Caraval | It Wasn’t Nearly As Magical

 This is a spoiler-free review.

Caraval (2)

 Book Title: Caraval.

 Author: Stephanie Garber.

 Series: Caraval #1.

 Page Count: 401 Pages (Paperback).

 Genres: Young Adult & Fantasy.

 Rating: 🌟🌟🌟


Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

Caraval is so much more than just your ordinary Carnival/Circus. Caraval is dark and full of mind games and it did intrigue me, but I was expecting it to completely entice me. I was expecting to lose my head in the clouds and feel the magic, but unfortunately it just wasn’t quite on par with what I had expected.

 What I liked:

For starters it was way darker than I expected, but I actually loved it! I’m a sucker for darkness and plot twists and those were in abundance in Caraval. The darkness of the plot and the plot twists kept me thoroughly entertained, but sadly they were not enough to warrant this a five star read. The plot also offered a sense of mysteriousness which was another huge appeal to me. No character could be trusted and no one was who they actually said they were, this is another little bit that kept me interested until the end as I was very interested in finding out who’s who.

There were bowler hats covered in taxidermy crows. Parasol holsters. Women’s headbands studded with human teeth. 

I liked the fantasy island of Caraval although I felt that it lacked a bit of world-building. It was interesting to hear all the shops being described, this was were I really enjoyed the magic of the story; in the bizarre descriptions. I also loved the fact that the entire game took place at night, I thought it was an enchanting concept and it almost felt like the magic was stronger at night. I also loved Scarlet’s dress and the fact that it was ever changing, that was probably my favourite piece of magic in the whole book.

My favourite character was definitely Julian. I really liked his character and the fact that you never quite knew what you were getting with him. He was tall, dark and mysterious and definitely just what this book needed to keep it interesting. There was also a tiny spark of diversity; it was small but it was there. There were two mentions of POC in the story; one was Julian and another was one of the Caraval workers.

The pretty dark-skinned girl clapped excitedly as Scarlet and Julian climbed into the boat.

Although this was something small; I was really pleased about it and I’m hoping that there will be more diversity in the sequel.

 What I’m unsure about:

The magic. I liked the magic and the allure of it all, but to me the magic sometimes felt a little “fake”. I have no idea how to describe this, but it just didn’t feel real at times, it’s almost like it just wasn’t magical enough. I sometimes felt like everything was just a figment of Scarlet’s imagination. I just wasn’t a fan of the magic throughout the entire novel. Yes I liked some of the things the magic could do such as change Scarlet’s dress, but then other times it just didn’t feel real or right.

 What I disliked:

I didn’t like Scarlet as a main character and since we mainly got to see things from her perspective it made my reading experience far less enjoyable. Scarlet was too much of a goody two shoes for my liking; she had no sense of adventure and had to be persuaded into practically everything. She came across as bland with almost no personality. The only times I sort of liked her was when she was in the company of Julian, but I never could relate to her. Also her internal struggle between her sister and Julian soon became tiresome.

I disliked the fact that we almost never got to read anything from Tella’s POV. Everyone seemed to love the sisterly relationship between Scarlet and Tella, but there was never really a relationship because we only saw things from one perspective. I just felt like the sisterly bond was lacking, I know Scarlet loves Tella very much but we never really got to see that reciprocated.

At a stage I also found the game and all of Legend’s mind games to be dull an unappealing. I thought I would love going on an adventure with Scarlet to find her sister, but the game wasn’t nearly as much fun as I’d hoped it would be. Also the clues and the actual journey to find Tella was a bit confusing. I know that some readers might find the ending to be clever, but I wasn’t really as fond of it. 

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What I wanted (and expected) from Caraval was a sense of allure and enchantment, but unfortunately that is not what I got. I think this book will definitely be either a hit or miss depending on the reader.


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20 thoughts on “Caraval | It Wasn’t Nearly As Magical

  1. These are basically my thoughts. I didn’t like Scarlett. I thought the author was trying convince me there was a great sister relationship, but I didn’t really see it. And the world-building was not that intricate. This book was good, but so overhyped that I was disappointed. People were acting like it was the The Next Big Thing and that it was over-the-top-magical, but no. The focus is on the romance in my opinion. The magic and world building are secondary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely have to agree! I also felt like the sisterly bond was being “forced” onto us and it was definitely too over hyped. I’ll probably still read the sequel just to see how it ends though 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this brilliant review… I’ve mostly heard good things about the book, and if I do decode to read this, I can now go into it with some lower expectations based on your thoughts. I really appreciate knowing all this because if it doesn’t really work for me early on, I am able to make a more or less informed decision whether to continue reading or dnf it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great review!! I’m sorry it wasn’t as great as you were hoping it would be. I can’t wait to give it a go to see what I think, I originally had heard really good reviews but I am now starting to see more mixed reviews. I will put up a review once I have read it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OMG I loved Julian too! He was my favourite character in the book. I get why you didn’t like Scarlet but if you look at the book in it’s entirety then you’ll discover that she underwent the most growth out of everyone.

    I adored Caraval. It was a totally different read than all the books I’ve come to expect from the genre so it genuinely surprised me. I think Stephanie Garber intended to leave Tella’s POV out because she intends to write the second book about her?

    Nihaad | Read & Seek

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Julian was definitely a favourite of mine too! It was totally different than I expected as well and that is one of the things I really liked about it 😊 I also got the feeling that the second book might be from Tella’s POV, but with only one POV present I felt the sisterly bond to be lacking a little bit. I also agree that Scarlet underwent some major character growth and development, but I still didn’t enjoy her character.
      I’m really happy that you enjoyed it and I am looking forward to the sequel 💖

      Liked by 1 person

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