A review by fromjuliereads
Caraval by Stephanie Garber

adventurous mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


I went into this book a little cautious of the hype, but hoping I would love it. I adored The Night Circus when I read it years ago, so I was looking forward to giving another "travelling circus" story a try.
I think there were a lot of things that this book tried to do that just didn't work for me though... I still enjoyed it, just not as much as I had hoped.

Let's start with the things that I did like:
- I loved the plot and pacing. There was a good mix of fast-paced sections, with slightly slower paced scenes, and it worked really well to drive the story and to keep me interested in the goings on of the Caraval competition. Not to mention how intriguing the set up of the competition was! I found the idea unique and intriguing, and it had some good twists to how things worked or worked out. I will say the ending seemed a little rushed to wrap everything up, but it still explained everything. I just think after the whole competition was most of the book, the explanation and wrap-up was like two chapters...
- The magic! There was an element of mystery and magic that worked so well for a competition and performers who relied on magic to drive the story forward. I thought some of the uses of the magic were well-done and unique.

The things that made it difficult for me to really enjoy this book:
- Scarlett... and well, most of the characters who were main to be honest. I will admit that I was intrigued by Julian, enough that I could overlook at parts how annoying and frustrating both Scarlett and Tella were to me... I'm sorry, but we get it, Scarlett loves her sister more than anything. I don't need it written like 25 times in the book... (that might be an exaggeration but definitely what it felt like) The only characters I was interested in were Julian, Aiko, and Dante - side characters we don't get much from... also there was one reveal at the end that left me a tad bit uncomfortable.
Spoiler I was not a fan of the reveal about Julian's age... It made sense for his connection to Legend and how he knew the games of Caraval so well, but that means that he is close the age of Scarlett's grandparents!? That just felt kind of icky to me, even if he doesn't age because of magic... It's not the same as if he were some magical creature who lives a long time, he is still human and has aged in everything except looks... and Scarlett is supposed to be what? Under 20? I just didn't like that very much...

- The weird colour descriptions for emotions... I really didn't like these. I am so confused why the author felt she had to constantly describe the colour of things that don't have colour? It actually became frustrating to me and I started recording some of the more ridiculous ones down: panic is described as "shades of hemlock green - the color of poison and terror;" "Scarlett had an emerald-green premonition;" "Sour shades of yellow-green made her stomach roil;" disappointment is described as "forget-me-not blue;" I think panic is described later on as purple instead of green; and don't even get me started about how a kiss is described as tasting like "shades of rich brown and light blue." This might work for someone who sees the colours in everything, but it gives me NOTHING for describing emotions and abstract things... Honestly I just found it an annoying attempt at descriptions that I wish had been taken out...

I did enjoy the book overall - it was an easy read. I am not entirely sure if I will continue the series, unless someone can confirm for me that Scarlett gets a little less annoying... but I am glad that I read it!

Expand filter menu Content Warnings