The One About A Magical, Mysterious, And Enticing Game: Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Book Review

Hi everyone!

I am back with yet another book review. I have been trying to keep up all the books that I have read, but have not published a book review on this blog (and there are still quite a few, so expect a book review or two every week for next couple of weeks lol)

A little introduction before we jump straight into the book review. I have had Caraval on my bookshelves ever since it came out– I’m pretty sure I pre-ordered the book from Book Depository. I even bought the exclusive FairyLoot Collector’s Edition Box to celebrate the release of the third and finale book Finale– all while I had not even started the series! Honestly, what was I thinking?

Anyway, now I can officially say that I have read (and reviewed!) Caraval by Stephanie Garber

and it was magical!

(Spoilers ahead!)


by Stephanie Garber

Edition: Paperback, 407 pages

Publication Date: September 29th 2016

ISBN: 1250095255 (ISBN13: 9781250095251)

Series: Caraval #1

Literary Awards: Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee (2020)本屋大賞 for 1st place in Translated Fiction (2018)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction & for Debut Goodreads Author (2017)

Goodreads synopsis:

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.

“Welcome to Caraval! The grandest show by land or sea…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…dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.” 

Caraval by Stephanie Garber follows Scarlett, a girl who is arranged to be married to a man she has not met, when she receives two tickets to the magical and exclusive performance of Caraval. Scarlett is excited at first, but then she remembers that she has to stay and marry in order to get herself and her sister, Donatella, away from their cruel father. When Donatella runs away to Caraval, Scarlett has no choice but to follow her. All Scarlett needs to do is win the competition, find her sister and arrive back home to get married to a stranger. There it begins, a heart-pounding journey filled with unexpected performances, and show-stopping entertainment that readers are treated front row seats to.

I don’t think I have ever described a book as magical, but this one will be the first. This book was magical. Everything about it from the characters, the plot, and the setting. The author did such a phenomenal job in describing all the details, from the costumes and the sights and smells. It was almost like witnessing the book come to life in your head from the words on the page alone– that was how vivid the imagery was. As soon as the very first chapter begins, readers are instantly transported to a world where magically changing dresses and granting wishes are true.

An interesting motif that was quite persistent throughout the book was the use of colour symbolism. The colours red, purple, gold and blue were the most common colours featured in this book. The colour symbolism in this book was used to express feelings and emotional connections. For example, the colour purple has connotations of “death”; meanwhile gold was said to have connotations of “hope and dreams”. Because the story is told from Scarlett’s perspective, all these motifs are synonymous with her own emotions. (I also love how her name is Scarlett– a colour too! We’ll be discussing this later on because I have so much to say lol)

The deliberate mention of colours could also be synonymous to talk about the smells. The author uses colours to describe the smells of other characters. For example, Scarlett said that she can see the purple of her father’s perfume whenever he is near. I did some research and it is called Synesthesia. Synesthesia is is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. This phenomenon is scattered throughout the book and it can have numerous meanings to readers. It was quite fun for me to point it out whenever it appeared.

The characters were all quite likeable in their own right. There is quite a big cast of characters (literally lol) but it was not hard to keep track of who was who. Let’s start with the secondary characters first. Legend, we literally know very little of, since his entire personality is being mysterious and unseen. Julius was a sweet. I thought he was a bit arrogant at first, but I did come to love his interactions with Scarlett. Scarlett was a great main character– she is independent, full of wit and brave. She sparkles with this unselfishness and care for others. It’s why Donatella trusted her to do what was expected. Her name is literally a colour symbolism– “Scarlett” stems from a vibrant shade of red. It has connotations of roses, courage, passion, and love; which I think Scarlett embodies. She loves her sister, and would evidently do anything to protect her sister.

Let’s talk about Donatella and her plan because she deserves an entire paragraph. I found it quite stupid, to be honest. I just feel like there is no guarantee that you could expect someone to love you that much, that they could just wish you back to life. It was unrealistic for me, but this is fictional and it does not have to make complete sense. In a world where characters can just rise from the dead after a “performance”, everything is possible at this point. The last scene was just full of revelation, after revelation, and it was a bit overwhelming at one point. I guess that would be my only my only critic.

The romance. The romance was a bit insta-lovey, which I did not really mind as I was far too invested in the main plot. I liked how the main focus of the book remained on Scarlett’s journey to win the competition and find her sister. Even if there was a love story developing, the main plot line was still front and centre. The author made sure to remind readers that Scarlett still needed to find her sister– that her purpose of being in Caraval is to take her sister home. Regardless of that, I did like the romance between Scarlett and Julius. It was cute and they shared lots of heart fluttering moments. (I’m pretty sure I highlighted and tabbed some quotes that I loved which happened between Scarlett and Julius). That being said, it is still hard for me to forget that the relationship between Scarlett and Julius was built on lies initially. Honestly, I loved the small bit of angst during the last couple of chapters of the book. I did like that Julius explained it to Scarlett clearly at the end, and I hope they make an appearance in the next book of the series.

Speaking of lies, that was also a big element of this book. I’m pretty sure every single character in this book lies– major and minor characters. Caraval exists purely because it’s a competition that is built on the fear of illusions and reality. Scarlett was warned earlier on that Caraval is a performance. Because of this, not only does Scarlett end up questioning everything, but the readers (like me!) do too. I was constantly waiting for a plot twist. I was hesitant to trust any new character that was introduced (!!!) and expecting a shocking revelation to come up on the next page. You could argue that this was a smart tactic to keep the mystery around Caraval and Legend until the very end, which it did. I was hooked until the very last chapter– regardless of how unbelievable some aspects may be. I enjoyed every bit of it.

I cannot wait to start reading the next book in this series– Legend. From the synopsis alone, it seems like the next book will focus on Donatella’s story. I’ve placed a Book Depository order for my own copy of the Legend, and now all that’s left is to wait.

4.5 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Have you read Caraval by Stephanie Garber or any of her other books?

Let me know in the comments below!

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7 thoughts on “The One About A Magical, Mysterious, And Enticing Game: Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Book Review”

  1. Really love how detailed you are with this review. I did not catch the colour symbolisms so I might need to reread this and spot all the observations you made. Great review Alyssa!


  2. loved reading your detailed thoughts on this one Alyssa! I also agree that the author did such a great job at delivering that “magic” of the story. I felt it come through her descriptions & the mystery of the plot. Wonderful review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment– I really appreciate it! I am so glad to hear that you enjoyed it too! Stephanie Garber is quickly becoming an author that I look forward to reading more from :))

      Liked by 1 person

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