I am so excited to reviewing “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber today because I really enjoyed this book. It was super fast paced and I read the entire thing in just one day. You literally never want to put it down and it’s always throwing something new at you deepen the plot or surprise you.
I feel like this is one of those books where it’s better to go into it without knowing that much. The story follows the premise of two sisters who have been trying to go to this carnival/societal game called Caraval for years and they finally get invitations. However, the game becomes something much trickier than they expected.
I give this novel 3.5/5 stars and I recommend it to everyone who likes a good suspenseful novel with a really unique premise. This review is going to be part non-spoiler and part spoiler, I will warn you before I start talking about any spoilers.
OOoOokay so, let’s first talk about the whole concept of Caraval. For me it almost seemed like a mix between and circus and a carnival. which I loved. The story had a sort of mysterious and whimsical tone to it which really brought it to life.
I have to say I really liked all the characters. From those in Caraval to those participating, each character really had their own personality which was really shown through their dialogue.
The imagery in this novel is fantastic. I feel like when writing about a mysterious and magical setting, world building is beyond important, and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it in this novel at all. I felt like each description, not matter how small, brought something to the novel. Whether it be the description of the island, or the small shops, or the keys of the door, everything was brought to life really well. That is, if you enjoy very deep literary devices and metaphors used to do so. I personally do, but I can see how it could appear as too figurative at times for some people.
There were only a couple of small things I didn’t like in this novel, which I’ll talk about more in detail in the spoilers section. However, these small things didn’t majorly impact the actual story line, so I still found the novel very compelling overall.
Minor Spoilers Below (not story based, just structure)
I also have to say that I liked how the book was split up into nights and Caravel. For some reason it felt perfect for me, I think maybe because that’s how the story flowed, each day by day.
*BIG SPOILERS BELOW*
So I have to say that this book kind of loves to throw things at you. Just when you think you understand things NOPE here’s some more information to further confuse and surprise you. I do admit that sometimes this felt a little unnecessary, like at the very end when we learned that Julien is Legend’s brother. Like, how does that add anything to the story? It seemed like it was put there so that Scarlett could have the relatablitity (that’s not a word is it) to sympathize with Julien and what he did because of how much she loves Tella, but to me it felt unnecessary. However, I do recognize that this could have been set up for the next novel, which I’ll have to wait to read to see how this bit of information plays out that way.
Aside from that, even though it was kind of extra and a bit of a rollercoaster ride, I liked how we were being constantly confused and lots of twists were thrown in. I kind of feel like it made you feel like you were in Caraval as a player, being confused by everything going on just like Scarlett was, sort of like the lines between the game and reality were blurred. I mean, that’s how I like to look at it, but I can understand readers who say it’s too metaphorical at times, like the world building.
So there were a lot of plot twists, if you can call them that, in this novel. Like I said, I found them super enticing but closer to the end of the novel it was like I was always waiting for someone to come in and tell me that what just happened didn’t actually just happen and BOOM, that’s another twist. Like when Julien and Tella died, I was 99% sure that they weren’t actually dead.
Speaking of Tella, I really liked how we got to see those letters she wrote to Legend near the end of the novel. Finding out that the whole game was basically a ploy to help Tella and Scarlett escape from their father was quite a turn, but more than that I liked that the letter helped give that extra characterization to Tella. Like, she may have seemed super spontaneous before but here we see that she really is very intelligent and smart and sneaky and quite honestly, a force to be reckoned with.
Okay I have to back track a little bit because one thing I really didn’t like was how Scarlett so easily let out her father’s name to that shop vendor after being so careful about not leaving tracks about where she came from before. Like COME ON, did she not think that it would have any consequences? As soon as she said it I was like SERIOUSLY SCARLETT? And honestly, that part is still a little blurry to me. Like was Dragna going to turn up on the island no matter what? Was that part of the whole plan?
I also didn’t really love the party at the end of the novel. It felt so out of place after everything that had just gone down with all the dying and high suspense and finding out that the guy who was Legend, wasn’t Legend. OH MY GOODNESS YEAH CASPAR. Can we talk about Caspar because I literally burst out laughing when I read that line. “My name is Caspar”. Like OKAY NICE TO MEET YOU CASPAR. I don’t know, it just seemed oddly funny to me.
Despite all of this, I have to say that these were mostly the small things I didn’t enjoy which were easily overlooked by the actual story. Like I said earlier, the way the story flowed in this novel and how it moved event by event was really interesting for me. I really enjoyed the premise of Caraval and the idea of not being able to distinguish between what was part of the game and what wasn’t. The actual parts where Scarlett went out to find the clues and the shop vendors and people she ran into were really fun to read. I especially liked the part where she drank the liquid that made her view black and white for the most part. Moreover, the story, being the main focus of the novel, was unique and enticing enough that the small things that happened which I didn’t enjoy weren’t able to change the fact that I was loving the actual flow of the story.
I also loved the romance between Julien and Scarlett, even though it may have been a tad bit predictable that they would end up together. He calls her Crimson, like how adorable is that. I also loved the scene where he gave up a day of his life for her.
I think overall, my favourite part of the whole novel were the small quirks of Caraval, from the prices of the dresses, to the secret entry ways and how curious everything made me. I really enjoyed the overall premise. Like I said before, top notch story with excellent characters and an amazing world, with only a few minor out of place events.
That’s all I have to say about Caraval! Please leave your thoughts below so we can discuss 🙂