Caraval by Stephanie Garber (featuring: some disappointment)

Venture into a world of high fantasy where a magical and mysterious 5-night long performance takes place once a year. Except the audience plays along in this one.

Experience disappointment when you realize that this book is absolutely not what you thought it would be.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love high fantasy. I have nothing against the fantasy aspect of this. It’s just that there was so much missing in this book. It relies heavily on purple prose, only when you stop to think about it, you realize it is set up about as steadily as someone standing on a seaweed-covered boulder, in the middle of a stormy sea. That is, not steady at all.


Scarlett was flat, boring, and frankly annoying. She had no drive and no ambition, other than constant worrying. I get it, she’s a caring elder sister but a person who just so happens to be narrating this 400-page book has got to have soME more characteristics than that. 

I think that after spending this much time with a character, I should be able to describe her as a distinctive personality – but I don’t think I can do that. Her character felt too general. And honestly, I don’t know how she got through the book alive because all she did was stumble around and things just worked out.

Tella seemed to have a bit more personality than the main character herself, but we didn’t get to see much of her and her character wasn’t developed much. A shame. All we got about her for most of the book was the repeated declaration that ‘Scarlett loves her sister!!!!!’ It would be better if we could be shown that, instead of had it hammered at us. 

Julian was again, not really developed. I have no idea how or when he went from being an unreliable thief to- well, the love of Scarlett’s life. It was insta-love, except the book was trying hard not to make it seem like otherwise. The romance was heavy and sort of eh.

And lastly, the villain(s) weren’t fleshed out either. (I’m still unsure who was the villain and who wasn’t – is Legend the bad guy?) Their father is terribly evil, that’s for sure, but why? There was perhaps to lines dedicated to fleshing out his motives, and they were pretty insufficient.


I really liked the idea and was excited to read the book. It started out fine, but as I mentioned before, it wasn’t set up very steadily. Once reaching Caraval, random things happened without explanation. And you keep thinking that there’ll turn out to be some explanation, some grounding rules for the world- but there isn’t. It’s set in a fantasy world, but there was no world building, as such, for it – magic seems to happen wherever it convenient, to make the book seem whimsical. It could pass off as whimsical, but at the same time it’s trying to be so many other things. 

Case in point: the main character sees feelings in colour. It is unclear why or where or how. That’s okay, you think it’s going to get explained at some point. But nope! It never happens.

Lastly; Wow, there were sO many plot twists. The last section of the book was chock-full of them. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was hard to enjoy it when I didn’t really care.

2.5/5 stars!

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