Review of PAPERBACK Caraval – Book 1 of the Caraval series by Stephanie Garber #Brainfluffbookreview #Caravalbookreview


I’ll admit it – it was the cover of this one that caught my eye – and the premise that a complicated, magical game was at the heart of the story…

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…

And that’s as much of the very chatty blurb that I’m prepared to include as far too many of the major plotpoints are revealed, so my first piece of advice is to avoid reading the back matter. As for the story – Garber quickly snagged my attention by providing a sympathetic heroine who is desperate to escape her cruel father. She has written every year for seven years before her request to join the game is approved – and she has tickets for her and her sister. However, as she is soon to be married and is desperate to believe the kind, courteous letters that she has been exchanging with her prospective husband means he is caring and at the very least – kinder than her bullying, violent father who has been terrorising her and her sister ever since their mother disappeared.

Caraval – remember it’s only a game – all too quickly turns into a desperate quest, when her sister almost immediately disappears and Scarlett is led to believe that if she doesn’t find her before Caraval ends, then she will die… Scarlett is plunged into a beautiful, varied world where she cannot trust what anyone says or does and her decisions have unexpected and frightening consequences. Accompanying her for at least part of the way, is a young sailor who effected their escape from their family home. Unexpectedly, he joins her and is responsible for saving her life – apparently… But can she really trust him and his advice? Or is he one of the famous Master Legend’s highly trained actors?

This one is a real page-turner as Scarlett struggles to work out how to survive and track down what has happened to her beautiful, wilful sister – and it is the love between the two sisters that is the emotional engine that powers this story, despite the love story also threading through it. I really enjoyed it and found the twisting, often surreal situations that Scarlett was confronted with kept the pages turning late into the night.

Of course, it’s all very well constructing a tension-filled mystery with high stakes – but at the end, the denouement must deliver. I was pleased to find it did. Some of my guesses about what was going on were correct – however, most of them weren’t and I loved the way Garber wrapped this one up. Recommended for those who like their thrillers with a strong paranormal twist, delivered by a sympathetic protagonist.

33 responses »

    • Yes – I know… Talk about Left-behind Lulu! But at least I read it and removed it from my teetering TBR pile – I take it you also have a copy on your pile?

      • Yupp I bought it when everyone was talking about it but never got around to reading. Just barely got the 2017 fantasy debuts done, except for the Bear and the Nightingale. And have 2 Arcs to read way before anything else.

  1. Great review. I read this a little while back and really enjoyed, although I did get a tad frustrated with Scarlett. Are you planning to read on in the series? I actually thought Legendary was better than Caraval (but am possibly in the minority in that)

    • Thank you, Ali. I found it a very engrossing read and really enjoyed it, but I don’t think I will be continuing with the series as I don’t feel the need to continue with Scarlett’s journey – and there are other series out there that I really do need to know what happens next…

  2. I was one of the few who didn’t love this as much. I think at the time I just wasn’t in the mood for YA and it struck me as sort of silly. But I’m glad you enjoyed it! Do you think you’ll read the rest of the series?

    • No… I don’t think I will be reading the rest of the series. I enjoyed it, but to be honest, I don’t feel the need to continue the journey. And there’s other series out there I really, really want to read.

  3. This book received some contrasting reviews when it came out, and I could not decide if I wanted to read it or not: seeing that you don’t plan on continuing with the series, even though you enjoyed this book, convinces me that this might not turn out to be a story I would enjoy…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Lovely review, Sarah. I’m glad you enjoyed Caraval. I enjoyed it as well, although the writing style was a little too flowery for my taste at times. I almost considered not continuing the series but the second book drew me in and I ended up liking it much more than the first, lol.

  5. Ooooo, wonderful review Sarah. I am also a left behind Lulu. I have had this on my TBR since it came out and really need to read it, especially after this great review. You sure hooked me.

  6. I’m really enjoying this series – it’s not for everyone I realise, but I love the writing. It’s almost like spun sugar for me. And, I think the third isn’t too far away now.
    Lynn 😀

      • I’m going to give her earliest series a go…skeptically, but I will, as a friend started it and is curious what I’d think of it. When I go online to see youngish lasses with YouTube channels about reviews, I don’t see much talk of Black, but LOTS of polarized takes on Cassandra Clare and Maas. It’s crazy!

  7. This book feels slightly outside my preferences, but I confess, you managed to spark my attention about it. I really need to find a way to read faster, so I at least can sample all the interesting books you review. (I don’t think I’d ever get to 100 books a year – those times are as long gone as my high school years.)

    • I think reading rates are a highly personal thing and it does sometimes worry me that people feel daunted if their reading speed is much slower. I happen to read quite fast, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. I’m struck by now listening to more books, how much more I can pick by doing so. And given that you must be reading a fair amount in a second language, I think that is an achievement anyway.

      • In general, I’m a fast reader (I think my record was over 1000 pages in a day, reading Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and Endymion’s Triumph in one day), but I display features of an addict: once I start reading, I can’t stop, it’s like binge. Which means nothing gets done, I fail at deadlines, etc. And since I can’t afford it, I read less and more… “cautiously”?

      • Yes – I can relate! I now am very strict about NOT reading books during the day. Very, very occasionally, I break that rule – but it is very rare… Now I listen to audiobooks while houseworking, it’s easier to be self-disciplined:)

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