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Caraval by Stephanie Garber — Book Review & Summary


A legendary competition.
A mesmerizing romance.
An unbreakable bond.
between two sisters.

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

Caraval by Stephanie Garbar
Caraval by Stephanie Garber

AUTHOR: Stephanie Garber

PUBLISHED ON: 31st January 2017

GENRE: YA Fantasy

RATING: 2.5 Stars


“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself magic in this world.”


Caraval, the first book in this trilogy takes us through the eyes of Scarlett who lived her whole life on an island with her sister and abusive father. While she always dreamed of leaving the place, she couldn’t. And that was until her marriage was fixed with a Count who promised to take care of her and her sister. She had never met him but his promises gave Scarlett hope for the first time in years. And a few days before her wedding, she receives a letter (kind of) that will change her life.

Since Scarlet was small, she wrote letters to the Legend, the master of Caraval, to bring the Caraval to her island. While the Caraval is not yet visiting their island, the Legend sends her 3 tickets for the Caraval. (For her fiancé, her sister and herself). Scarlet didn’t want to visit the Caraval with her wedding being so close but her sister tricks her and she finds herself on the outskirts of Caraval.

Scarlett takes a moment to realise she is there with Julian, the boy who helped her/ kidnapped her from the island to bring her here and her sister is missing. One thing leads to another and her quest to find her sister quickly turns to be a part of the game the Caraval offers. The winner of the game is given one wish and Scarlett is determined to win this game.

But everyone must remember, It is just a game and nothing is real. When things around start to blur the lines between reality and imagination, what do you do?

“Sometimes it’s easier to have someone else wound you.”


Caraval by Stephanie Garber was on my radar for a while. Caraval promised a blur between reality and game and I was all up to find myself between the blurry lines. If you are active on social media, particularly Instagram, you will be familiar with this series. It was the same for me. After delaying it for a while, I finally read this series. And I was so disappointed by Caraval. I didn’t hate the book but I didn’t like it either?

In simple words, I found the book a bit bland?

Let’s break it down, shall we?

“Do you always focus on what you’re giving up, rather than what you’ll be gaining? Some things are worth pursuit regardless of the cost.”


I love books with good world-building. I enjoy new settings, understanding different aspects. Here, I found Caraval lacked world-building. I mean nothing is explained? I have no idea about what and whys of the world. There was so much happening but nothing that I could point to. I understand it’s an imaginary world and everything is magical. Yet, something more could be better. Whenever I try to find something, there is just one answer: Nothing is real.

“He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue. Colors that made her feel safe and guarded.”


I remember when I started writing poetry, I came across some articles that said to use comparisons. Both simile and metaphors. I think a good place or rather just a place to find it would be this book. So many metaphors. And some don’t even make sense.

tasted like midnight…

smelled like middle of night…

Metaphors are amazing but there should at least be something that I can relate to? How do I know what midnight tastes like?

“She imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out.”


I think the characters had a lot of potential but didn’t reach that point. It somehow got lost? On one hand, Scarlet is reluctant to share a room with someone since she is engaged; But every time she thinks about Julian or saw him, she thinks he is handsome and thinks about his body? She cannot stand the sight of other girls who flutter when he sees them? But craves his attention? In 4-5 days, she is convinced that she is in love with him but when her sister tells her she found someone, she says that she cannot love someone in such less time?

I think it was kind of obvious that Scarlet and Julian are going to end up together but I could have used some more romantic space between them?

I really think, if the characters were explored more, there could be something there and not just so plain.

“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”

  • PLOT

There was a lot of stuff happening around but nothing substantial? I think Caraval was fast-paced but not in terms of story. It took me some time to even get interested in the story. Too much info dump and too many stereotypical qualities made me take a step back after every step.

“Some would probably call him a villain. Others would say his magic makes him closer to a god.”


While the most interesting aspect was the game and clues given, I think, I would have loved it more if there were more participants. It just seemed like Scarlet was the only player. I was so interested to see it as a game that seeing just her solving clues after clues didn’t appeal to my taste.

“Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.”


The mystery of the Caraval is definitely interesting and I would love to know more about it. Now, coming to the backstories and memories and finally the real story behind the kidnapping of Scarlet’s sister- it made sense. Like I understood the why, I just think it is a stupid why.

I think the main reason why Caraval didn’t work for me is that it did not give what it promised to give. And the lack of world-building, of course. But if you love YA books, you may like this one. Let me know what you think.

Despite the disappointment of Book 1, I will be reading the next book. I have been told Legendary is better than Caraval. So, here is to hoping that Book 2 is better than Book 1.

You can buy Caraval here and Legendary here.

“I think I’ve made a mistake.’
‘Then make it into something better.”

Other reviews can be found here.

You can find me on Instagram here. (@amazeofwords)

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