Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

Rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis: 

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 . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved 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 far-away, 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. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

My Thoughts (spoiler free):

From the synopsis of this book I was hooked but I cannot say the same for the first few chapters. Caraval was a book with promise that just fell flat for me and I’m bummed to say that. It has immense hype surrounding it and was even compared to The Night Circus but I guess my hopes were just too high.

The characters made me feel nothing. Tella and Scarlett’s bond wasn’t one where I thought “Wow me and my sister are just as close as them!” I also didn’t like Julian at all throughout the novel. The only time he didn’t annoy me was during the last chapter. I didn’t ship Julian and Scarlett  at all which was a bit of an issue when it came to enjoying the book. I felt as though Scarlett was just infatuated by him during the game and their “love” was a bit in the moment.

The world was so unique and the game, Caraval, was so interesting but other than the initial introduction there wasn’t much world building after that. I just wanted more. 

It was such an interesting concept and like I said before, had so much promise. The mystery and magic was overshadowed by the romance and the big reveal at the end just made me feel like my emotions had been cheated on many times throughout the novel. Overall the lack of world building and admiration for the characters left me unsatisfied but I still enjoyed my time whilst reading it. I’m hoping that the sequel will impress me because I do plan on picking it up when it comes out.

If you are going into this with the thought of it being like The Night Circus I would push that thought away because I think you’ll be disappointed but if you are just interested in the book I would still recommend it, hopefully you’ll connect with the characters more than I did because sometimes that’s what makes or breaks it for a novel. 

Let me know in the comments, have you read Caraval? What were your thoughts?

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34 thoughts on “Caraval Book Review: A promising but overall unsatisfying read :(

  1. Aw, I’m sad you didn’t get what you were expecting! The majority of people I’ve heard talk of Caraval thought it was great, but every book is different for every reader! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Emma. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s nice to hear something different from the usual ‘this book is amazing/fantastic/worth every penny’ reviews it seems to be getting lately. I loved the Night Circus, and this has been getting so much comparison that I’ve been wondering if it could live up to it. Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a shame that Caraval didn’t live up to your expectations but that’s okay because not all books are for everyone. I’m reading it at the moment and I will admit that it did take me a bit to get into. I’m glad to say though that once I did get in I was hooked. I’m just praying that I won’t be disappointing by the ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “The mystery and magic was overshadowed by the romance and the big reveal at the end…”

    Oh nooooo, now I’m just disappointed. I had high hopes because everyone’s raving (and still is raving) about this book, but now my hopes are lowered. I hate it when the nicer aspects get overshadowed/forgotten/used as a convenience for romance, especially when romance isn’t the initial main feature of the book. Nevertheless, I’m glad you posted your review! It’ll save me from getting too upset when I do read this book later.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh it’s a shame you didn’t enjoy this book that much Emma. Caraval was actually my favourite read of this year so far, I pretty much loved everything about it, but yours isn’t the first mixed review I’ve seen. I guess at one point the hype is so huge the real thing can’t really live up to your expectations can it?
    I hope the sequel ends up being better for you, maybe if you go into that one with lowered expectations it will be better you know?
    Still great review for this book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this review! As we’ve talked about I’m also not super big on this book – I enjoyed it, but it just didn’t live up to the hype for me. I agree that the world-building was lacking, and like you, I also didn’t love Julian at all and thought Scarlett’s and Tella’s relationship was more “tell” rather than “show”, which just made it very shallow for me. I gave it half a star higher than you because I enjoyed the writing, but I’m actually not sure I’d pick up the sequel at all – I suppose it depends on if the book is pretty. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your concerns are exactly why I haven’t picked up Caraval yet. As soon as I read the summary for it, I could see it being a romance with a promising setting that is totally disregarded in favour of the ship. I love a good romance, but I also want a plot outside of that, you know?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reviews are all over the place with this one. It feels like the hype may have just sabotaged it because it does sound like it has some good elements. I’m consistently seeing issues with the characters. I personally loved The Night Circus, so I may just end up being just as disappointed with this read. Thanks for the honest review!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I just keep hearing how much people love Caraval, but the blurb doesn’t do much for me to be honest. I might actually stick to down to the very bottom of my TBR now, as I just hate when characters are hard to ship and the book doesn’t sound fantastic anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I totally agree. I had a similar reading experience! I thought the premise was so interesting and the world had such potential, but in the end, it fell flat.

    Liked by 1 person

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