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Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: A Mysterious And Magical Read

Caraval has to be the most hyped young adult release so far this year. It is supposed to be perfect for fans of The Night Circus and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, two other hugely popular books. The former is actually one of my all-time favourites, so I had very high expectations from Caraval and it did not disappoint. What’s more, Twentieth Century Fox have already enquired about the movie rights so this book is only going to get more and more popular.

Keeping reading to see what all the hype is about…

The story begins on the isle of Trisda. Scarlett is engaged to Count d’Arcy, a man she has never met before, but she is convinced that he is the key to freeing her and her sister from their father’s tyranny. After a failed escape attempt two year earlier, this seems like their only option. However, every year, Scarlett has written a letter to Caraval Master Legend, begging him to bring his magical five-day show to Trisda. She has never received a response – until now. Scarlet is due to be married in just a few days but can she resist the Caraval Master’s long awaited invitation to his infamous game?

I have to admit that at first, I wasn’t sold on this book. It was a really interesting story but I didn’t see what made it better than a lot of other very popular young adult novels out there right now. Then, Scarlett, Tella and Julian arrived at Caraval and the story really kicked off. Caraval is a five-day performance in which the audience participates. It’s only a game – or so the players are told. However, it becomes quite increasingly obvious as time passes by that there’s something else at work at Caraval. Things are not at all as they seem but we aren’t really given any clues as to what is really driving the plot and this yearly performance. I felt like I was in the dark for a long time but it kept me on my toes and I raced through this book.

There’s so much mystery in this story and I truly had no clue what plot twists were coming my way. There’s a hint of magic, dark magic more specifically, underlying everything here and I loved that as time went on the story became more and more black. There were some passages where I was rather disturbed or, at least, very shocked by what was happening and the performance certainly isn’t designed to be a happy and enjoyable experience for the players.

As for the characters, sisters Scarlett and Donatella couldn’t be any more different in personality, but they are both fiercely loyal to each other. Or at least they were before the game began. Scarlett is the “sensible” older sister and Donatella is the rebellious younger sister. Scarlett grew on me quite a lot as the story went on and she realised that the world had so much more to offer her. Her eyes are re-opened and she sees that she doesn’t need to settle for the marriage her father has arranged. She’s definitely not the feistiest female protagonist out there but the Scarlett we meet at the beginning of this book is very different from the Scarlett who’s been playing Caraval for five days. Her character develops quite a lot and I think she’ll only become even stronger in the next book.

My favourite character was Julian, partially because he sounds super yummy, but also because he is the most mysterious character. He tells you not to trust him and yet lots of things he does make you want to and you’re never quite sure what his motivations are. At the end of Caraval, Julian’s story is revealed and that is probably the most exciting plot twist there is. He’s certainly not a character you should ignore and he is integral to the plot’s developments.

Predictably there’s an element of romance in this story but nothing much comes of it until the latter half of the book. It doesn’t add a huge amount to main plot for the most part but it was a nice little side story. This storyline does become wrapped up in the numerous plot twists at the end so I have high hopes that this’ll become more exciting and significant in the subsequent books.

All in all, Caraval is a fantastic debut novel from Stephanie Garber and it blew me away. It has elements of magic, mystery and adventure, which will have you turning those pages like crazy! This is a little different from a lot of the other young adult stuff out there right now so I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a fast-paced tale that will take you and your emotions on a roller-coaster ride.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this:

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 . . .

Many thanks to Hodder for providing me with a review copy!

Buy Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Amazon | Book Depository

If you liked this post, check out these:

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas
Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

Find me on: Web | Twitter



  1. Hayley
    22nd February 2017 / 6:01 PM

    This sounds like a great book! I’ll have to add it to my ‘To read’ list on Goodreads!

  2. Lynne Harper
    22nd February 2017 / 6:03 PM

    I’m really trying to read more this year. This book sounds really good. I sways love reading other people’s reviews 🙂

  3. Claire Mason
    22nd February 2017 / 6:19 PM

    This sounds like an amazing read. Not my cup of tea but will definitely be telling my magic obsessed friends about it

  4. Hungry_Healthy_Happy
    22nd February 2017 / 6:35 PM

    Oooh I do love a bit of magic. I will add this to my list as it sounds like a great read.

  5. Jo Wiggins
    22nd February 2017 / 8:08 PM

    You’ve mentioned three books I’ve never heard of. I’m off on holiday tomorrow so will quickly download this to read x

  6. Jodie Whitham
    22nd February 2017 / 8:30 PM

    This sounds fab and slightly different to usual things i read so will have to remember to jot it down. I like that romance doesn’t take over the story – so many books have a main plot and add a love story and somehow takes over. That makes me sound dead grumpy but nice change is all! x

  7. Hannah Latoya Bond
    22nd February 2017 / 9:49 PM

    This sounds like a good book. I’ve never read this one

  8. Joanna
    22nd February 2017 / 10:58 PM

    Sounds like a good read I always like finding new book recommendations

  9. 23rd February 2017 / 1:08 AM

    I haven’t heard of this author before, but the book sounds great!

  10. 23rd February 2017 / 4:24 AM

    This looks like just the kind of book my son would be love. Forwarded your post to him! Thanks for the great recommendation

  11. Donna
    23rd February 2017 / 8:57 AM

    I’ve not heard of this author before and it sounds like a great holiday read for me so thanks for sharing!

  12. 23rd February 2017 / 9:26 AM

    Oh I like books with a bit of magic and mystery so this sounds great x

  13. 23rd February 2017 / 9:59 AM

    I haven’t heard of this but sounds like something I could read x

  14. 23rd February 2017 / 10:27 AM

    i havent heard of this author so i may need to check it out thank you x

  15. 23rd February 2017 / 4:50 PM

    I love a good book- especially one that’s fast-paced and full of surprises. I’ll have to check it out!

  16. Beautyqueenuk
    23rd February 2017 / 5:03 PM

    This came up on my suggested ‘to read’ list and I wasn’t too sure it was for me from the description, now im not too sure x

  17. 23rd February 2017 / 5:32 PM

    Ooh I love the sound of this! I definitely need to start reading more.

  18. Le Coin de Mel
    23rd February 2017 / 8:04 PM

    Oooh, I like a bit of dark magic and plots that are a bit tangled with each other I’m not sure about the slow start though!

  19. 23rd February 2017 / 8:14 PM

    This sounds like such a good read- I loved The Night Circus so this sounds up my street

  20. Beth
    23rd February 2017 / 10:54 PM

    Sounds like a great read, lovely. I so need to get back into reading books.

  21. 24th February 2017 / 3:14 AM

    Glad you loved it. Caraval’s cover somehow reminded me of Night Circus.

  22. Baby Isabella
    24th February 2017 / 9:39 AM

    Sounds like a great book! Going to hunt it down for my holiday! Stephanie Garber sounds like a good writer x

  23. lianne
    24th February 2017 / 3:07 PM

    Sounds good, I’m really getting into reading again this year!

  24. 24th February 2017 / 3:46 PM

    I am reading 2 books a month now which is amazing. Will check this out.

  25. 24th February 2017 / 5:16 PM

    i love the idea of not know what plot twists are coming. it makes you want to read more

  26. Natasha Mairs
    24th February 2017 / 5:33 PM

    I am surprised I haven’t heard of this book before today. Will have to look out for it

  27. francesca
    24th February 2017 / 10:11 PM

    sounds like a really interesting read!!! I’ll have to pop this on my list and come back to it once I’ve got the others out of the way!

  28. Leah Shafik
    25th February 2017 / 12:43 AM

    Wow sounds like a great book. I haven’t read a book in ages but this would definitely go on my list x

  29. Irene
    26th February 2017 / 4:32 PM

    Gonna read it soon!

  30. 27th February 2017 / 11:29 AM

    I love a novel with plot twists in it. I shall be adding this to my reading list.

  31. 27th February 2017 / 12:42 PM

    I had already added Caraval to my TBR list so its good to have another person recommend it! Its definitely getting a lot of good publicity at the moment.

  32. 28th February 2017 / 8:28 AM

    I’m going to have to get this and read it now, definitely sounds like a book thats right up my street xx

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