Book Review: Caraval

Caraval (Untitled, #1)
by Stephanie Garber

Series: Book 1 (Untitled Series)

Genre: YA Romance, Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia



Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

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.


I was provided an Advanced Readers Copy in exchange for a review by Hachette Australia. This in no way affects my thoughts. 


Even before release, Caraval was a book that was on many people’s radars. The concept sounded fascinating and the cover, beautiful, and really – what more could you want from a book? I went into Caraval with preconceived expectations – it was marketed for lovers of The Night Circus and Daughter of Smoke and Bone (of which I am both) and it had a lot of high reviews from other bloggers. I honestly feel like I read a different book to everyone else. The world-building fell short, there was none of the innate magic that I expected from the atmosphere and the characters were wholly uninteresting. Caraval was altogether a very average book and although it did have some redeeming qualities, it by no means lived up to its tremendous hype.



  • The Caraval: What we did see of the Caraval was truly magical and the occasions that we did get to venture out into the actual area itself, it was really interesting and atmospheric to read about. There were a lot of interesting characters in the background that helped set the mood of the story, but the only problem is that we weren’t exposed to them for a large portions of the book at a time.  I also really enjoyed the concept of The Caraval and how it was just one big game set out to entertain its participants. It sounds really cool and I would definitely be signing up if it was an actual thing in real life.
  • Fast moving plot: Because we jump straight into the narrative, this book is really fast-moving. The plot was interesting and fast-paced and I ended up finishing this book in a day because I was quite hooked. The chapters and sections are also quite short and adds a really nice flow to the story.


  • Poor world-building: More so than the inability to world-build, it was more the lack of opportunity. It felt like the plot took over the whole story and a large portion of the narrative takes places in rooms/tunnels and so, there wasn’t really any opportunity to see much of the actual Caraval itself. It’s a pity because what we did see was magical and whimsical and what I expected of the whole book.
  • Lack of atmosphere: This is related to the world-building again but you know when you read a book and it just has that innate sense of atmosphere and magic (Night Circus style)? This is what I expected from Caraval and instead what I got was sorely lacking – the writing style just didn’t suit the narrative and it kind of made the book a little lackluster overall.
  • Julian: Okay, I love the mysterious and dark YA hero trope as much as the next person but it felt that Julian was nothing but an amalgamation of smirks, flashing eyes and great muscles. He had absolutely no personality to speak of and I found that I got really bored of him, really easily.

Until next time,




12 thoughts on “Book Review: Caraval

  1. thesassygeek says:

    Yours might be the first review that didn’t give this 4 or 5 Stars which is awesome, I like to hear all perspectives on a book before buying.
    I usually am pretty skeptical of books that have poor world building but I might be able to forgive it for the fast moving plot you described!
    Awesome review, thank you for sharing! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bec says:

    Interesting review, I really liked reading your thoughts! I feel I may be the same when I read Caraval, I do agree that it’s very hyped. Although I haven’t read The Night Circus, so maybe lacking in that point of comparison, I’ll enjoy it more? Either way, great review, and I look forward to seeing if my rating will be similar to yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kirsty says:

    I feel like hyped up books always fall flat for me. I build them up far too much in my head. Having your review makes it a bit easier though because I can go into it with lower expectations which might mean I actually enjoy it more. Thanks for your honest review, it’s nice to see this book from the perspective of someone who didn’t enjoy it so much.

    Liked by 1 person

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