Book reviews

REVIEW: Stephanie Garber, “Caraval”

by Stephanie Garber


Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
Published: January 31st, 2017
Format: Paperback

Synopsis: 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. (cr.: Goodreads)

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 . . .


Caraval is the debut novel by Stephanie Garber, released on January 31st, 2017. The story is about two sisters that escape from their cruel father to join the Caraval, the adventure of their long-time dreams. But of course, everything turns into chaos when Legend, the Master of Caraval, kidnaps the younger of Dragna sisters, Donatella, and Scarlett, in order to save her, must win this game within five days, because consequences are far more cruel…


I completely understand that hype going within the whole bookstagram/book blogging community, and I was also so excited to read this book, because the cover, the synopsis, the plot were so beautiful and promising.

Yet, I can’t include myself to those bloggers that gave 5 out of 5 stars to this book, or said that this is the best book ever. For me, the beginning was very addicting, but the more I read, the more I felt like Caraval is not what I’d call THE BEST BOOK at all. Funny thing, the reviews from international book blogging community were all satisfied with the whole book, while Russians mainly gave negative reviews, saying that this book is way too full of YA cliches, and etc. So I had to initially lower down my high expectations, because I still trust Russian opinions.

So, back to the book.

I should agree with the Russians that the characters were pretty much cliche, without anything really twisting to them. But even among them I could find a favorite character and even sail a damn ship that I’m gazillion times sure almost noone else will do. Yes, Dante, I’m looking at YOU. And yes, Dante/Scarlett, I’m shipping you two. I’m a damn sucker for sad characters, and all that angst they have with other characters.* Also I basically love couples that were meant to suffer a lot before finally being together!**
I hold nothing against Julian or Julian/Scarlett, but they’re really way too cliche, I’d prefer to avoid them, and give more, MOAR love to Dante! Although, yes, he still can’t forget Rosa, but I was really wishing he could heal himself by taking Scarlett in. MY SHIP IS SAILING, IS ANYBODY JOINING ME?
But I really dislike Scarlett. She first reminded me of TLC’s Scarlet (WHAT A COINCIDENCE), but then Caraval’s version irritated me even more when I digged further in the book. Like, HOW can she maintain that level of fear and paranoia?? Even I’m not capable of that, and I’m known among my friends as a damn paranoic! But the way she kept underestimating her own sister made me SO angry. Come on, Scarlett, don’t you see that Donatella surpassed you because she DARED TO THINK DIFFERENTLY? But I also think that Tella was way to careless, but at least she learns from what she experiences! And uses them very cleverly.

*I mean, look at GALE HAWTHORNE, that tall cutie pie suffering from not having Katniss whatsoever!
**Best example: Jacin/Winter. I LOVE THEM!!!

The idea and the concept of Caraval was really nice, I enjoyed it a lot, somehow reminded me of a fine mix of THG Capitol and TLC Artemisia. But the way the quest was held, or, I’d better say, not held at all… That is when my mind started questioning: and where’s the action? Why Scarlett just keeps bumping into everything that ACCIDENTALLY (wow, what a word here) contains hints for her? Isn’t that way too easy, just to wait for a lucky chance? Even Katniss had to SURVIVE The Hunger Games, not just wait until everything comes to her on a silver plate. I needed action in this book, and Stephanie Garber didn’t give me ANY. Too lazy to do a research, and then write it? Well, I clearly know that action scenes are not easy to write, but YOU. WROTE. AN. ACTION. FANTASY. Care to make it feel more like actual action, please?

And that is the exact reason I took away two stars. It could be an awesome book. But it didn’t managed to become one. I really hope that the sequel will be much and much better.

The Russian translation will be released this month, and I won’t regret spending a bit more for an ebook to read again for clearer understanding. But until now, only 3 out of 5.


Wow, what a review! Never wrote so much over a single book.

Did you read Caraval? Did you like it? Or was there anything that prevented you from giving this book a five-star rating? Share the links to your reviews in the comments, I’d love to read them!

Always yours, always ranting,

Make sure to find me on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Goodreads.

11 thoughts on “REVIEW: Stephanie Garber, “Caraval””

  1. I completely agree. Scarlett does nothing to solve the clues, she just wanders around until she ends up in the right place by accident. I also didn’t understand how none of the other players managed to get to the end of the game before Scarlett when she wasted so much time doing silly things – surely someone else would have worked it out before her?! Also the one-dimensional supporting characters annoyed me – what was with the Count?!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is one of those books I’ve seen around so much that I somehow have no desire to read it. And I managed to go pretty long without even knowing what it’s about.


      1. At this point I feel like I should start with the books I have on my shelf before I try to pick up anymore. There are too many books and not enough time to read them all!


      2. I mean, you can’t really have too many books? Right?

        Maybe in the future we’ll be able to outsource them. Unpaid interns can read all the books for us. But that sounds like the premise of a horrifying sci-fi story. 😉


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