Caraval: Stephanie Garber || Review

“Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.”

Caraval by Stephanie Garber 

Caraval (Caraval, #1)(cover + summary from 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 . . .
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.

I feel very confused, and very betrayed, which I imagine is how most contestants felt during Caraval.

The hype for Caraval was absolutely insane, and because I am who I am, I heard the hype, the dreamy carnival description of the setting, a brief description of Legend, how much everybody loved this, and there I was chomping at the bit to buy a copy of the book. And seriously, everybody loves this book. And. I. don't. get. it. I'm almost at the point where I wholeheartedly believe my copy was printed wrong, or that I read another book, because I just feel like surely all these reviewers can't have loved this book that much??

The writing was gorgeous, don't get me wrong. Aside from the few questionable word choices/metaphors, I was absolutely in love with it, and that's the main reason I managed to get through the book at all. It read quickly and was lush + gorgeous. There definitely wasn't a lack of description, or a bland tone, that's for sure. 

There was also a little bit of diversity (!!) which I loved. It's not common in fantasy books like this, so it was a nice change to see at least two recurring PoC characters. 

And I liked the setting of Caraval itself, I really did! I've always been a sucker for books that take carnival aspects and twist them in unique and clever ways. The magic of the place felt real, and the things like the moving bridge + places that changed halfway through exploring them never felt cheap or overdone. I loved the uncertainty that the plot contained (although the whole "missing sister" thing left a little to be desired) and the whole thing oozed this real magic-fantasy vibe that I haven't felt since I was younger. 

But good god almighty- those characters, man. 

I haven't been this aggravated by a cast of characters ever (although Half Bad comes close). Scarlett was the most ignorant ya heroine I think I've ever encountered. Seriously, the girl made me want to cry while banging my head against a wall. She won the opportunity to have two questions answered by an omnipotent character and she asked follow-up questions to her first question, expecting them to not count?? Like??? You're in a place where people have specifically warned you to listen carefully to what people say so you don't get screwed over??? 

Image result for supernatural what are you doing gif

 There's so many other instances of her stupidity/naivety that are just mind-boggling, and I'll refrain from including them in this review bc otherwise we'd be here forever. I guess I've also just consumed too much media at this point, because those plot twists... weren't really plot twists?? Majority of the shocking info reveals that occurred were things I had guessed eons before, and it not only made Scarlett seem all the more brain-dead to me, but caused the book to lose some of its magic. 

I'd also heard from countless others that Scarlett was "such a strong mc," but honestly, this girl's spine was limper than a noodle. She was pushed around throughout the entire book, and majority of the thoughts she had were ones that somebody else had placed there. (And if they weren't influenced by somebody else; they were just plain stupid.) 

And Tella, oh god I wish that girl had stayed away. She was so incredibly rude to Scarlett, and I don't know how other reviewers can sit back and say that they had a healthy, "relatable," relationship. She constantly manipulated Scarlett, and the whole,"I must save her!" thing Scarlett had going on just made me want to scream because it made no sense in regard to how Tella had treated her throughout the entire book.

Julian was bland, and I felt like his whole character was incredibly forced. I didn't see how he was supposed to be sexy/alluring; he felt extremely controlling to me + 95% of the time he was on the page, he was on my nerves. And concerning the romance: Yeeeaaaah, no. I'll catch the next otp ship, thanks. 

Legend was the only character I really found myself wanting to learn more about, and whose actions I enjoyed immensely. But I don't know how to feel after the end of the book, which kind of flipped everything on its head and was the only reason I didn't end up giving Caraval one star. 

I don't think it was a great ending by any means, and as a few other reviewers mentioned, it definitely felt like a cop-out. But my treacherous heart started to feel things (??) at the end, and that last scene, while making me want to flip a table, also sealed my fate at reading the next book. I don't necessarily care for the characters at all, but I'm so tempted by the promise of more of Legend, and more Caraval, which were the two things I did enjoy. 

I don't know. I'm not a huge fan of this, but I have hopes for the next book. At this point, I'll just be reading it for the writing + Legend, but hopefully there will be a time span between the events of book one and book two, where the cast will have developed a little. 

*2 out of 5 stars*

And there we go! I definitely wasn't a fan of this, but as always, these are just my opinions, and if you're interested in any bit by the blurb/premise, I urge you to pick this up for yourself. The writing truly is worth a read, and whether or not you like the other stuff, well, that's up to you. ;)

Let's chat! Have you read Caraval? Did you like it? What are your thoughts on hyped (and over-hyped) books? Are you often let down by it? Tell me all the things below!! 


  1. I ACTUALLY JUST GOT THIS BOOK FOR MY BIRTHDAY, AHHH. I probably won't be reading it for a while - I have way too many library books to get through - but when I do, I'll be very interested to see if Scarlett can surpass the YA heroine-quality bar that was recently set at an all-time low for me by Liesl from Wintersong. I WANT TO STRANGLE HER EVERY OTHER PAGE, GAHH. And from the sounds of it, I'll be doing the same to Scarlett XD

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

  2. Ahh okay, I'm so sorry you didn't enjoyed it! But as magical as it sounds to me, if the characters are as unlikeable as you said, especially the mc because oh god she sounds terrible!, I will definitely stay away from this book! I will give the first few chapters a try, but I will also lower my expecations for this book. Thanks for sharing!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

  3. Aww…I’ve seen so many great reviews for this one so it’s interesting to see a review from someone like you who was a bit ambivalent about it. Nonetheless, thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

  4. I've read hyped books and seriously felt I was reading something different to what everyone else was because I soooo didn't get it.๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ IT HAPPENS UNFORTUNATELY. I haven't read this one, but I do own it (it was so pretty omg I had to buy it) but I'm a little worried I'm going to really dislike Scarlett. She sounds really super irritating. And naivety??! I read a lot of that in books and I usually find it annoying. Ergh. Aaaanyway, I will try it, but keeping my expectations low!


Post a Comment