Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

My Review – ★★★★★

This is one of many recently released YA books that was super hyped up on social media (IG specifically) which made me really worried it was all for the cover and not necessarily for content. I’ve just finished buddy reading Caraval with my boyfriend and within the first few chapters I knew that my previous assumptions were completely wrong, this book deserves all the hype that it is receiving! I’m very impressed with Stephanie Garber as a debut author, and unless any other excellent contenders come along this may even be my favorite debut novel of 2017! There was not a moment that I felt bored or lost with the story, the twists and turns just kept coming and my heart was pounding the entire time I read!

caraval-cover-imgTitle – Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author – Stephanie Garber
Length – 416 pages
Genre – YA, fiction/paranormal
Pub. Date – 
Summary – 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.

My Review – ★★★★★ Con’t.

Reading Caraval was a different experience for me because as I’ve already mentioned I buddy read it with my boyfriend. I’m convinced that discussing it and comparing scenes and theories after every few chapters made it that much more intense, and I feel like I got so much more out of the story! Our ideas varied drastically, so our discussions made little details stand out that either of us missed and we were able to fangirl when crazy things happened! We talked about who we thought was the culprit and/or overall antagonist (no spoilers here, but you will certainly be surprised), our thoughts on where the story was headed, and how differently we pictured certain scenes and places.

Both my boyfriend and I had built theories as we were reading only to have them recklessly torn down over and over again. The first couple chapters were a steady introduction of characters (you meet Scarlett and her sister Tella, as well as their tyrant father and the mysterious sailor, Julian) and background that laid the foundation for the rest of the story. I can confidently say that that’s as slow as it gets, this is definitely a fast-paced book! Less than halfway through it was difficult to put down because I’d be convinced that someone was a traitor or a situation that the characters faced was a trick, but within a few pages it would all turn around and be so very different than I thought. There were little clues and hints scattered throughout that left me guessing (and incorrectly theorizing), but Stephanie explained [most of] the loose ends by the last page.


I find that imagery is very important for me in books because if the setting and scenery does not capture my attention, enthralling me and allowing me to walk alongside the character and experience what they are experiencing, the entire book may as well be a lost cause. I have a hard time connecting with characters and the story in general otherwise. Don’t let me mislead you though, none of that was an issue here! The city of Caraval isn’t in all technicalities a large place, but everything that was described was so vivid that I was able to picture it all in large scale – similar I suppose to what we did as children when our imaginations ran wild and a large house became an impenetrable castle or a small dog appeared as fierce as a gryphon! Some books tend to be a bit overpowering here, and others fall severely short. Caraval was a happy medium bringing a stunning, magical new world to life in my imagination.

I have to throw this in here because I am SO thrilled that romance was a secondary theme in such a great YA fantasy novel with a female lead that had to learn to love and take care of herself, pursue her dreams/goals, and decide to put her family before her newfound love. It was refreshing to watch Scarlett grow and mature! She became such a strong protagonist and it makes me so proud! Romance was definitely woven into the story, but so much else happened and it was all so beautifully written that everything flowed flawlessly together .

Caraval (and this is 100% backed up by my boyfriend, actually, I’m using some of his exact words here) is a must read but you should prepare to curl up under a blanket in a dark room when you’ve finished reading to contemplate life and all of your incorrect theories about the story. He also insists on having a pint of ice cream nearby for when you realize that it’ll be at least another year before the sequel comes out…*cough* he’s a keeper, right!? All I can say is that you should expect a roller coaster of emotion because this story will most definitely get your heart racing, and once you hit that last page just know this – you’re in for quite the book hangover my friends.

This book was purchased for my own personal use and enjoyment. This review is not sponsored.


Have you read Caraval? If so, what did you think and if you haven’t read it, do you plan to? We love your feedback and hearing what you have to say so please comment your thoughts below!


4 thoughts on “Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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