Caraval by Stephanie Garber Book Review

Wednesday, 25 September 2019


I have been on a fantasy kick lately, and I'd heard nothing but wonderful things about the Caraval series by Stephanie Garber. The way it was described to me was this - Harry Potter meets Hunger Games but not. 

The blurb instantly had me hooked:

"Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year, week-long performance where the audience participates in the show. Caraval is magic, mystery adventure and for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father. When Scarlett discovers her father has arranged a marriage for her she believes all her hopes of escape have been dashed.

Then the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive and it seems their dreams have come true. Yet, no sooner have they entered the confines of Caraval than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. Real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever."

Caraval - an annual, invitation-only secluded game on a secluded island, giving players the chance to win the ultimate prize - one wish. 

Scarlett Dragna has been writing to Master Legend all of her life, and surprisingly, a fortnight before her arranged wedding to a count she has never met, Scarlett receives an invitation from Legend himself, inviting her and her fiancee to join them at the next Caraval - in 3 days time.

But Scarlett and her sister have lived in fear their whole lives - fear of their cruel and violent father. Scarlett knows that risking missing her own wedding will mean risking a life away from her bully father, and to Scarlett, the risk is too much. But her adventurous and risk-taking sister had other ideas, and soon enough, Scarlett, Tella and a rouge sailor boy, Julian, find themselves at the forefront of Caraval.

This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was amazing, so much so, that I'm kinda sad it's over and I'm hesitant to pick up the other two books in this series because a) I don't ever want this story to be over, and b) what if they're not as good?

This is the kind of book you just want to devour because you simply cannot get enough. Each new chapter brings a new character, a new obstacle for Scarlett to overcome, or a new setting that is dark and magical as the last. 

The setting of Caraval is beautiful, yet dark and mysterious, but fun and magical all at the same time. The author does an amazing job at bringing Caraval and all it's characters to life through her fairytale-esque writing style and narration. Everything within Caraval is vivid and bold and enchantingly imaginative.

I loved the sisterly bond between Scarlett an Tella and the clash of personalities between them and how it somehow it worked so well. I usually dislike the whole "good sister / bad sister" scenario, but because we saw so little of Tella in this book, I think the author got away with it.

Despite the main character being Scarlett, my favourite character was Julian. He started off as a seemingly secondary character, but soon enough finds his place as one of the main characters. There are so many layers to his character and I genuinely couldn't work out throughout the whole book which direction his character was going to go. 

And then there's Legend. He is a total mystery to me, and that's what I really loved about his character. Is he a genius, a villain or a saviour? As someone who is seen so little, but mentioned so much in the book, it really does create a whole mystery element behind his character and adds an extra layer of secrecy that ties in so well with the magical setting of Caraval. 

Okay yes, there are a lot of cliches, especially in the romance area, but at the end of the book, nothing is as it seems to be.

I really would not hesitate to read this book. I genuinely had no idea how the story was going to pan out, and the many twists and turns throughout had me hooked and gave me major just one more chapter syndrome.

Verdict: ★★★★

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