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A legendary competition.
A mesmerizing romance.
An unbreakable bond
between two sisters.

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.

407 pages, Hardcover

First published September 29, 2016

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About the author

Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by this page. I’m only on this site occasionally, so if you’d like to send me a message, please use the contact form on my website: http://stephaniegarberauthor.com.

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Profile Image for emma.
1,872 reviews54.8k followers
August 12, 2017
*record scratch*

*freeze frame*

Yup, that’s me. Scarlett Dragna, main character of the YA hit Caraval. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. If everysinglethingthathappenedinthiswholebook was anything to go by, it was through a combination of pointless lying, constant embarrassment, obsession with Some Guy, a big act of caring about a younger sister despite very little indication of that being true, unrelenting drama about a dumb wedding, repetitive interactions, weird descriptions, gender-based generalizations, and insanely personal info-dumps about emotional happenings from the past.

(insert elegant bow here) And that, my dear friends, is my Scarlett Dragna impression. Thank you. Yes, thank you. Oh, please, stop with the standing ovation! I’m just like all of you. Except I possess such bitterness and have such a grasp of the future that I wrote a character description at the 25% mark, and god did it hold up.

Yup. You guessed it. I didn’t like my most anticipated book of the year.


(What a surprise! you probably all chant in unison.)

I almost felt guilty about writing a negative review about this book - because it’s about to be damn negative - but then I remembered it’s THIS BOOK’S FAULT. It marketed its damn self as a young adult The Night Circus. It must take some serious goddamn gonads to look at a masterpiece, essentially magic with a front and back cover, and go, “Yeah. My book is just like that.” Spoiler alert: it’s really, really not.

Oh, God, this review is going to be long. My bullet point list of notes alone is long. And I am putting away fruit snacks like nobody’s business, so I’ve got enough sugar in my system to sustain a lengthy burst of anger. Strap in, everybody! (Note from later: I sugar-crashed when I was almost done this review. But it did last me through most of it.)


All I want is a good setting. All those times I said I just want a good character to love and settle down with, I think - and relish this rare gift of a moment - I think I was wrong. I think I care most about settings. (Hence why books with magnificent settings get five star ratings no matter what.) And thus, it is my curse to eternally pick up every book that is compared to The Night Circus.

This book does not have a good setting. It’s confusing: everything that seems solid is gone back on later. Nothing is real. That doesn’t lead to a good setting. But I’ll talk more about the constant, piece of sh*t cop-outs later in this review. It lacks the strong descriptions that a setting literally needs. It doesn’t feel magical at all. (More on that later, too.) But above all, it’s not goddamn GROUNDED.

Haha. That GIF made me feel a little better. Thank you, my favorite person of all time forever, Bo Burnham. Anyway, as I was saying. This. Is. Not. Grounded. In Round 14 of 3947234829 why The Night Circus is better than this book and the latter should never have been compared, TNC takes place in our world. Yeah. The author (presumably) realized 1) maybe we need a little bit of magic! And 2) she couldn’t create one of the greatest settings of all time while also establishing a fantasy world. It would have weakened the whole book.

But Stephanie Garber did NOT make the same choice. Instead, we’re unceremoniously dumped into a world where there are islands and colonizing empires and that CLASSIC YA trope of using clunky terms to differentiate the world from the real one (like Hot Season, because they don’t have WORDS FOR THE SEASONS). Even more fun, during this book characters travel between countries/colonies/islands/empires/I have no idea, and the reader has NO GODDAMN CLUE WHAT IS GOING ON.

Alright, I think I’ve talked about the setting for too long. I see that now. But this is an UNFORGIVABLE OFFENSE, OK?


We’re introduced to a world’s worth of characters here, and this book achieves quite a feat - they all manage to be either flat, boring, or both! Yaaaaay! I’m totally ready to try to pretend to feel emotionally connected to these goons for 400 pages!!

First: Scarlett. Cannot believe we were trapped inside the head of the most boring character of all time throughout what was supposed to be a suspenseful thrill ride! (But, obviously, was not.) She’s easily embarrassed, obsessed with propriety, falls in pretty much instalove with Julian because he’s hot. Lies all the time because poor widdle gal is embarrassed of something or other about herself. Super weak. Constantly questioning her own reasoning and letting others make decisions for her. Tries to act like she’s a protective older sister, but, speaking as a protective older sister, she doesn’t give much of a sh*t about family when she’s staring into Julian’s eyes or literally sucking his fingers.

But then we get into a whole different type of characters: Those who, by the end, we know NOTHING. ABOUT. Tella, Julian, Legend. We’re given descriptions of them that are gone back on, returned to, and gone back on again. Nothing is real. The whole thing is confusing and an absolute waste of energy. I came SO GODDAMN CLOSE to DNFing this book because it has about 100 twists and none of them make sense. I wanted to shake myself out of a nightmare. What the hell was going on for 400 pages?!

Beyond that, they’re boring and I don’t want to talk about them. And so were the “villains.” Scarlett and Tella’s dad is literally ruthless for no reason. His wife left him and now he plays psychological games of abuse with his daughters. There’s a moment where he essentially tries to get his daughter’s fiancé to rape her. And for what reason? It makes no sense. No sense at all. He slaps a random girl across the face at one point, murders some random dude. I don’t know what excuse to make for that except that this book is sloppy.


Word to the wise...if you haven’t read this book, you may want to skip this section. Even the stuff I don’t mark as spoilers may be somewhat spoilery. I’ll try, kind of.

So this book centers on Caraval, the supposedly wonderful setting I’ve already moped about for way too long. Caraval attracts a bunch - well, an unknown number of people, and is supposed to be a scavenger-hunt-style game. Somehow, though, in spite of the bajillion people who actually give a sh*t competing against her, Scarlett just stumbles into the goddamn clues.

Here’s my world famous (I’ve become famous since the beginning of this review, right?) Scarlett impression, coming back to show you what following her through this shindig feels like. “Oh, this terrible poem-slash-cheat sheet I was unceremoniously given says I have to ‘earn’ the next clue! It’s probably just this thing I randomly picked up along my travels with zero fanfare! Or maybe it has something to do with a situation I just stumbled into! Doesn’t matter which choice I make, somehow it’ll be manipulated into being the right one!” Where are the stakes?!

I also feel like 80% of this is just us listening to boring old Scarlett being like, “Omg, I think Julian is lying to me. Whatever shall I do?! I don’t trust him!!! I just want to kiss his face off!!!” Etc, etc. And despite spending ALL OF HER TIME with him, she’s never just like:

And this book is just one cop out after another. Weird choice to write a supposed ““““high fantasy”””” book without wanting to define your world at all! Everything that is said definitively is gone back on, so many conflicting descriptions of Caraval are given that I couldn’t summarize them if I tried, and on top of all that, we don’t even get answers at the Big Reveal.


This book is written...weirdly. For one thing, Scarlett, in order to remind us of her special snowflake status, sees emotion in COLOR. It is straight up so annoying. Here are a handful of my least favorite instances, for your reading horror enjoyment.
1. “She could see the sting of her rejection in shades of stormy blue, ghosting over his heart like sad morning mist."
2. “Periwinkle curiosity” (I don’t know why I hate that one so much. I just really do.)
3. “It would have been a mistake to kiss him, yet she felt … disappointed. It came in cool shades of forget-me-not blue, which wrapped around her like evening fog, making her feel hidden enough to acknowledge that she wanted to experience more of Caraval’s pleasures than she would ever have admitted out loud.”

Did you notice anything besides how irritating that quirk is? Numbers 1 and 3 are pretty much the DAMN SAME. What the hell?!

The language in this book isn’t always AWFUL, it’s just...weird. Every sentence is very overwrought. Like, not everything has to have figurative language. Here’s my favorite example: The worst poem I have ever, ever read is in this book. And I’m an English major who hates poetry. Would you like to read it?
"This girl was last seen with Legend.
If you catch her, you shall catch him as well.
Of course, you may have to venture through Hell.
But if you succeed you may find yourself rich.
This year’s winner will be granted one wish."

I do have to give this book some props, because this is the first time I have ever had to shut a book for 90 seconds in order to hysterically laugh. No one ever told me that the word “rich” rhymes with “wish”! Hahahaha. This poem should be used to teach the importance of using meter.


I haven’t had the absolute privilege of writing one of these sections in a while! It’s like a homecoming. An unpleasant, unwanted homecoming. Like if my home was a festering swamp, or a city sewer system.

Here’s one beautiful example - seriously, it’s like a gift from the reviewing gods: “Then she did her best to explain the truth about death and Caraval. Tella didn’t know the particulars as to how it worked. It was one of those things that people didn’t really talk about.” See what I mean?! Instead of the author coming up with an actual defined magic system, she just says “Oh, um...well the character doesn’t know. There’s that!” The world has no definition and neither does the magic. In other words, some of the sloppiest fantasy I’ve ever had the privilege to read.

Plus, there’s a lot of weird stuff going on with hooking up with your family members’ sloppy seconds. I don’t want to talk about it because I’m grossed the f*ck out. I just want to let everyone know I’m SUPER not a fan.

There’s also a fun moment where Scarlett lectures her sister on how “You can’t be in love with someone you just met,” even though a) she fell in luuurve with Julian in less than 5 days and b) she was planning on marrying someone she’d never met, and thought she could tell he was a good guy THROUGH LETTERS. So dumb.

And then maybe my favorite moment of all: When a fortune teller tells Scarlett she wants “love and protection,” her reaction is even worse than I would have expected from a character I hate. She says, “Isn’t that what every girl wants?” WHAT. THE. DAMN. HELL. No! No, not every girl, you piece of shit! It’s fine to want that, but some girls want adventure and knowledge and friendship and bravery and the ability to look out for their damn selves! What the actual f*ck?!

Bottom line: I can’t believe how much I hated this book. (Or how long this review is.) Boring setting, boring characters, boring plot. Overall confusing language and decisions and reveals. I honestly wish I had never read this book.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
February 9, 2017
I feel the same way about Caraval as I did about The Star-Touched Queen last year. In fact, many of my comments are the same, so if you enjoyed that book then it's probable you will like this one also.

Caraval is a fantasy without world-building or significant character development. It relies on its dreamy descriptions, purple prose, and a heavy helping of romance to make it dazzle. To take a quote from my review of The Star-Touched Queen, "if you buy into these metaphors, put on your prose-tinted glasses and let yourself get drunk on the glittering descriptions, I suppose you might be able to ignore..." that's literally how I feel about this.

It is about two sisters - Scarlett and Tella - who live on some random island in the middle of random world X with their abusive father who wants to marry Scarlett off to a count she's never met. Caraval is, as it sounds, a carnival-like game on another random island. People go there to play and if they win, they get a wish. The mysterious Caraval master is a guy called Legend, who Scarlett has been writing to for years, but he has now finally replied - and sent three tickets for Scarlett, Tella and Scarlett's fiance. Upon arrival at the island, Tella goes missing and it soon becomes apparent that finding her is all a part of the game. Scarlett must solve the clues and find her sister before Caraval is over.

For one thing, this is a writing style that never appeals to me. So many metaphors and similes that I know are supposed to be evocative and exciting, but they're nonsensical. Phrases like this:
“It smelled like the middle of the night”

“He tasted like midnight and wind”

“Tella’s expression fell, like a doll Scarlett had dropped.”

I understand that some readers like this kind of mysterious, weird writing, but it just pulls me right out of the story. I'm sat there thinking "how the hell does something TASTE LIKE MIDNIGHT?" What does it even mean that Tella's expression fell like a doll that Scarlett dropped? Does it mean that Tella is like a doll being dropped (i.e. unhappy doll?) or is the author equating the downwards turn of her expression with the downwards fall of a doll? Or neither - it just sounds good?

And here, have some more:
“Something about him made her feel perilous shades of silky black.”

“The world tasted like lies and ashes when Scarlett woke.”

“Something acidic and moldy and burnt bubbled up through Scarlett’s throat - the taste of death.”

Let’s forget for a second that death now has a “taste” - is the author just listing random words that sound cool? Think about it. How can something taste acidic AND moldy AND burnt? I just don't believe that good writing is collecting as many exciting, descriptive words as possible and shoving them all together, regardless of whether they make any sense.

But whatever. That's just taste for the writing style. I personally thought the story was lacking too, unless you are seeking more romance and descriptions of male muscles than actual fantasy and mystery. From the very beginning, Scarlett goes on and on about the gorgeous men around her - Julian and Dante - often forgetting that her sister is missing because she is so caught up in her own romantic ambitions. And, of course, when Julian is seen talking with another girl, said girl is described as "some tart in a bar"; in comparison to Scarlett who blushes every time Julian looks at her.
He had the sort of profile meant for sculptors and painters. Full lips, strong jaw, coal-dark eyes sheltered by thick, dark brows.

Do you think that she means "sculptures" and "paintings" instead? Or is it a stereotype I don't know about that artists are supposed to have a certain sort of profile? Anyway...

I found so much of this book unsatisfying. I gave it an extra star because it remained interesting enough for me to read to the end, but there's not much more than a flowery romance contained within these pages. The mysteries and reveals are not particularly exciting, and there's a poorly-executed end moment where a character reveals everything through a long speech - like a magician dropping character at the end and telling the audience how they did it.

Also, as a side note - and I wasn't sure if I was going to mention this or not - I got a very strong sense that I had read this story before. Most people probably won't know what I'm talking about. But back when I was about eleven/twelve years old, I read a book called The Forbidden Game by the same author who wrote Vampire Diaries, about a girl who gets pulled into a game and must find her friends before the time is up. There's also a mysterious, gorgeous guy called Julian pulling the strings (holy shit, I was in love with him back then) and this book is so similar. Really. It makes me wonder if the author read it too.

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Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
June 15, 2021
Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea.
Ever since Scarlett was a child, she heard tales of the wonderful, mysterious and dangerous Caraval.

Trapped on a tiny island by her monster of a father, Scarlett dreams of nothing but attending.

Hundreds and hundreds of people hope and beg for a position in the games all in the attempt to obtain the grand prize - a single wish.

Much to Scarlett's delight and terror, just a few days before her wedding she receives an invitation.

At the insistence of her younger sister (Tella) and a mysterious boy, Scarlett escapes her island home and tyrannical father to enter the games.

Only, things do not go as planned. Her sister is missing and the dangers are mounting - will she be able to make it to her wedding? Will she be able to make it out alive?

The main problem I had with this book is the decision-making skills, the "magic" and the general YA ness. Unfortunately, that overshadowed the book.

The Decision-Making skills - aka we are always going for the worst option, aren't we?

There's being sheltered...and then there's being extremely stupid. Scarlett Dragna falls under the latter.

There were so many, many times I wanted to shake her - if there is choice between a dark, dank ominous cave vs a gentle sunlight path, she'd be halfway down the cave-monster's gullet before I could blink.

She just has a knack for that sort of thing.
It probably doesn't help that despite repeated assurances that:
What happens beyond this gate may frighten or excite you, but don’t let any of it trick you. We will try to convince you it’s real, but all of it is a performance. A world built of make-believe.
Our lovely Scarlett believes everything - every single thing - that is said to her.

The Magic - aka it's not SUPPOSED to be realistic, Haha

I loved the idea of the Caraval - the ethereal magic, the enigma of the game and (of course) the trickery of Legend. But, the book fell short.

The world-building needed to be significantly stronger. For a world that was purported as being one of intense magic and intrigue, everything was a bit meh and haphazard.

The author used the excuse "but it's magic" as a crutch so freaking much.

To explain: there's magic worlds out there that I believe 100%.

Harry Potter, for example, was beautifully fleshed out. Yes, it was pure magic but it was also purely believable.

I could instantly tell you what would and wouldn't make sense in this world.

Caraval... not so much.

The author has all these wild crazy ideas and instead of building and connecting them... she just called it magic and that was it...

For example, one of the bigger things in this novel was the clothing changes.

A dress changes color, shape, form? And is the perfect size? How? Magic!

... but... how? Is it a spell? Enchanted object? Mysterious ancient witchcraft? It's magic!

No seriously. How do you have godlike seamstress powers? I SAID IT WAS MAGIC

Okay. So there's magic dresses. But how does that connect to the magic people? Mysterious sellers? Artifacts? Magic. *cocks gun*

So... ultimately, the magic was used as a cool and trendy tool rather than a fleshed out aspect of the world.

General YA-ness - aka this sounds familiar

Of course, because this is YA romance, all the big kisses had to have oddly-specific descriptions:
He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue.
And, even better:
It tasted like the moment before night gives birth to morning. It was like the end of one thing and the beginning of something else all wrapped up together

The 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge - A book recommended by someone else taking the PopSugar Reading Challenge

Audiobook Comments
The tone and inflection were alright, but listening to it fell a bit flat. I think it was because how frustrated I was with Scarlett's decisions... The narrator (Rebecca Soler) was fabulous in other books, I think it was just me being annoyed with the story rather than something on her end.

If you are curious about Rebecca Soler, check Tucker the Reader's interview!

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Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,487 reviews79.1k followers
October 9, 2022
How can I write a review for this giant ball of awesome and do it justice? I was intrigued by the summary from the second I found this was coming out, but had no clue if it would live up to the hype. The back cover boasts of “The spell-casting fantasy destined to become a sensation” and Fox 2000 has already purchased the rights to turn this into a major motion film, which claims some pretty mind-blowing story is within the covers. This book was even better than I could have imagined and then some. Hi, my name’s Chelsea and I’m addicted to Stephanie Garber’s world of Caraval.

The blurb tells you everything you need to know going in; honestly, the less you know the better and the more confused you feel, the more enjoyable your reading experience will be. Every single chapter had some sort of twist, and whether it was minor or major, it got me. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. This book was somehow 400 pages, but it went by too quickly. I kept saying “Just one more chapter” and next thing you know, it was finished. Sort of. Because YAY book #2 is coming! Well, once she writes it of course. (No pressure Steph. I’m only gnawing my nails to the bloody nub in anticipation.)

Surprisingly, one of my favorite things about this book was the budding romance between Julian and Scarlett. I must be maturing (HAH!) and opening my reading door to some new things, because years ago this would have grossed me out to the core. The good news is it isn’t gross and cheesy; the tension continually grows throughout the book but it is really quite clean. This is something I wouldn’t bat an eye at letting my teenager read; the romance was tastefully done and, while refraining from being cheap and raunchy, sucked the reader in as the relationship grew. IMO, this showed what true talent the author had in being able to gain the reader’s interest in her romantic composition without relying on overdone sexual situations that are graphic and distracting from the heart of the story.

JULIAN. I know Scarlett is supposed to the the show stopper here, but Julian stole the limelight for me. I fell in love with his character from the first page he showed up; he’s rugged, bold, and hilarious while carrying meaningful dialogue and playing a deeper role than just eye candy. I found myself cheering for him constantly throughout the story, and even when suspicion is cast his way multiple times (which both was rightly and wrongly cast), I couldn’t have cared less. This series I believe was set up, not as a complete focus on one character with many supporting roles, but as a character study on multiple people with a more complex story that interweaves multiple interests. While it is told mostly through Scarlett’s POV, we have a view into other’s interests as well, and the massive cliff hanger on the final page has set this up to be a strong series that should continue without a hitch.

There is an overall dark feel to this book, and there is some disturbing violence in a fantasy-related sense, but it was necessary and intriguing to the story line. The mystery surrounding Legend and his traveling Caraval performers was breathtaking; I found myself completely lost in this otherworld. To me, it had a historical fiction feel with a side of science fiction due to the fantasy aspect, which made for a unique read. I’m not sure what else to add, other than I have an advanced case of Caraval hangover and need the book #2 cure ASAP. If you enjoy Young Adult novels, regardless of your age, you’ll want to open your heart and your book shelf up to this one. I hate writing reviews this far in advance for a book that doesn’t come out until next year, but go ahead an pre-order, make a note to yourself to request at your library in January, or go to NetGalley and request your copy, because it will have a guaranteed spot on my Top 10 Wrap Up at the end of the year.

*I received my copy from the publisher.
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
February 14, 2017
This freaking book HOLY CRAP.
I have a feeling this book is going to be a huge hit when it comes out, and rightfully so. This is the kind of story that you just want to devour because you can't get enough. It's a beautiful story about sisterhood and adventure, full of amazing characters and a delightfully dark world. It's this grotesque Wonderland like world where the Mad Hatter is calling the shots.
Honestly cannot wait for you guys to get your hands on this. Keep an eye out for it because wow.
Video review to come closer to publication date!
Profile Image for Ali Goodwin.
172 reviews17.4k followers
September 19, 2023
4.5 stars! One of my favorite parts of this book is the world! I would LOVE to attend Caraval. It's so magical and dark and mysterious. I also love that this book combines romance, fantasy, and mystery. I loved following all the clues along with Scarlett to try and find her sister. At no point did I know how this book was going to end. I need to read book two ASAP!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.7k followers
June 13, 2020
Q: if i could live in any fictional world, what would it be?

A: the world of caraval - im still just as obsessed with its magical mystery as i was the first time reading this.


one of the coolest things i have ever experienced was an interactive play. you walked around from room to room in this large house where actors portrayed characters, acted out scenes, but also involved you. this book was like that, but only 1000x more magical. i mean, not to be dramatic, but i would bargain my soul to every one of the fates to be able to live in a world where i could participate in a caraval game. i am OBSESSED.

there is nothing quite like the amazement and sensational wonder of this book. i just wanted to crawl into the pages and spend the rest of my days enthralled by the enchanting magic of this story. i love stories that make me second guess what i know and think, and this captivated me from the first page. the stakes are high, unseen forces are in play, and the truth of everything is more hidden than the identity of caraval master legend himself. this was truly an experience, one i will want to read again and again.

5 stars
Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
260 reviews4,948 followers
January 7, 2017
*Full Review Update!!* (Spoiler free)
I cannot rave enough guys... this book wins everything.

This has made it in to my absolute all time favorites. I can't even function normally to describe it... I am absolutely floored. Zero complaints. I enjoyed every sentence.. every page.

I couldn't get enough. It was whimsical, off the charts electric, romantic, mysterious, enchanting, enthralling... full of twists and turns. So many that I thought the ending couldn't possibly live up to the mystery this created.. but it absolutely did.

My advice is to go into this knowing NOTHING. Seriously, I wanted to throw like 10 billion quotes in my review because I loved it THAT MUCH but its going to be so much more mysterious if you just dive right in. But I'll say this - I was hooked from the first page. There's a series of letters that Scarlett writes to the 'Caraval master' Legend over a series of years. This story begins when he finally writes back.

I loved the writing and the pacing so so much. It wasn't too slow but it wasn't too fast either - it was just right for the character development. Scarlett was the perfect choice for an MC and I loved being in her mind without any outside perspective. Everything about the plot and the other characters are a complete mystery. Good luck trying to guess everything... you'll need it. The best part of the experience for me personally was trying to guess who was who and who was good/bad.

I literally cannot comment on any of the other characters because it would be a spoiler - but oh man.. you guys. I think I'm in love.

And the end? CLEVER. Wow. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. I thought Stephanie was writing herself into a hole with all the mystery but boy oh boy did she deliver.

The setting is another win for this book. If you like the Night Circus, you'll be pleased. (The plot is totally different but the magical circus/carnival like atmosphere is on point.)

Alright, I know I've done nothing but hyped up this book. Do yourself a favor though- go in with zero expectation, spoilers, hints, etc. Just enjoy the ride.

Now excuse me while I go work on fan art because this has taken over my world.

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Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,540 reviews9,968 followers
May 10, 2020
3rd reread. What the frack!! I don’t know if it was the audio or if my real feelings came to the surface! I just know I didn’t really like it 🤨


My February Owlcrate Box!



I guess I should put up the big ole spoiler label just in case I get spoilery!


First off let me just get this off my chest. I wanted to smack Scarlett about 15 times during the book because she said this one thing about 50 billion times.

I have to get back to get married. I have to get back to get married. I have to get back to get married. I have to get back to get married. I have to get back to get married. <-- Okay those are not the EXACT words but still - ya get me?

But I digress =)

The sexual tension between Scarlett and Julian could melt butter! And gave me some twinges at times. Good twinges!

I guess I should just crack on with the book =)

Soooooooooooo, Scarlett and Donatell (Tella) have a jerk face for a father and they are stuck on an island with him. He will do horrible things to them or other people if they dare try to escape. But Scarlett has a way out, she is to marry some dude her father set her up with and take her sister, Tella, with her. Scarlett has never met this man and her father won't tell her anything about him. Like that's not sketchy.

When Scarlett was younger she used to write letters to Master Legend for years trying to get him to come to their island with his Caraval. Of course he never comes but one day many moons later he sends a letter to Scarlett inviting her and Tella and a guest to his Caraval on an island down on the right.

Scarlett is so happy but she knows she won't be able to go because she will be getting married soon but Tella gets her to go. It's an unsavory way but Scarlett, Tella and Julian (whom Tella met while he was visiting their island) all end up at Caraval. And it's crayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Things and people are not what they seem.

And they say that Legend creeps around watching people. You also have the choice of watching the show or participating in the show to get a special wish at the end if you are the winner. But the show can drive you mad.

Turns out Tella is put into the show and everyone in the show must find her or she could die! What? Julian decides to help Scarlett out and it's so freaking good!

I'm shutting my mouth and not saying another thing because you need to read it and find yourself in the crazy land of Caraval. I wonder where the next book will take us! =)

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Kainat 《HUFFLEPUFF & PROUD》.
293 reviews724 followers
June 2, 2017
Lowering my rating to 1 star.

I am genuinely trying to find out who started advertising this book and why? It's been blowing up GR for quite a while now. People with ARC were selling it on eBay at ridiculously high prices. That's how it caught my attention in the first place. Was that a publicity stunt? If it was, it's not going to help much because the book is shitty. There is nothing new or exhilarating here. If anything, it's ideas stolen from a bunch of other books, The Lunar Chronicles, Hunger Games, Night Circus and such. There was no originality here whatsoever, on top of all that IT'S BORING AF!

The only characters who held my attention were Iko (TLC much?) and Dante. Obviously, if you are interesting, you aren't good enough for this book. They are no one of relevance. :/

Let's talk about Scarlet, our main character. I really tried to like just because of that name of hers. Scar from Lunar Chronicles is my absolute favorite! Unfortunately, similarities don't go any further than their name. This Scarlet is one of those characters who we are constantly told is clever, adventurous, and ambitious. Let me tell you right now, she is none of those things. Scarlet is gutless and way too naive for my taste. I'm sorry, but i didn't find her to be very intelligent either. Many times i was baffled by her ignorance. These riddles weren't even hard to crack, but it took Miss Scarlet pages and pages crying over totally random and irrelevant things till correct answers would slap her right in the face. THEN things would click in her tiny brain.

Legend is the Darkling figure more like an insult to Darkling's greatness. He is the mysterious host of Caraval. He is dangerous. He is crazy. He is the villain. No one has ever met him, nor do they have any idea what he looks like. He wears a new face every year. And he sees everything. In other words, BLAH BLAH BLAH. At first, i was aboard. I was totally anticipating meeting this Leged. However, at one point his name started irritating me because it's all just talk. He isn't even in the book!

Julian is a young sailor who helped Scarlet and her sister escaped their evil father. He gave me massive Captain Carswell Thorne vibes. Of course, me being trash for TLC didn't need anything more. When i started looking at Julian as his own character, not Carswell wannabe that's pretty much what he was his character is flat/painfully predictable. Didn't buy the romance for a second. It was merely anticlimactic.

This being said, please don't let me discourage you from reading this. What do I know, I am just a crazy woman who is super picky when it comes to fiction. It's just my, once again, unpopular opinion. UGH, i told you didn't out it there for decoration.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mikee (ReadWithMikee).
203 reviews1,315 followers
April 14, 2017

❝Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world.❞

Thank you to Flatiron Books for sending me an advance reading copy of Caraval for review purposes.


This book was just absolutely ENCHANTING! I didn't know how high or how low to set my expectations before going into Caraval but one thing is for sure by the time I closed this book: Caraval surpassed all my expectations and more. I've always been a sucker for circus/carnival themed books but I never read another book that came close to one of my favorite circus tales and favorite books of all time, The Night Circus. But Caraval has easily set its place right next to The Night Circus as one of the most magical stories I have ever read.

From the very first page up until the last, there was never a dull moment while reading Caraval. It was just an enigma wrapped in magic and deception. One minute you think you have the story and the characters all figured out, the next minute the storyline takes you on a completely different direction! There were just so many twists, turns, and puzzles that every page leaves you hanging at the edge of your seat.

Although Caraval didn't really feel like it took place in a circus/carnival like I was hoping it would, the world building was still very mystical. Clues and objects are paid in your deepest secrets, greatest fear, or even days of your life. There are tunnels that drive you mad and make you question what is real and what is simply part of the game. Caraval was just full of so many surprises that'll keep you turning the page. I had so many theories right from the very beginning that kept changing and evolving as the story progressed. I was so immersed in trying to crack the big mystery that was Caraval and Legend. Remember that it's just a game. But is it really? ;) This book will definitely leave you with more questions than answers in the end so prepare to be mind blown!

I can't even put into proper words how magical this book truly is. Of course I can't speak for everybody, but I can almost guarantee that you'll never read a story like Caraval! Stephanie Garber has made quite the entrance into this community with this captivating piece of work. I almost can't believe that Caraval is actually her first book! I can see so much potential in this author and in this world that she has created. I definitely can't wait for book two because something tells me that Stephanie has more tricks and magic up her sleeve for her readers! :)

*** The quote in this review was taken from an uncorrected proof and should be compared to the final copy upon release.
Profile Image for Ayman.
215 reviews85.3k followers
October 4, 2023
ah so whimsical and magical! (only reading this to get to OUABH)
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
August 20, 2017
This is my second time reading this as I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of the audiobook from Macmillan audio (thank you so much to them!) Honestly I loved it even more the second time. The audiobook was so atmospheric and beautiful and I just adore this story so much!!!
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
316 reviews115k followers
February 13, 2018
2.5 stars. I unfortunately was not a big fan of Caraval, which is very disappointing to me considering I was really excited for it!

Pretty much, everything about this book fell short for me. Every character was bland and annoying with no personality. The romance had absolutely no substance in my opinion, I never felt any chemistry or understood why they got together other than the fact that they were basically one of the only people available to the other. The setting of Caraval was so much less magical and whimsical than I anticipated, and even the darker portions of the performance weren't dark enough! The tagline is "It's all an elaborate performance," but it felt nothing like a performance at all. It felt like one big, wishy-washy scavenger hunt, not the *amazing, adventurous* experience we're lead to believe.

The magic system itself really irked me. It felt like a bad case of "This happens because !*~.- m A g I c -.~*!" with very little explanation as to how the magic works. I don't feel there were many limitations, and the restrictions that were present weren't all that clear. The magic system was severely underdeveloped in my opinion, which is a big issue for me as a reader.

There definitely were points where I was more interested and entertained by the story (thought those only occurred when I could block out at least a 3 hour uninterrupted period, which is not typical for my audiobook listening) but overall, it was a tough book to get through. I don't often consider putting books down, but there were times when I questioned why I was still listening and contemplated not finishing it.

Ultimately, this book felt very juvenile for me (that is not to say books intended for younger readers are not as good!) but I tend to enjoy more mature YA novels. That being said, I can see why there is so much hype for this book, especially within readers younger than myself. I think younger Emma MIGHT have enjoyed it more, considering I don't look at books the same way I did at 17.

I'm not sure if I'd read book two, I'd have to see how I feel about this story around the time it comes out. But considering I felt Caraval would have fared better as a standalone, it just doesn't seem like this series is for me.
Profile Image for Zainab Qadeer (Semi - Hiatus).
44 reviews348 followers
September 17, 2023
“she imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out.”


“Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or performance. It's the closest you'll ever find yourself magic in this world.”

Scarlett Dragna grew up hearing stories from her grandmother Annalise about Caraval and ever since her dream was attending Caraval a magical game that promises an adventure of a life time in which you can either choose to watch or play but this isn’t open to just anyone it’s exclusive and one can only obtain entry via a ticket. Every year she’d write to the Caraval master Legend (that’s what’s he’s called in the book I know kind of confusing 😂 ) in hopes of attending but as years went on her hope was also lost until one day she received a reply which included 3 tickets one for her, her sister Donatella and her soon going to be fiancé the count who she is arranged to marry by her father. There was just one problem their father a ruthless man who’d never let her and her sister off the island but a sailor Julian promises the girls he’d help them off the island and attend Caraval would the girls be able to truly escape their father and enter this magical world or would he catch up before they got a chance

Scarelett Dragna ( AKA Crimson )

“For years her father tore her down. Over and over, she had let him. She’d allowed him to make her feel worthless and powerless. But she was neither of those things. She was done allowing her fear to make her weaker”

I can’t lie at the start she really irritated me because all she cared about was her sister it’s like she had no Personality. HOW CAN I NOT FAIL TO MENTION SHE WAS READY TO MARRY THE COUNT A MAN SHED NEVER MET BECAUSE HER FATHER SAID SO LIKE GIRL IF HE WAS A GOOD MAN WHY WOULD YOUR FATHER HIDE HIS NAME FROM YOU💀😭. However as the book developed so did Scarlett’s personality we got to see her love and think about someone other than her sister for once.

Donatella Dragna ( AKA Tella )

“I meant it when I said I’d rather die at the edge of the world than live a miserable life on Trisda.”

At first I thought she was a selfish bitch who only cared about her self but it turns she was also looking out for her sister. Unlike Scarlett tella had a personality she’d rather die than not be able to live and experience life to the fullest I can’t lie sometimes she took things way too extreme and annoyed the living day lights out me but my girl was smart smart IF YOU KNOW YOU KNOW SHE BROKE THE RULE OF ONLY ELDER SISTERs PROTECT WHICH MADE ME LOVE HER BECAUSE SHE WOULD LITERALLY DIE FOR SCAR💕💕💕

Julian ( The sailor )

“He’d never stared at her like this before. Sometimes he gazed at her as if he wanted to be her undoing, but just then it was as if he wanted her to undo him” 🥲🥹

So my dumb ass thought he was a side character at first just a normal guy trying to help two girls off an island but boy was I wrong. HELLOOO JULIAN I LOVE YOU HOW CAN A MAN BE SOO PERFECT apart from the lying HE WAS PROTECTIVE ATTENTIVE AND JUST EVERYTHING A GIRL WANTS

Ambassador Dragna (the father )

“Call it an early wedding present that I’m not mutilating him further right now,” said Governor Dragna. “But if you say another word aside from yes, my generosity ends.”

He’s just an abusive prick that deserves to die. That’s all I have to say

The count

“That’s funny,” the gentleman said. “All this time, I thought she was my fiancée.”

He was just a creep whyyyy the hell are you trying to marry a girl who loves someone else LIKE YOU LEFT YOUR SELF RESPECT OUT THE DOOR not to mention he bought Scarlett like ewww someone has no rizz

Julian and Scarlett

“Crimson, don’t do this for me.” Julian shot a pleading look toward Scarlett. “You can’t give yourself to him. I don’t care about what happens to me.

“Julian,” she said in a whisper, as if anything louder would destroy the delicacy of the moment, “why are you doing this?”
His amber-flecked eyes met hers, and something in them made her breathing hitch. “I’d think that answer was obvious.”

These two have my heart and I don’t want it back. I JUST WANT TO START OFF BY SAYING THE WAY JULIAN CALLS HER CRIMSON HAS ME IN A PUDDLE 🥵. Julian did everything to protect Scar where shall I start

1. He took a beating from her dad which left a permanent scar but even when he had a chance to leave he wouldn’t because he couldn’t leave crimson 🥲🥹
2. He got his head bashed retrieving earrings that someone had stolen that belonged to her mother 😭😭
3. He gave her 1 day of his life like come on helloooo 🫢💕💗

My favourite part

“Playing the part of concerned fiancé, just to scare away Dante, when really he couldn’t have cared less.”

The way Julian took his fake fiancé role a little too serious and was super annoyed and jealous when he saw Dante like we get it but my man was seeing red😭😫



1. The ambassador and The Count caught Julian and Scarlett
2. Julian was acting like he was working with legend and just tricked Scarlett to get revenge THAT HAD ME WANTING TO THROW UP 😭
3. When Julian died
4. When Tella wouldn’t believe her sister
5. When Tella died
6. When Julian was supposedly Legend

“I guess I’m better than I thought.” Julian’s smile turned vicious, the kind made for breaking hearts.”

“I should have stayed away from you … but I really wanted you to succeed. … I wanted to—” “Julian’s head fell back.”

“With trembling fingers, Tella blew her sister a kiss.
Tella stepped off the edge of the balcony.”


I can’t lie I kind of guessed legend was Julian’s brother 😭

I literally hated Tella for believing a man she just met and claimed to love her over Scarlett but when I found out that she was the mastermind and this Caraval game was to protect her and scarlett from her father I WANTED TO FRICKING KISS HER SHE WASNT UNGRATEFUL SHE KNEW THAT SCARLETT LOVED HER THE MOST AND SHED DO ANYTHING FOR HER SISTER WAS A THE BEST ENDING BECAUSE TELLA WAS READY TO SACRIFICE EVERYTHING FOR HER

Spoilers end here

I couldn’t have read this without my gorgeous love sherbano who literally had heart attacks with me 😭😘😘

Profile Image for Lilyya ♡.
239 reviews1,059 followers
July 16, 2023
2.75 stars

❛ My little liar, Julian mouthed.❜

The writing held a contradictory connotation, to my opinion. It rocked from a polished, opulent vocabulary and exquisite metaphors to an atrociously neglected characters’ depth and world building. Some scenes were vividly and graphically descriptive from the costumes to the atmosphere surrounding our protagonists but they lacked explanation when it came to Scarlett’s feelings and thoughts, she partially felt shallow except from some verbal jousts with Julian. Plus, the magic orbiting around The Caraval, Legend and the actors was nonchalantly mentioned. Perhaps it was intentional and some of the questions will be answered and clarified in the next books in the series but, for me, the way the folklore wasn’t sufficiently distilled through the chapters to offer a perfect understanding of the magical world made it difficult to go through the story, therefore I didn’t feel completely connected to either the storyline nor the characters.

"Legend’s special guest had made Scarlett feel privileged. For the first time in her life, she’d felt special. Chosen. But once again, rather than feeling as if she were playing the game, it seemed as if the game were playing with her."

Everything was a subterfuge. A game, from the side characters’ intentions and motives to why the story started in the first place. When you feel like a guest you are in reality just a piece of chess in the grand scheme of The Caraval. And I got played all along with Scarlett. I was angry at first but, I completely understand the author’s vision, it’s honestly brilliant from the start to near, near the end . However, it was poorly, barely sorted. The ending felt rushed and Scarlett made some compromises and decisions that I don’t understand, at all.

P.S.:Julian carried the book until he didn’t.🫶🏼

tella WTH girl?????? the last chapters? im speechless. rtc

monique is joining the julian fan club, hope yall r happy now! idk who the hell he is

buddy read with lila and Aliki🫶🏼
757 reviews2,350 followers
July 23, 2019

This book was ass but surprisingly I really enjoyed it. 😔 review to come

listen.... I know I trashed this book, but I saw it on my shelf and it looked sexy so I decided to read it and now I’m kind of into it... 😰

I've read 62 pages and I've had enough of this shitty cringefest. I dnfed this weeks ago and can't stand any of the one dimensional characters, especially the muscular, hot and swoon worthy dude who KIDNAPS the MAIN CHARACTER!!! *swoons* wow so hot!!!

fuck this abomination of a book.

br with my girl Alyssa who also dnfed lmao.
Profile Image for booksnpenguins (wingspan matters).
801 reviews2,913 followers
January 24, 2022
Our futures are only predictable because as creatures of this world we are predictable.

I really did want to like this book.
I really did want to dive into a magical and dark adventure with Scarlett and Tella.

Sadly for me, I didn’t enjoy it the way I thought I would, and this adventure turned out to be a little school trip to Boredom Land, with one heck of a frustrating main character.
And don’t even let me start on her sister.

The premise is good, though it has its little flaws right from the start.
The writing, for one, has a dull and chanting rhythm. There are a few nice quotes here and there, but nothing remarkable. Dialogues and attempted bantering included.
Gosh, those dialogues. *shivers* I’ll have nightmare for days.
The characters are infuriatingly undefined.
Their personalities and traits are smudgy on their borders. They all read the same way, they all look and talk the same, and they lack of substance, insomuch that, still now, I can’t understand what the deal was with a lot of them.
Scarlett is not that bad, but if I had to tip the scale in favor of a concrete judgment, I’d say she’s an easily forgettable character.
Sometimes I found myself wanting to jump into the book, grab her by her shoulders and give her a vigorous shake because, holy crow, her obliviousness got on my nerves more times than I can count.
She’s really insecure and timorous, yet patsy and judgy to the point of aversion.
To an extent, I see how her father’s abuse has a part in all of this. Yet, as someone who’s supposed to be the tough and motherly sister, I feel like she’s way too immature and naïve, too ready to give away her feelings to those who don’t deserve it.
Still, I’m not holding any of this against her, because poor Scarlett is basically an unconsciously willing victim of circumstance.
Tella, on the other hand…
She's so flipping selfish and dumb. I really hope Scarlett will grow some balls and tell her off. Oh, scratch that, just give her a well deserved noogie.
Julian, Mr Love Interest, could not be there and I wouldn’t notice, or wouldn’t care. I probably would have liked him more if he wasn’t always trying so hard. His purposes and aims are so conventionally confined into the “typical mysterious good-looking guy” category, and his flirting is so bland that you can’t even go past the fact that he’s just another pretty face in another unpretty book.
I’m not even gonna waste my words on Legend and all the *sarcastic air quotes* mystery that surrounds him. Fuck you, you old fart. Give me my money back.

Luckily enough, the plot is probably the thing I liked the most, even if I probably hyped this book too much in my own head to the point it took me exactly 270 pages to feel the reader’s high.
The setting is gorgeous, I got to give it to the author. Had she wrote about flowers and dresses and a whole another kind of circus-like place (one where, supposedly, Scarlett is a badass and Tella is participating in an Erasmus program in Grunland), I would have fallen hard for it.
I wish she’d focused more on describing the surroundings, giving more space and a proper background story to more secondary characters, instead of going on, pages and pages, about feelings and stuff.
However, I loved the way everything merges together and gives the story, its performers and the entirety of Caraval, this Venetian, carnivalesque freak-show kind of halo.
Alas, things started to get interesting when I was already too far into the book and already too oriented towards a negative outcome, so I probably didn’t even enjoy it as much as I could have.

I kind of was expecting that ending, to be honest.
It’s the kind of book that requires something shocking, that leaves people with their mouth and eyes wide open buuuut...nope, I'm not impressed at all.

Profile Image for SK.
315 reviews2,778 followers
June 7, 2023
So that was...boring.

I went in with low expectations because of the mixed reviews I had been seeing on my feed but I guess it was another case of "It's not you, it's me." Maybe I could've liked it if I read it in my teens but it was so YA, guess that's another reason why it didn't work for me.

I liked the start, it was intriguing but 70 pages in and it already was boring me. The plot felt messy to me, although the writing is quite decent.

One thing I really disliked was the sisters relationship with each other. There was no unity, no sense of sisterhood. Tella is so deceiving and Scarlett is so thickheaded. They both talk of loving and protecting each other but the amount of secrets they keep, the lying, was it reallllyyyy required? I failed to see that so called sisterly love.

Tella annoyed me. She was conniving, deceptive and just too much for me. Scarlett aka Crimson, was a typical damsel in distress and that's what she stayed like even at the end. She has no fire power and both of the sisters are quite forgettable. Scarlett, especially is so dumb 😭 I did not see any character growth for both of them.

Julian was interesting. He grew on me at the end and now that I think about it, he was the only reason why I kept reading instead of skimming.

Some of the plot twists were really good. Legend definitely is intriguing. The ending was kinda meh tbh. The main reason am reading it is because I want to get to Once Upon a Broken Heart which is why I will continue with the series and some of you have told me that the second book is the better book so here's hoping 🤞


If I don't read this now, I will never read it. So here it goes 🤞
Profile Image for Antje ❦.
133 reviews272 followers
August 8, 2023

I know y'all have read at least a hundred reviews on this book by the time you're reading mine, and I know I'm the last person on Earth to complete this book (and trilogy), but hey, better late then never! I also felt an inexplicable need to share a few sentences on why I loved this book, so here we go!

THE WRITING Fairytale books (books written in that style) turn into fairytale attempts usually by page 3-4. But this WHOLE BOOK is a giant fairytale from start to finish. It's hard to keep the vibes going, but Stephanie Garber managed to do just that. I know that these books are very popular, and just that usually gives books a bad rep. Why, it's simple, it's either that so many people are trying to shove the book down your throath or they don't market it very well. Let me tell you, I've seen countless drawings of the characters, quotes, beautiful covers and special editions, but not a single soul told me HOW WELL THIS WAS WRITTEN. I'm a huge sucker for a good writing style, and the way a book is worded heavily affects my rating! I read this on my Kindle so I didn't tab anything and there wasn't much that was quote-worthy, but just like I noticed with Divine Rivals, every single sentence was thought through, well phrased, comparisons were beautiful. The writing gave the whole book a mystical magical aesthetic. I wouldn't really say that typical fairytale phrases were present (or I haven't noticed them), but the VIBE was there (and I'm all about vibes).

THE PLOT just kept going. Since this book came out in 2016 (THAT'S CRAZY), tell me, what would you expect? Personally, I would expect three things: 1. a teenage girl who needs to save the world 2. a love triangle 3. our FMC falling in love with an evil mastermind. NO, NO AND NO! This book was none of that! It was twisty, it was unpredictable, the plot shifted every 2 pages, I was going insane in the updates (I'm sorry for my terrible theories guys). There were so many plot points and I DIDN'T GUESS A SINGLE ONE CORRECTLY! It looks like I love to be a fool since I loved this book!

THE ROMANCE was present here and there, we did admire all these hot men Scarlett stumbled upon (even though we never really knew their true identities). But they were all dark-haired, SO DON'T BLAME ME IF I FOLDED. The romance aspect of this also wasn't very prominent and it didn't drive the plot that much. So, that part was short and sweet, it was done right, and I can't complain!

THE CHARACTERS Breaking my silence, I found all of them annoying in the beginning (Scarlett, Tella, Julian). They were very typical-insufferable-YA-lead coded those first 50 pages, but then BOOM, I fell in love with all of them and rooted for their happy ending! I wouldn't say that Stephanie Garber put an emphasis on her characters, like I said, this book was very prominently plot-driven and that's something that surprised me. I'm usually a fan of character-driven stories and those tend to be my favorites (or highly rated books), so, if I find the characters not character-ing, or let's say, lacking, the book doesn't get a high rating from me. I still wish we got more juice-of-your-soul typa content from our protagonists, but they were running around through the entirety of this book, so not much time for trauma dumping, I guess.

THE WARDROBE I've recently seen a video talking about how readers don't really care what a character is wearing and it was basically a plea to authors not to include thorough physical descriptions of characters and I pretty much agreed with the creator of that video at the time. This book has done that, and tbh, overdone it, BUT IT WAS JUST WHAT I NEEDED. I ate up every single description of every single outfit these circus lunatics were wearing, STEPHANIE YOU'RE A GENIUS ( i wanna go to fashion school ).

That's it for this review, I'm ready for this author to ruin me forever! 💖💖
Profile Image for Andreea Pop.
321 reviews2,238 followers
February 9, 2017
I had really high hopes for Caraval. The blurb, the cover, and the excellent reviews promised a magical whirlwind of a story. And this novel delivered that, but its relatively achieved grandeur was overshadowed bit by bit till the end. The last 50 pages or so of the book took its soul out, leaving me with a bittersweet aftertaste, a headache and lots of confusion.

Since I cannot even reflect upon the messy thoughts inside my brain, I'll analyze punctually.

1. The world-building. Sadly, in its true meaning and ramifications, we have no such thing as world-building. I do not even know how to categorize this novel. High-fantasy? Just fantasy? Regardless, in the beginning we had mentions of empires and conquered isles which had me utterly excited, but they were left to rot in the backseat so that the world of Caraval could unravel. Moving to this microcosm, it was indeed complex and fascinating. However, only through its captivating appearance and bold imagery and creative ideas. If you dive deeper, into the background, mechanisms and history, you come up empty. It's all really a facade.

2. The plot. God, the lies. There were so many lies and so many secrets and so many games and manipulation that it honestly ended up being exhausting. Revelations upon revelations, ones that often contradict each other, keep you guessing from start to finish, but after a while this initially mesmerizing stance metamorphoses into the feel of being tricked. Personally, that's how I felt. Deceived. After all the puzzle pieces finally straightforwardly fell into place (some that I've anticipated, some that I did not) you are offered an explanation. And like all good magic tricks, this kills the spirit -- and, implicitly, the so called "plot" -- of Caraval. Gone is the magic and wonder; instead, the triviality and over-the-top drama take residence. It's a scam. A ploy. And, much like Scarlett felt in last key-scenes, I also felt I haven't really made progress in the story.

3. The characters. We have Scarlett, our heroine; Julian, the love-interest; Donatella, the sister. Governor Dragna, the father and also the villain. Legend, the pseudo villain and the mastermind behind Caraval. Plus a few secondary, yet admirable characters (them I liked in their entirety). Scarlett could have been awesome, I'm telling you, if it weren't for her constant fretting and worrying and flowery thinking. Her personality was nuanced only in the kind, moral and brave spectrum, but at least a fraction of character development existed. Julian is a completely other story. The hottie and protective type, he was so intricately woven into the scam I've mentioned that he missed becoming a swoony book boyfriend. Tella was, on the other hand, funky and with a mind of her own, but her supposed cleverness the author tries to sell us falls flat. Despite their flaws, the sisters had a nice relationship. Their father represents a villain-wannabe that should only be called as he truly is -- an abuser, a bully. Legend... now Legend was a mystery and I'd love to find out more. The epilogue seems to hint we'll see him again in a sharper focus.

4. The romance. A bit too syrupy and insta-love reminiscing. I realize now it's the same feeling I've had when reading Falling Kingdoms: it's too much, too early in too little pages. About a quarter into the book, the feelings developed by Scarlett for Julian were already getting in the way of the plot. And I am quite the romantic fan girl, so when I'm saying something felt off, I'm not doing it lightly. Taking into account the amount of untruths that they based their relationship on, it's yet again a case of a shaky foundation to a central aspect of the book.

5. The writing style. Expect prose the likes of Laini Taylor. It sounds beautiful and I'll admit I get swept away pretty easily with this type of writing. It felt like the story flowed, despite its numerous hiccups. The third-person narrative also helped induce a darker atmosphere to keep us on the edge. On a structural level, there was redundancy, but I managed to overlook it gradually. Overall, I'll keep an eye out for Stephanie Garber, because this debut certifies she has storytelling skills.

Even though Caraval has been pitched as The Night Circus in different and refreshing clothing, it is far from the lovely and slow-burning tale of Celia and Marco. Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly believe it deserves at least a skimming. It's an enigmatic story from start to finish and the epilogue assured I'll read the sequel. Color me intrigued.

Profile Image for Korrina  (OwlCrate).
193 reviews4,560 followers
January 31, 2019
This book was just so much fun! What an absolute magical and visual delight. It took so many twists and turns, it really kept me on my toes and made me want to devour the story. Absolutely loved it.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,176 reviews98.9k followers
January 8, 2018

This story was so magical, so whimsical, and so perfect. I was skeptical, because I'm pretty much the only person on Goodreads that did not like The Night Circus, but this didn't remind me of The Night Circus at all. Well, at least the 15% I read before I couldn't force myself to read more. I mean, I can see where people would draw the parallels because of the plot, but the writing in this is much more reminiscent of The Raven Boys or Heartless. The prose is the epitome of lyrical, with descriptions that were nothing short of magical, and I devoured it all with a smile on my face.

“It looked like a storybook come to life. She peered down at bright pointy rooftops, moss-covered towers, gingerbread cottages, gleaming gold bridges, blue-brick streets, and bubbling fountains, all lit by candled lamps that hung everywhere, giving an appearance of time that was neither day nor night.”

Can we talk about how this is Stephanie Garber’s debut novel? I am seriously shocked, because this is not the writing of a new or amateur writer. She has perfected her craft, and made just a really addictive and impressive first story.

God, the writing was so good. The descriptions were perfection. I understand this might not be for everyone, but this world consumed me and I didn't want to leave when I turned the last page. I know this book is about a magical place, but it truly ended up being a magical experience that I'm not going to forget anytime soon.

The plot of this has a perfect thriller tempo, too! Yes, I've been raving about how magical and lyrical this book is, but I have to emphasize that the pace is fast, too! Each chapter holds a new mystery, and I felt so compelled to never put this book down. Caraval truly is a fast and magical journey that I can't help but recommend everyone take!

Caraval is a magical game that is played once a year. Not everyone can go, but the lucky ones are sent tickets, and once they arrive they are able to choose if they'd like to watch the game or actually play the game. Scarlett has been writing to the master of Caraval, Legend, her whole life in hopes to acquire tickets for her and her sister, and after all these years she finally gets a letter back.

And the sibling love in this is so amazing. My brother and I are really close, and there is nothing I wouldn't do for him. Scarlett's devotion to her sister warmed my heart completely and I loved reading about it. Also, seeing them pick each other over boys is my freaking jam.

This book also tackles the hard topic of parental abuse, emotional, mental, and physical. This topic is so important, and doesn't seem to be in much YA, unless it is the center of the story. So many kids grow up being abused, yet, it doesn't become the center of their life. Seeing Scarlett realize she is not the value of her father's rage was beautiful. We need more books that handle this issue, because Uncle Vernon and Harry Potter isn't close to being the epitome of an abusive relationship. Many parents can be manipulative, abusive, terrible, and it isn't the victims fault, ever.

“People think no one sees all the nasty things they do in the dark. The foul acts they commit, or the lies they tell as part of the game. Caraval takes place at night because you like to watch, and see what people do when they think there are no consequences.”

This book does border on unreliable narrative though, because as Scarlett is learning the rules of the game and the magic of Caraval, so is the reader. Caraval is a facade, it might be a beautiful facade, but it is still a facade. The reader is never sure if what they are reading is true, and that is because Scarlett never knows if what she is experiencing is true. I loved the mystery factor and thought it worked perfectly, but I can see where others might not like it as much as me.

And the characters and players in this world are so wonderful! Scarlett was my favorite, and I feel like it would be almost impossible not to fall in love with her. Her sister, Tella, has a good heart and her actions were coming from a good place, but she was a little frustrating. Hopefully, in the next book, my love for Scarlett will carry over to Tella. Julian is the other main character you read about, alongside Scarlett. His character was so endearing and I absolutely loved this story-arc and twist(s). Not knowing whether to root and cheer for him or wish him dead was a unique experience to say the least!

I loved this book. I loved it with my whole heart. I read this in one day; I couldn't put it down. This book is the definition of a sensory read. Please give it a try. I understand that not every book is for everyone, but this book is pretty close to perfection, in my eyes. I whole heartedly expect this to show up on my "Best of 2017" list, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel.

I'll be honest, between this book and Beyoncé announcing she's having twins, I feel like the world is trying to ease the blow of Donald Trump's next executive order.

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Profile Image for Candace.
1,176 reviews4,336 followers
February 15, 2017
What a surprisingly captivating world Stephanie Garber has created in 'Caraval'! I listened to the Audible version of this book and I was mesmerized by the beautiful and vivid imagery that 'Caraval' contained. I was drawn in by the world that Ms. Garber created and it held my attention right to the very end.

Every once in a while, I love a great paranormal romance. I love to leave reality behind and take off on a journey to a place where magic and fairytales exist. This was the perfect story to do just that.

Scarlett, aka "Crimson", and her sister Tella have lived under the oppressive rule of their father. His cruelty seems to know no bounds and he takes satisfaction in tormenting his daughters. Knowing how close the girls are to one another, he uses their love against them. When one of his daughters breaks a rule, it is the other one that will receive the punishment.

Awaiting her arranged marriage to a Count that she's never met before, Scarlett is just biding her time until she can get away from her sadistic father. She's literally counting down the weeks until she will be married and can take her sister with her to her new home. Unlike Scarlett, Tella is skeptical of the mysterious fiancé that seems to say all of the right things but whose identity remains shrouded in mystery.

Before Scarlett can be married off, she receives an invitation from Legend, the famous mastermind behind the Caraval. Despite writing to Legend ever since she was a young child, Scarlett has never received a response before. Now, with the clock counting down to her wedding, it seems like fate that she would receive her first ever response and an invitation to participate in the Caraval.

With the support of her sister, Scarlett sets off for the mysterious island where Legend has indicated that the Caraval is taking place. Along with Tella, she sets sail with Julian, a young sailor, to participate in the forbidden game. Both sisters know that they are risking their lives by sneaking off against their father's wishes. However, they are willing to take their chances in order to seize a once in a lifetime opportunity.

From that point forward, the girls are caught up in a magical and dangerous world. Appearances are not what they seem and even time moves differently in this new world. Caraval is a game where the stakes are very high and not everyone will come out alive or unscathed.

I don't want to give anything away or ruin the surprise for others. There were many twists and turns that I didn't see coming while listening to this story. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, something else would happen that made me question everything again. This story held my attention and kept me guessing right to the very end.

If you like adventure/fantasy/paranormal stories with plenty of twists and turns, this is a great choice. There is some romance, but it took a back seat to the magical world of Caraval. For me, the adventure and mystery of Caraval reigned supreme. Of course, there is a love story weaved into this fantastical story as well. Just, don't plan on a super-smutty type of story where the focus on the romance is paramount.

All in all, I thought that this was a wonderful story. I was enchanted by the world that Ms. Garber created and cannot wait to read the next installment. This book filled my head with some beautiful and vibrant imagery that will hang with me for quite some time. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a paranormal/fantasy/adventure to read. It was fantastic!
Profile Image for Kiki.
197 reviews8,523 followers
October 9, 2019
I cannot even express to you guys how bland this book was: like tofu, like unseasoned chicken breast, like brown bread with no peanut butter. Just miss me with that shit. Miss me with it all the way.

Back in the day, when I was a snarky teenager, I used to enjoy writing reviews that were really, really, venomous. Kids can be cruel, and while I stand by my right to love or hate any media, and to express my opinion, it can go...a little far. Then again, hyperbole is hyperbole. When, at seventeen, I went around saying that a book was so bad it gave me measles, you might want to take that with a pinch of salt, and also for its obvious comedic value. People are more than welcome to get irate about my reviews - they often do, bless them - but at the end of the day, books are books, a form of entertainment. It's not life or fucking death, guys. I don't think a cheeky sarcastic review is going to stop any author from paying their bills and nor is it going to bar anyone else from enjoying the book.

These days, I'm still not one to hold back, but one woman's trash is another's treasure. Everybody likes things for different reasons. It's also a testament to how my writing has improved that I no longer write critiques like an angry goth whose elders don't "get her vibe". I like to think that I write now with the same energy and aesthetic as a French person saying "bof" if you ask them how their meal was at the Hard Rock Cafe.

I'm saying this because as a teenager, before the Terrible Twenties swept over my home like a harbinger of end times, a wicked power that even the lamb's blood smeared over the threshold of my door could not ward off, I would have torn this book a new one. But now, all I can do is look at it, sigh, and say, "Well, at least that's over."

Okay, listen. I have read worse books. But I don't think that's a compliment, is it? This was just so tired, so expected, so flat. The last twenty percent of this was completely unintelligible, and maybe I could have forgiven it this if the characters had not been unbearably flat. It was so difficult to care about anything because the essential emotional thread of the story just didn't exist.

Julian is a horrible fucking liar, Tella is a manipulative arsehole, and Scarlett is so painfully gullible, and you might think that this could make them interesting, but it doesn't - they're all painted in such a positive light, everything they do justified, and I would have preferred a cast full of villains to this.

Frankly, this book reads like an early draft that need a lot of polishing. It's all over the place, and I can't invest myself in that sort of story, where I can feel every move the author was making. It's so difficult to get on board with a book that's written that way. Because you can feel every move the author made, or rather, every misstep. It feels rushed and messy, lazily plotted, poorly paced.

But these are serious, fundamental problems with the story structure itself. The whole premise is a problem, because it just doesn't make any sense why any of this is happening, and it makes even less sense the further you go. It is actually shocking to me how shoddy it is.

Take it back to the drawing board; invest some more time in it. The very bare bones of this story could potentially be interesting, and I do like the idea of the circus (kind of. Not really. I'm just trying to be nice here). With a few massive rounds of editing it could have been something cool. But as it is, it's sort of a wreck. The kicker with the prose is that I see what the author was trying to do: magical writing for a story about magic. But there is no magic here. And it wouldn't matter what sort of book this was, what the story was about, because writing like this never works. This book is badly written and there is nothing else I can say about this, except to deliver some examples, because it has to be seen to be believed.

"Every touch created colors she had never seen. Colors as soft as velvet and as sharp as sparks that turned into stars."


"Tella loved danger the same way candlewicks loved to burn."


"She remembered his rows of sharply defined brown muscles."


"Fierce as a kitten who'd just gotten claws, willing to shred the whole world to make this right."


"Shades of the rich ruby love she'd felt during the game mixed with hues of deep-indigo hurt, turning everything just a little bit violet."


"Scarlett wanted to melt into the night, wink out of existence like a broken star."


"Tella beamed, brighter than candlelight and glass-cut glitter"


That's a good question, isn't it? I'll leave you to ponder it.
Profile Image for ambsreads.
656 reviews1,393 followers
February 21, 2017
TRIGGER WARNING: this one slipped my attention while reading, purely because I was bored, but I feel it is important to add that this book features parent x child abuse which isn't dealt with.

WARNING: this review will be a rant, there may be unmarked spoilers. This is also a highly unpopular opinion so if you want to come at me telling me I'm wrong or didn't understand the book I will punch you in the nose from how mad this book made me. Also, there is a high amount of swearing, which I usually don't try to put in my reviews but I am so angry. (:

“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world."

Caraval was a book I knew I'd hate, I wasn't even excited for it. Then shallow me saw the inside cover and had to read it. Even after Caitlin, who I share similar opinions with, was disappointed. Even after it was repeatedly compared to The Night Circus, which I also hated. So, big fuck you to shallow Amber for making me waste my time.

If you haven't read the book and didn't adhere to my warning at the top of this review, I highly recommend you skedaddle because I am about to go into the characters. So, bye, come back if you hate this book.


For a book where the only review I saw that wasn't a five was Caitlin's, the character's were so dumb and one-dimensional. They literally had to state everything that was happening. It was infuriating to read after the ridiculous description we had had to read of almost every item. This book would have been a lot shorter without the unnecessary metaphors for everything. It was tiring.

But, anyway, let's talk about this shit storm of characters.

First, we have the dumb ass, possible whore(not slut shaming just stating it could be a fact), and ninja turtle of a sister. Now, you may be like, 'where did the ninja turtle part come from?' Well, my friends, her name is Donatella.

So, how did I picture this dimwitted sister the whole time?

Much like this:


A giant turtle with a purple eye band.

Then add this gif - because for some reason we were meant to think that Julian and Ninja Turtle had hooked up.


Moving on, we have the oh so romantic kidnapper known as Julian. Now, you may be like 'woah, a kidnapper?! Are we meant to like him?!' Don't worry, his brown muscles will distract from that. Nothing else matters because he has brown muscles and a solid chest.


Have you forgotten he kidnapped the main character (who I am looking forward to shitting on next)? Me neither. The fact he never called Scarlett by her real name, favouring "Crimson" instead, really irked me. She corrected him once and left it. I've had people call me Amanda for a year, and I corrected them every single time, so it irked me that Scarlett was that weak of a character she wouldn't stand up for herself.

Now, let's talk about Scarlett. Honestly, the most dim-witted character I have ever read. She was so stupid that it made this book a struggle. Her absolute inability to do anything correctly, the fact she couldn't solve the clues and the fact she was so hopelessly okay with almost everything was infuriating.


Now, you may be waiting for a representation of Scarlett. I got nothing. I basically pictured her as an 'attractive' blob on legs. Oops. Add that to a blushing virgin and you have Scarlett, the girl who could barely look a male character in the eye.

The plot was even worse. When you have a book with the preface of "it's all a game" and "nothing is real", it's going to be fucking boring when you try to add 6385923759 plot twists at the end that are dumbdumb. Everything about it had me spluttering in anger and sending Caitlin 80 billion messages.

Honestly, I can't even begin to express my utter anger and hatred for this book. It is literally told over a week and somehow there's a fucking love story too. Don't even get me started on that shit. My notes for it are just: "this is so fucking DUMB" - exact copy and paste from my notes.

Ugh, I am still so angry about this book, I don't even want to see it if I can't kick it 169238048 kilometres away from me. I also don't even want to get into the Legend shit that happened or the "oh no you've been fooled" or whatever the fuck happened.


To make this even better, I just went through my friends ratings and I've rated it the lowest. So, here's for an unpopular opinion. I mean, I didn't even buy into the hype, how am I this disappointed?
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