Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Image source: @lisa_lostinlit

Rating: 5/5 stars

“It took 7 years for me to get the letter right.” 


It took me 7 years to get this dang review right. 

Just kidding! But it did take me quite awhile because I felt like I was on a carousel ride of my life. Also, this is my very first review that I’ve written out since starting Through Prose Tinted Pages. Yay, me!


       Caraval (2017) by Stephanie Garber is about two sisters who live with their abusive father. They dream of attending a legendary and magical game that only performs once a year, known as Caraval. Scarlett, the eldest writes to the Master Legend for 7 years until he finally invites both she and Tella to the game. However, Scarlett is betrothed to a man she never met and is torn between family duty and setting off on an adventure she’ll never forget. Scarlett loses that choice once Tella has her kidnapped by a mysterious, but handsome sailor. Once on the isle that Caraval is on, Tella goes missing and Scarlett is on a whirlwind hunt to get her back. As it turns out, Tella is a crucial component to this year’s game. If Scarlett doesn’t find her before the game is over, she may never see her sister again.  During her journey, she uncovers many truths about her family and herself. Caraval is captivating story of love, magic, and adventure that will leave you breathless by the end.


Let’s start with my teensy, little problem initially. Early on, the story was a bit repetitive because Scarlett took a very long time adjusting to her situation. I get that she’s just a bit timid, but if I read the words ‘my fiancé’ ONE more time, I was going to rip my heart out. I was truly concerned that there would be an ongoing dialogue the entire 400 pages about how she had to get back to her fiancé because it got reiterated about a thousand times. Stephanie Garber made a classic, newbie writing mistake: Repeating the same thing over and over again as if she didn’t trust her readers to understand. In the beginning, there was more telling than showing, but fortunately that was remedied right away.

Now that we got that out of the way… wow! There are so many aspects of this story that are worth talking about.

  • Scarlett and Tessa’s storyline: It wasn’t as in depth as it could have been. I kept hearing that this story was about sisters. Though I REALLY liked this book, even the sister’s relationship felt a tad shallow.
  • The love story: Also, not as in depth as it could have been, but I liked Julian. Some people might say it was a bit too insta-lovey but so many classic fairytales have the love interests fall in love within a week. So if I let down my snobbery for just a second, then I didn’t let that be a flaw in the story.
  • I loved Caraval and it’s magic and history. It was oh-so intriguing. It was dark and twisted. I’m beginning to think I like my fairytales eery.
  • I loved Stephanie Garber’s way with immersing readers into the story with her words and luscious details. Some people didn’t like her descriptions of people or the environment, but I think it worked. It felt more magical than literary. There was a lot of sensory image and flowery prose. Example: “He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue. Colors that made her feel safe and guarded.” The whole dang point of this book was the visual and sensual details. Get a grip!
  • I can’t remember the specifics but the roses had significant meaning. I don’t normally care for roses (mainly because I like all flowers), but for the book it symbolizes adventure and change.

“Do you always focus on what you’re giving up, rather than what you’ll be gaining? Some things are worth pursuit regardless of the cost.”

I see validity to the criticisms of the book, but this book meant something to me, personally. The quote above is one of the reasons why I enjoyed Caraval. There was so much about being daring, taking risks, and changing your fate that spoke to me.

Allow me to fill you in on a few the cons. Besides my rant about Scarlett’s obsession with the stupid fiancé Scarlett had never met, there are some “problematic” things. There is a child abuse situation that is normalized and not really addressed at all early on. And this is more or less a SPOILER so be WARNED but there is content related to suicide. Hopefully, you are a smart human and know that these things are NOT okay.

Moving on.

I finished Caraval within a few days. If you don’t take it too seriously, it’s just a super fun read. I never read The Night Circus by Erin Morgensten, so I didn’t draw any comparisons. However, I read some reviews of people who liked this book more than The Night Circus. This book had all the elements I needed to give it 5 stars.

Other quotes I liked:

       “She imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out.”

     “She remembered thinking falling for him would be like falling in love with darkness, but now she imagined he was more like a starry night: the constellations were always there, constant, magnificent guides against the ever-present black.”


Have you read Caraval yet? Are you shying away because it seems over-hyped? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below! I promise I don’t bite (;

– V

       Personal Note: I’m not a, “Let me criticize as I read” kind of person. If a book sweeps me up until I forget about reality and it’s well-written, I’ll enjoy it. I read for enjoyment —- not to ban, bash, or hate books. I actually don’t mind criticism of even popular books, but sometimes I think people are harsh critics for attention or for click-bait. I don’t care if you read this review and still hate the guts out of this book. I just don’t like when people hate books just to be cool, or whatever. I’m not a mindless robot if I happen to consume and enjoy content that hundreds of other people like; it just means the author had to do something right. I just feel like people love to hate things to prove they’re different, you know??

Read. What. You. Like.


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