ARC Review: Caraval


Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

Series: Caraval, #1

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Release Date: January 26th 2017


Five Stars

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.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“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.”

Caraval feels very much like the ‘it’ book of 2017. By now everyone has heard of it and is either eagerly anticipating its release or raving over it so going into this book my expectations were sky high, and I was still completely blown away by the story. Caraval has been compared to The Night Circus, another favourite of mine, and while both books stand on their own merits Caraval has the same sense of magic, wonder and enchantment that I loved so much about The Night Circus.

Scarlett has written to Legend, the mysterious proprietor of Caraval, for years, begging him to come to Trisda and perform for them there. She never receives a response until one year, in reply to one of her letters, Legend sends Scarlett three tickets for her, her sister and her fiancΓ©. Knowing her father will never let them leave the island Scarlett soon finds her initial enthusiasm waning, but Tella has other ideas and before long Scarlett finds herself on Legend’s island preparing to enter the world of Caraval.

However it isn’t long before things go wrong for Scarlett. Determined to find her sister and get them both home, before her wedding and before their father realises where they have run off to, Scarlett soon discovers Tella has become this year’s game. Whoever finds her, and Legend, receives a prize of one wish.

“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.”

As player in the game Scarlett finds herself travelling all over Caraval, searching for her sister, selling secrets and fears for hints and clues as to her whereabouts. But the more time Scarlett spends in Caraval, with Julian helping her along the way, the more she starts to wonder whether this really is a game or something much more sinister with very real consequences.

Caraval is all about the adventure. From the second Scarlett steps foot on Legend’s island and begins the game the book takes an addictive turn. I was never sure what would happen next but it all fit into the wonder of Caraval. Anything is possible; there are no limits to what could happen and what people will do, and the journey Scarlett goes on to find her sister is a dangerous one to say the least.

…The Characters

“Well, I don’t want to play at all,” Scarlett said. “I just want to find my sister and get home in time for my wedding.”
“That’s a problem then.” Julian picked up the knob once again. “If you want to find your sister before you leave, you have to win the game.”

Scarlett vowed when her mother left that she would protect her sister, never leave Tella without a word or something to remember her by. As such she is fiercely protective of her sister to the point where her own dreams and imagination and hope has been pushed away to make room for practicality and safety above all else. Scarlett tries to stop Tella’s wild schemes before she goes too far and ends up getting hurt, but when it comes to Caraval she finds herself helpless in the wake of Tella’s determination.

Unlike Scarlett Tella is the sister who still dreams. She sees something more for both of them than a life living in fear of their father’s temper, more than Scarlett marrying a man she has never met and doesn’t love to keep them both safe. Tella is wild and unpredictable but above all she loves her sister and the same urge Scarlett feels to protect Tella Tella feels for Scarlett, she simply shows it in a different way. Where Scarlett wants Tella to keep her head down Tella wants Scarlett to live and dream again.

Tella stood behind her, her shortΒ  frame covered in a dark cloak that made it seem as if she was part of the night. “I’m sorry to do this, but you’re the one who taught me there’s nothing more important than taking care of a sister.”

The relationship between the two sisters was a wonderful addition to this story, and is pretty much what drove Scarlett’s throughout the game. Although Tella isn’t in the story much as Legend’s prisoner you can still clearly see the bond between the two of them. Everything Scarlett does during the game, and everything she’s done before the game, has been to keep Tella safe. The two love each other, and are all the other has given their mother’s disappearance and their father’s monstrous temper.

However it wasn’t just the sisterly bond between Scarlett and Tella that was well developed in this book. The different performers of Caraval all played their part; you could never tell who was on Scarlett’s side and who was trying to hinder her process. Julian was an enigmatic character. On one hand he seemed to want to help Scarlett find her sister, and the two work together as they navigate the riddles of Caraval and follow where the clues lead them, but on the other hand there is a lot he is hiding. More often than not it seems Julian’s motivations are very different to what he says they are.

“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 of make-believe.”

In Caraval Scarlett cannot be sure of anyone, not Julian, not Legend, not any of the players or performers. The only person she can rely on is her sister, who is the only person not by her side.

…The Setting

“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game.”

For Scarlett Caraval is about her sister, but for all the other players it’s about the journey. Caraval offers both the players and the watchers a few days to experience real magic and all the wonder, enchantment and adventure that goes alongside it. There was so much to see in Caraval, but at the same time there is a much more sinister side to the performance. Alongside the castles and wonders on the streets there are dark tunnels underground and places where information can cost you days off your life. There are plenty of different routes the players can go to find clues and find the prize at the end; you can never be sure what will happen in Caraval, what the next chapter or the next page will bring for Scarlett, Julian and Tella, but it’s an adventure nonetheless.

Caraval is a highly anticipated and very hyped book at the moment; and all I can say having finally read it myself is that this is one book that more than lives up to the hype, that is worth all the anticipation, and that will likely be a lot of people’s favourite read of 2017. Granted I’ve only read this one book this year so far but it’s going to take a lot to top Caraval.

What did you think of Caraval? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

45 thoughts on “ARC Review: Caraval

  1. I’m so glad you loved it! I just received the ARC from a friend to read, and then I’m going to ask her to sign it when I meet her! I wish it had that gorgeous cover, though!
    Do you have the physical ARC?? That would be so cool.
    Can’t wait to read bc if you liked it, I’ll like it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s an amazing book, and that’s great you managed to get an ARC from your friend (I’m assuming you’ll get it signed for her right?) No I didn’t get a physical ARC, I got approved for it on NetGalley but an ARC is an ARC and I was able to read it early which is always a bonus. πŸ˜€
      I think you’ll love it. Either way I’ll be eagerly awaiting you posting your review for it! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic review! The buzz around this book is really big. I’ve been this ARC circulate a lot nowadays and I often hear the comparisons to Night Circus (a book I have to read in 2017). I’m glad to hear that this book was just as amazing and magical as the stand alone “classic” that Night Circus has become! πŸ˜›

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Lashaan! Yeah there is a lot of hype around this book but from what I’ve read it more than deserves it. I was hooked from the very beginning.
      The Night Circus is one of my favourite books so believe me when I say I don’t compare this book to it lightly. I hope you enjoy The Night Circus, and if you pick up Caraval as well I hope you enjoy this one! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m really glad to see that you loved this book. I have been seeing nothing but positive reviews for it and it makes me even more exited to read it as well. (I have eagerly been awaiting your review!) I’m also very happy to hear that it has a great sibling relationship – I love books that include that! It also seems like a very unique book and I’m also intrigued by the sinister side. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!
    Great review! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it was an amazing read. I’ve been reading some of the positive reviews and honestly I agree with pretty much everything everyone has been saying about this book. I’m sure you’ll love it just as much when you get your hands on it!
      I’m the same, close family relationships are always something I love reading. Caraval is definitely a unique book but there’s a lot more under the surface to discover.
      Thanks Anna! πŸ˜€ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so glad you liked this one, Beth! So far, all the reviews I’ve read on Caraval have been positive, which makes the book all the more intriguing. I’m so excited to get my hands on this one. I especially love the emphasis on the sibling relationship. This one sounds like it has the perfect amount of magic and adventure, and since I’m a fan of The Night Circus, I can only say Caraval seems to be one of the most promising reads of 2017. Great review, Beth! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my opinion all the amazing things you will have likely seen about Caraval are more than true and more than well deserved. It was such an amazing book and I really hope you enjoy it just as much when you get your hands on it.
      The sibling relationship was really well written, and one of my favourite parts of the story as well. Also if you’re a fan of The Night Circus (like I am) I kind of think you’re guaranteed to love this book!
      Thanks Azia! πŸ˜€ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah then I’m bound to love it. The Night Circus is one of my all time favorites! I can’t wait to get my hands on this book πŸ˜€ And no worries! ❀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Overall I thought it was a brilliant book, and I hope when it’s released plenty of people will agree! πŸ™‚
      If you liked The Night Circus I think you’ll enjoy Caraval as well, the same magic and wonder is in both books and Caraval had me hooked from the start.
      Thanks Kate! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this book so much, Beth! I’m a bit scared of the hype and I think I might wait a couple months ’til it dies down to finally read it, I’ll feel less pressured this way haha. I’m so happy there’s such an awesome sister bond in that story, I LOVE these in books πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought it was amazing, but yeah there is a lot of hype for Caraval and I guess it could go either way when you pick it up. Luckily for me I really loved it but I’ve had books that go the other way as well.
      I hope when you pick up Caraval you really enjoy it Marie, maybe waiting until the hype dies down a bit is a good idea πŸ™‚ and the sibling bond between Scarlett and Tella was a brilliant addition to the story! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So happy you liked the book! There’s indeed so much hype around it. I don’t think I’ll read it but it’s always good when a story lives up to the expectations. Bonus points for a strong sibling relationship!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought it was an amazing book, and yeah there is a lot of hype but from my point of view it’s all well deserved.
      Yeah I had high expectations so I was thrilled this book met them, and the the sibling relationship between Tella and Scarlett was amazingly done as well. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Everything I see about Caraval is so positive it makes me even more excited to read it. I feel like I’ve been waiting for forever for it to come out and now that its release is right around the corner it can’t get here fast enough.

    So glad you enjoyed it.
    – E

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve seen tons of positive reviews for Caraval, and from what I read the book more than deserves them all.
      The release isn’t too far away now no, and trust me it will have been well worth the wait when you finally have your hands on this book.
      Thanks. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  8. YAY your Caraval review! I’ve been eagerly awaiting your thoughts on this book and am so glad that it ended up living up to your expectations. I’m even more excited for when I finally have the chance to read it now. It definitely seems like quite the unique read. And the fact that it has a sinister side has me interested. Plus, I love that it has a great sibling relationship in it. I’ve heard a lot about how beautiful the writing is too. I can’t wait to read it myself. Great review as always, Beth! πŸ’•πŸ˜Š

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, seems like a long time coming considering when I was approved for this book on NetGalley! πŸ˜€
      I’m glad my review was worth the wait Melissa, and yeah overall this was an amazing book that completely exceeded my expectations. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did, it’s such a magical read.
      There’s a lot of uniqueness to the story and the world it’s set in as well, and the sibling relationship between Scarlett and Tella was incredibly well written.
      I’ll be looking forwards to your review then Melissa, and thanks! πŸ˜€ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It good to hear that it exceeded your expectations. I think I’ve yet to see a bad review for it and given how much you loved it I have a feeling I’m really going to love it.
        I also need to read The Night Circus. Not just because of all the comparison to Caraval but because I’ve heard how magical it is too. It’s on my TBR for this year too.
        You’re welcome, Beth!! πŸ’•πŸ˜Š

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve yet to see a bad review either, everyone either seems to be loving this book or eagerly awaiting its release. I really hope you do love it Melissa, I think you will but I can’t wait for you to read it and discover it all for yourself.
        The Night Circus is beyond amazing. I think when it comes down to it I actually prefer The Night Circus to Caraval, and that’s very high praise! πŸ˜€ ❀

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I actually saw my first negativish review for it a few days ago and it wasn’t so much directed toward the book but the expectation with all the comparison with The Night Circus. Which is something I’m definitely going to keep in mind depending on which I end up reading first. And I think a lot of people agree with you on the preferring The Night Circus. Either way I’m really excited to read both of them. I don’t have enough magical and lyrical books in my life lol. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That’s the problem when books are compared to other books. You have all the fans of the original book having such high expectations some are bound to be disappointed because no matter what book it’s compared to it’s never going to be the same story is it?
        I loved The Night Circus and I loved Caraval as well so I guess I’m on the other side of that review you saw.
        Well if you’re looking for more magical and lyrical books these are the top two I’d recommend for sure! πŸ˜€ ❀

        Liked by 1 person

      5. My thoughts exactly! Especially when you really loved a book. I know that when I really love a book there’s always that want for more so thinking that a book might have the same feeling or similar story because of a comparison can turn out to be such a let down most of the time. I mean it helps to attract more people to a book but it can cause disappointment.
        I have a feeling that I’ll really enjoy both as well. I’m just glad to know not to hold too much to the comparison and go into it more blind than anything. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Even though most times we want the author to just write more than the original world it can be just as nice seeing other books that kind of have the same influences I guess. For me Caraval was that book when compared to The Night Circus but I guess other people have different opinions and all. I guess it’s a successful marketing tool so that’s why it’s used so much.
        I think that’s the best thing to do. It’s what I always try and do as well. Although I loved Caraval and The Night Circus I didn’t go into Caraval expecting another The Night Circus you know? πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Definitely! And I mean obviously comparisons don’t always fail since it worked out for you. They probably wouldn’t keep using it as a tool if it always failed lol. I think it’s one of those things that either works or fails with no in between. Or at least in my experience since I’ve had more comparisons not work out than work. I bet it did help that you weren’t expecting another TNC too. High expectations for the book itself rather than high expectations for something really similar? 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      8. It’s worked out for me this time, and a few others, but there have also been more than a few times when the comparisons haven’t worked and I’ve been left disappointed by a book I thought would be more similar to one I loved previously.
        Honestly even as good as this book was I don’t think there’s anything that could be another TNC, unless the author of that book writes another one. My high expectations for Caraval were all for Caraval! πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I feel like that could be true for most books. My expectations for both TNC and Caraval are so high but I attribute that to reviews. Also, the fact that I’ve heard a lot of great things about both author’s writing. I’m a sucker for beautiful, lyrical writing. πŸ™ˆ

        Liked by 1 person

      10. In that case I really do hope both The Night Circus and Caraval live up to your high expectations. In my opinion they’re both brilliant stories and if you like beautiful, lyrical writing well there’s plenty of that in both books so I’m sure they’ll be a success with you as well. But I’ve been on the other side where a book you expect to love has turned in completely the opposite direction and it’s never fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m glad to hear that you love Caraval, Beth! It’s definitely the It debut book of 2017… or at least the first half of 2017, provided nothing else gets as much hype in the second half of the year. (I’m still much more excited for ACOL though.)

    While I have some issues with the book, I agree 100% that part of the draw is that the book keeps you guessing until the very end. I was never quite sure who’s who, who wants what, and even if what’s happening is ‘real’ or just the Caraval playing its magic. The writing was beautiful, too, so that’s something. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I thought it was an amazing book, and hopefully a lot of people will agree as well given it’s on so many peoples to-read and wishlists. I feel like once it’s released there’ll be a lot of reviews popping up on WordPress for it! (I’m much more excited for ACOL as well, but part of me thinks that’s because it’s the last of a series I’ve been waiting for for ages!)
      It’s great you still found things you enjoyed about this book even though you had issues with it. I tried guessing how it would all end but I didn’t get any of it right. People I thought Scarlett wouldn’t be able to trust turned out to be the people helping her the most on her way. Shows how well I would have done in Caraval! πŸ˜€
      I think the writing and world-building were two of my favourite things about this book.


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