Book Review | Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval | Author: Stephanie Garner | Published: 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton | Pages: 402 | Format: Physical


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. (Goodreads)


Whimsically Magical, Theatrical and Unsatisfying

I saw this book floating around Instagram and I was curious. I had heard that this book was similar to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and that it had a very whimsical and theatrical style of writing. Although I had not read The Night Circus myself, this book did intrigued me enough to grab a copy of it at my local library. Plus, I have not read any books from Ms Garber, so it was the first time that got to read any of her books… and from what I could see, it looked like an interesting read so I thought I would give it a go.

Although I didn’t have a lot of expectations, going into this book left be quite unsatisfied. I’m not going to lie; it wasn’t a terrible read. I was entertained enough to keep reading till the end and I found myself being thrust into this magical world. However, I just felt that there were some issues that took away the overall enjoyment of the book.

Characters and Character Development:

Scarlett Dragna

Scarlett is the main character in this story. She is the older sister of Donatella. Although her and her sister are very close, they are the complete opposite in terms of personality. Scarlett is a constant worrier and overly cautious whereas her sister has a much more rebellious streak.

At first, I did relate to this character quite a lot. Being an older sister myself, I can understand the constantly worry about your more rebellious and wild younger sister. However, as the story progressed, I found her character to be quite annoying. Not because she seemed like a stuck-in-the-mud-like character but there would be times where she would have leaps of logic and make decisions that didn’t make any sense.

Now I don’t know if the author wrote her like that to drive the ploy forward but I mean you would think that she would be more suspicious and cautious, especially if you are constantly being reminded that everything is not what it seems, and you needed to be careful. But she just took everything face value which didn’t fit her rigid personality of being overly cautious.

However, her redeeming quality was that you can really tell that she loves and cares about her sister a lot to the point where she would do anything to find her and keep her safe

Donatella (Tella) Dragna

Donatella is the younger more care-free sister of Scarlett. We didn’t really get much of Donatella as the book mainly focused on Scarlett but in the pages where she is present, you can tell she is much more wild and rebellious in comparison to her older sister. She seems to be the type of person to want more out of life and is more than willing to go get what she wants. Although you, as a reader, didn’t get much of Tella in the books, I am intrigued about her character development in further books.

Julian Santos

Julian is the sailor that helps Scarlett and Tella get to Caraval. To be honest, I found his character to be quite predictable. Typical “charming bad boy” that befriends and accompanies the heroine by giving her a condescending nickname but actually has a dark secret. I really didn’t like his character, I just found him really one dimensional. I couldn’t even enjoy that twist at the end because it was so predictable. I think the only thing I liked about his character was his banter with Scarlett.


I think she was my most favourite character in this book. I really liked how she was the historiographer of Caraval and collected all the memories by drawing them in her book. Love an artistic queen!

Love story

The love story between these two characters really made me cringe throughout the whole book. I felt that the relationship was forced and that there was absolutely no chemistry between these two.

It just seemed that their relationship was rushed because there was no development at all. There were times when the author would try to use their relationship as an obstacle for the main character. I think she was trying to not make it obvious that these two characters weren’t going to be the end couple but it just made their relationship flat and shallow.

Writing Style:

Stephanie Garber’s writing style was quite interesting. It definitely matched the aesthetic of the book as it gave it a very whimsical and theatrical feel to it. However, there were times when her descriptions were a little questionable. For example:

He tasted like midnight and wind” I mean what the hell is MIDNIGHT supposed to taste like?! Is that supposed to mean he was forbidden? Or was it supposed to be magical? I just didn’t understand. I felt like she just randomised some words that sounded good together as she wrote some of these descriptions.

Honestly, I think her descriptions about the world was done really well but when it came to describing people’s emotions, I felt like she was just taking words out of a hat.

World Building and Magic System:

Stephanie Garber did a great job in writing the world building in this book. There were times throughout the story where she would be describing the world as this vibrant and almost theatrical fair ground where everything was weird and wonderful. It really made me want to dive into the book and explore that world myself.  

I didn’t quite understand how the magic system works. However, from what I could get from it, it was more of a “anything goes” system which, I think, fit well in to the world that Ms Garber had built.

Fanart by Monolimeart

Overall, even though I had some issues about the book, I did enjoy it. As I said, it wasn’t a terrible read. I think it was because I didn’t have a lot of expectations. I didn’t want to hype myself up and get super disappointed. I mean I can see the charm that this book has but it wasn’t exactly revolutionary.

I am interested enough to read the rest of the series as I am curious on who the mysterious Legend is and how some characters will develop throughout the rest of the series.

How did you find the Caraval series? Did you prefer The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern?

Leave me a comment below!


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