Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber - Review

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.

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I had the opportunity to go to Stephanie's signing at the Barnes and Noble in Roseville right after Caraval came out. She was so nice and humble and stayed for three hours to finish signing everyone's book. She's also a fan of Alias, Forever (one of my favorite shows), and Emerald City so she's just an all round awesome human being. But I digress.

Caraval is a magical story of a young woman, Scarlett, who travels to a magical island in order to drag her sister back to their boring and mostly miserable life in a small coastal town. I connected with Scarlett immediately, mostly because I too am the rule following, motherly, boring type who likes to stay where it's safe and comfortable. The relationship between Scarlett and Tella is an interesting one, one that I feel like all siblings will understand but also one that I, as an only child, found exasperating. Of course, Tella did a wonderful job in helping to break her sister out of her shell, but if she were my sister, I wouldn't slapped her for everything that went down.

It is there relationship that is at the heart of this story, showcased by the fantasy that is Caraval. A magical and fantastical show that immerses the players completely within its stage, Stephanie did a wonderful job in blurring the lines between what is real and what is not. The reader follows Scarlett as she discovers who are the actual players in the game, if Legend, the master of Caraval, is real or just a figurehead, if Tella is in actual danger or if she's pulling the strings. The setting is believable, historical with a Victorian feel, the characters developed only enough so you believe in them but not enough to reveal any of their many secrets. There are certain aspects of the world, like the large curtain with the city underneath and the dress shop with unique prices, that evoke feelings of the Night Circus or The Prestige while also feeling completely original. 

There were times, mostly just at the beginning, when I thought the writing was a tad bumpy. And while I thought the first 50 pages or so moved a little slowly, once Scarlett reaches Isla de los SueƱos (Legend's island) and begins to play the game, the story really picks up. The stakes are raised, Scarlett is truly challenged, and the readers begin to experience the magic. I read the rest of the book in one night, finishing at 3 A.M. At the signing, Stephanie said there was a sequel coming out in 2018 and I am so, so excited the story's not over (and I think it will focus on Tella)!

Overall I really enjoyed Caraval. Scarlett, Tella, and Julian make for a wonderful cast of interesting, developed characters, in a likewise interesting and developed world. While the true origins of Legend and Caraval and the magic that makes it work has yet to be really revealed, Scarlett's story does have a completed arc that is filled with wonder, mystery, danger, and desire. They say that Caraval changes the players and I loved the way that we see Scarlett grow throughout the book.

Find out more about Stephanie and her book here: http://stephaniegarberauthor.com.

My favorite place in the world is Disneyland because it’s the one place on earth where I feel as if the fantastical stories I love to write about could actually come to life.

When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where I’ve been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings. I’m also a blogger on PUB(LISHING) CRAWL. But I probably spend most of my time on Twitter where I tend to overuse exclamation points and emojis.

To help pay my bills during college, grad school, and the breaks in between, I worked as a barista, a waitress, a bartender, a customer service representative for an energy consulting company, and as a sales girl at Bath and Bodyworks. I also spent years working with youth; I worked as a counselor at space themed summer camp, volunteered at a school for deaf children in Mexico, and I took multiple groups of college students overseas to spend their winter vacations serving at youth hostels in Amsterdam. But out of everything that I’ve done, writing young adult novels has been my favorite job.

My debut YA fantasy novel, Caraval will be published January 2017 (Flatiron Books/Macmillan—US and Hodder & Stoughton—UK). Caraval has sold in twenty-five foriegn territories and the movie rights were pre-empted by Twentieth Century Fox.

For all the latest updates on my books, giveaways and more, please follow my BLOG.

Happy Reading!



  1. Interesting. I see Fault in Our Stars in your bio, I meant John Green a couple years ago and got a copy signed in San Francisco. Im The guy from the Mongolian BBQ by the way

    1. Hello! lol I have also met John Green (and Hank Green), in Redwood City. He's a cool dude. :)