Caraval by Stephanie Garber – Review

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: 3/5 Stars

Oh dear. Was this a joke? A mean joke played by dear old 2017? Yes. Yes, I dare say it was.

The covers are beautiful. If only there was more to them.

I don’t know what’s worse: that I actually finished Caraval or that it’s a series.

Let’s get into it.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: 2/5 Stars

★ ★ ★

Young Adult / Genre: Fantasy, Romance / Content: 16+ / Recommended

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. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

(via Goodreads)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Cover)
Caraval by Stephanie Garber

“It was starting to feel like too much to take in. Too many real threads mixed with false threads, all of them tangling together.”

Caraval just tried too hard.

The writing was okay. It had tremendous potential…that wasn’t executed. Garber would have had some beautiful descriptions…had she kept her feet on the ground.

Instead, realism? Ha. Let’s throw that out the window. Moderation? Who needs that.

Garber’s writing style was described as “decadent” in one of those pretty back-of-the-book reviews, which I actually agree with…but not for the reason you might think. It was so “decadent” that it made me want to throw up. There was simply too much description than was necessary. It didn’t even make any sense.

“Around her, the people on the street were as thick as a murder of crows.”

Excuse me?

“It smelled like the middle of the night.”
“He tasted like midnight and wind.”


Senses got twisted; smells became feelings, sights became tastes, feelings became sights. And over and over again.

I get artistic licsense. I do. But when you go this far, it becomes a distraction. And it absolutely does NOT help the reader understand what’s happening—which is the job of description in the first place.

So yeah, I get it. Midnight sounds pretty. But it doesn’t fit, no matter how good it sounds. So unless you want to get drunk on cheap, nonsensical descriptions like that, I’d stay far away from Caraval .

There was no focus on worldbuilding either. That is, unless you consider describing the number of ruffles (or, if you’re lucky, bows) on a every single dress introduced worldbuilding. What did Caraval itself look like? I couldn’t tell you. I looked at Garber’s Pinterest inspiration board after I finished reading Caraval just for fun, but I was shocked. There was absolutely nothing on there that I remembered from my reading experience. I love my worldbuilding—and there was absolutely none in Caraval.

The characters themselves lacked any substantial development. They were forgettable…except for the sheer number of descriptions of the physique of the male protagonist. I was so done. Scarlett didn’t undergo any visible change, nor did any of the other characters. It just felt like a reality TV show.

The plot was almost nonexistent. If I had read the inner flap, it would’ve given just about everything away. I was so, so bored. There are a fair amount of “twists” but they were insanely easy to predict.

The focus of the book, instead, wasn’t on characters, or world building, or plot. It was on romance. Would it shock you if I said that was terrible too? It was undeveloped, gushy, and way too fast. The characters were focused on the attractiveness of the other’s outer characteristics: physical appearance, personality, etc. Nothing of depth. I expected more.

I think that’s my anthem for Caraval. I just expected so much more. I must have enjoyed it enough to finish it, but considering it now, I think I would give it a two star ranking instead of my initial three…but that would be inconsiderate, wouldn’t it?

Caraval was all fluff. Just like those dang dresses.

Is it okay for me to read?

Language • • • • •

Some mild profanity. B***ard is used twice.

Violence • • • • •

A cruel father is violent toward his daughters, murdering a guard who tried to help them escape, and punishing his daughters by striking them with a ring-laden hand, drawing blood. Two girls walk off a balcony. Two men’s murders are faked.

Sensuality • • • • •

A heavy amount of innuendo, and some kissing.

Substances • • • • •

An under-age character drinks to excess. Alcoholic beverages are served at a tavern.

For more about my content ratings and what they mean, click here.