Caraval by Stephanie Garber

It is 2:00am and I just finished 'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber. What lead me to this book was 'The Night Circus'!! You can read my review for TNC here .  The atmosphere of The Night Circus was so magical and enthralling.  Morgenstern's writing was so rich and I craved that vibe in another book so when the buzz started for 'Caraval' I was super excited for it!

The pacing of this book was perfect up until the last few chapters before the very last chapter. Even with that, the story kept my attention and I needed to know what was going to happen next right away and I couldn't stop that's why I was able to finish it so quickly. Here's the synopsis:


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.

This story is truly about love and sacrifice. The main characters, Donatella and Scarlett are sisters living under the iron fist of an abusive father in Trisda. If he deems their behavior as unacceptable he brutally punishes one sister to emotionally hurt the other because he is fully aware of the connection and unbreakable bond they have. The Caraval is a seemingly unreachable magical place for both girls particularly Scarlett who is to be married off to someone she doesn't love under the order of her father. I think Caraval represents an escape from their harsh realities.

Their need to protect each other arises again as Scarlett finally gets her invitation to Caraval. They enter into a game of survival and once again have to protect each other but this time from the mysterious 'Legend' of the Caraval. The game they are playing is finding Donatella. Scarlett comes across a very charismatic sailor by the name of Julian who is not who he seems. I was intrigued by Julian because I knew he wasn't who he claimed to be, but I couldn't figure out if he was actually the villain or even Legend himself. I thought Garber wrote his character really well. In hindsight, there is too much sap between Julian and Scarlett for my taste. Although Julian's character has desirable traits, a "hot" male character is not enough to carry an entire story. Scarlett was a girl with many emotional scars so I would've liked to see her not fawning over Julian every time they had a close encounter.  She needed him for the journey, but not so much the emotional stability. I was hoping as she developed she would find that on her own.

Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.

One element of the story that I truly enjoyed were the clues given to Scarlett to find her sister. It was interesting to see her character study each clue literally, but in each clue there was really a metaphor; something much deeper. It forces her to look within herself and pay attention to things that are not just on the surface. The clues test Scarlett's will to persevere even when she doesn't completely understand what is happening. I also like that everyone in Caraval was a player in the game including Julian who actually turned out to be Legend's brother which is why he felt obligated to be involved. This was the thing that connected he and Scarlett. Julian understood what it's like to sacrifice for a sibling because you love and care for them so much.

The plot twist was that Donatella was in on it. She knew what was going on. Donatella's explanation to Scarlett about all of the events that took place; her death, Julian's death, Legend and Caraval could have been condensed into one chapters, but it ends up being roughly three chapters so that part dragged a bit for me. In the end Julian and Scarlett's death were only in the dream state and actually a part of the game. The plot twist wasn't strong for me. 

I would definitely recommend giving this book a read. It's truly an adventure. I'd say if you are a hard core fan of The Night Circus like I am and you are seeking that rich circus-vibe type narrative, don't go into this with those expectations. I think I might've psyched myself out because of that thinking LOL. Nevertheless, this book is wildly entertaining and fun so read it for what it is!

My Rating: {3/5}