caraval did not live up to my expectations, however some parts of it were enjoyable.

The blurb:

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

Scarlett and Tella have 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.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations 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 an elaborate performance. But she quickly becomes entangled 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.

My reason for reading this book was my love for The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It sounded a little similar, with a performance infused with magic. However, Caraval is not that book. Yes, there are comparisons to draw, but personally I did not find Caraval to be anywhere near as enchanting.

My main problem with the novel is its predictability. From relationships to event outcomes, I could see what was coming. I even guessed some of the twists. I felt that the novel was full of cliches; things that have been over-done. And while the story itself is unique, the way it has been written is not.

The writing also involved a very repetitive sentence structure. Scarlett seems to associate taste and colour very closely – suggestive of synaesthesia. This was interesting at the start, and I loved the similes and metaphors that were brought in to describe things; but after a while it became too much. Everything was described as being the colour of something, or tasted like something else. It was too much for me.

I didn’t feel very connected to the story as a whole. I never completely got to know the characters, nor did I connect to them. Therefore when bad (or good) things happened, it didn’t feel very powerful. I wasn’t absorbed in the world of Caraval, I was just an outsider.

All of that being said, I did find myself enjoying the story-line in places – no matter how cliched it was. There were beautiful descriptions and interesting scenes that pulled me in now and again. I loved the idea of Caraval, I loved what it had the potential to be and although I do not agree that it filled this potential, a niggling part of me still wants to read the second novel.

Yes, Caraval  is book one in a series. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Without the Epilogue I feel this novel could have easily been a stand-alone. But Garber included those last few pages, and with them, the potential for a further story.

It goes without saying that this review is entirely of my own opinion. I have seen 5-star reviews of Caraval, and less frequently I have seen 1 or 2-star reviews. There is every chance that you will like this book, and so I suggest reading it yourself to see which side of the argument you stand on.




I wasn’t as blown away as I was expecting. I think this novel has a lot more potential, as does the author. Perhaps we will see this in Caraval #2.

Eleanor is an English graduate and Medieval Studies student looking to use her skills to help save the planet. She adores reading and knows books will always be at the heart of her life, no matter where her career takes her.

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