The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

All the reasons you must, must, MUST read ‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber

on February 27, 2017


Caraval. Stephanie Garber. Hodder and Stoughton. January 2017.

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 . . . 

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.

Whatever you’ve heard about this book, it doesn’t compare to the reality: Caraval completely blew me away, and is without a doubt my favourite read of the year so far! I’m as wary of hyped books as the next person, but I promise you, this time, the hype is justified.

I was always destined to rate Caraval 5 stars because it contains all of things I find irresistible in a book: a unique concept, a mysterious island, a strong sibling bond, a sprinkle of magic on every page, and the strange and sinister atmosphere of a nightmare that could easily be real. I loved everything about this book, and I’ll almost certainly re-read it before the end of the year.

The writing in Caraval is so luscious and atmospheric. It manages to be beautiful without being flowery, simply by building a vivid picture out of all the small, enchanting details each sentence is loaded with. This is a quality book. Reading it feels like tucking into the most decadent, indulgent dessert you can imagine, built with layer upon layer of wicked, chocolatey deliciousness. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to curl up in a blanket with and read as slowly as you can, savouring every line.

As well as the gorgeous writing, Caraval is full of mystery, and I was forming new theories about how everything was connected with every page. Caraval isn’t a predictable book in any way – it’s a book where you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you’re excited to find out, because literally anything could. The storytelling was fabulous; there was something interesting happening on every page, and nearly every chapter ended on a cliffhanger. There was no point at which the story dragged, and I never once got distracted by how many pages or chapters I had left to go – I wanted this book to go on forever. I was also thrilled that the book got darker as the storyline unfolded, and I loved the way Caraval developed from something light and magical into something intense and sinister that I felt Scarlett needed to get the hell away from asap.

By far the most fascinating aspect of this book was the game of Caraval itself. I loved the fact that I was never quite sure what was real and what was an illusion. I loved that things felt dangerous, even when on the surface they seemed glossy and too-good-to-be-true. I loved that I couldn’t trust ANYONE that Scarlett met, or spent time with, on the island where Caraval took place. I also LOVED all of the imaginative detail that went into building the world of the game. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I don’t want to spoil anything; it will be far more magical if you discover it all for yourself.

I absolutely adored the mystery of Legend: Who was the man behind the game? What were his motives? Had we met him during the course of the game? What kind of disguise was he wearing? There were so many layers to Legend’s character, as well as every other character within the novel. Nobody was what they seemed, and just when I thought I’d got somebody figured out, the novel would have yet another trick hidden up its sleeve, and my head would be left reeling.

One of my absolute favourite things about this novel was the bond between Scarlett and Tella. These sisters were completely different, yet devoted to one another. I loved their fierce protectiveness of each other, forged during a dangerous childhood spent trying to survive the twisted, abusive games their father played with them. Both of their characters leapt off the page for me. I definitely related to Scarlett the most – she was reserved, uptight, and cautious, yet driven by loyalty and love. Tella was the more reckless, whirlwind type, but she also had her sister’s best interests at heart in everything she did.

All in all, this book was spellbinding, mesmerising, and I could probably fill several more paragraphs with praiseful adjectives like these ones. I was, quite simply, obsessed with this book, and it’s already a strong contender for my favourite book of the year. The epilogue of this book has me desperately hoping there will be a sequel, because it presents yet another mystery I’m dying to unravel. I need more Caraval in my life, like yesterday.

In conclusion: Caraval lives up to the hype in every way, and you must, must, MUST read it immediately.


17 responses to “All the reasons you must, must, MUST read ‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber

  1. YESSSS!!! How magical was this book 😍😍😍 So glad you enjoyed it too!! Great review!!

  2. Marie says:

    Such a great review! I am so, so happy to hear you enjoyed this book so much. I haven’t read it yet because well, there is SO much hype, it’s a bit scary ahah, and I was so nervous that it wouldn’t live up to it and I’d end up being disappointed, that I decided …. not to read it for now haha. maybe I will now 🙂

    • mudandstars says:

      Thanks so much Marie!! I would definitely recommend it – I think you’d really enjoy it! At least I hope so 🙂 I’m always wary of the hype too, but in this case I think it’s deserved. The writing was sooo good, and the plot was so magical!

  3. Ah wow!! I’m so glad this lived upto the hype!! I really want to read this! I just love how magical it sounds 🙂 Awesome review!

  4. Donna says:

    Love your enthusiasm for this book! 🙂 It’s one of those stories that doesn’t appeal to me at all, but it has gotten so much praise!

    • mudandstars says:

      Thank you!! 🙂 I’d say it’s definitely deserving of all the praise. Is it the genre that doesn’t appeal to you, or the concept of this book specifically? I am a sucker for basically everything in this book’s description, so I was desperate to read it straight away haha 🙂

  5. I’m so happy to here this! Got my copy about a week ago, got a few other books to read first but I am SO excited to get to this one!!

  6. Ahhhh after all the mixed review for this one I’ve been going back and forth about reading it.
    Many reviews I’ve read were disappointed because it wasn’t like The Night Circus… which I don’t exactly think is very fair to Caraval. Have you read The Night Circus?

    Lovely review! So happy you loved it so much.

    • mudandstars says:

      Thanks Amanda! 🙂 I totally agree – Caraval is a book in its own right, and as far as I’m aware, there’s no comparison to The Night Circus on the book cover, so it hasn’t been marketed as something it isn’t. I haven’t actually read The Night Circus, but I do own a copy. Have you read it? What did you think of it?

  7. […] All the reasons you must, must, MUST read ‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber Mar […]

  8. […] I am still very in love with the cover of Caraval by Stephanie Garber. It’s STUNNING. My review of this book can be found here. […]

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