Review of Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I was sucked in from the very beginning of Caraval. There was intrigue and magic, and I was ready to get swept away into the story.

But about a quarter of the way in, things started to dip.

After seeing this all over Bookstagram I had really high hopes for this one. Soooo many people adore this book! And although there were aspects of the story I enjoyed, the reality is that this is a cheap knock-off of Night Circus.

There were SO MANY pieces of Caraval that were blatantly rip-offs of Night Circus, to the point it was hard for me to see past it.

Caraval is a roaming, magical carnival with hidden secrets, a myriad of performers, all surrounding an eerie contest.

Sound familiar?

That’s because the Night Circus centers around a traveling, magical circus put together by various performers, where the heart is a deadly contest.

So both stories follow the same premise: an environment that isn’t all what it seems, with mysterious forces manipulating the attendees, and a twisted game as the center feature. Fans around the world who idolize a traveling performance, where the locations tend to be a bit of a mystery.

Realizing this was a huge bummer, but I probably could have gotten past it if the rest of the story was well-developed (spoiler, it wasn’t).

There was zero description of the magic system. Sorry, but saying “it happens because of magic!” isn’t good enough. It’s too easy and simple, and shows the author didn’t have her ideas flushed out.

I usually am ok with a semi-flat world if the characters drove the story, but I found them just as superficial.

Where Celia (Night Circus) is well developed, complex, and incredibly talented, Scarlett (Caraval) was straight up DULL.

She was such a weird “heroine” … she starts the story fiercely devoted to her sister, but forsakes her immediately for a handsome face. Puh-lease.

And don’t get me started on this instant love between Scarlett and Julian.

They’ve known each other for less than a week, Julian was lying to her the entire time, and yet they’re in love? What!?

Since we’re talking abut the characters, I was surprised to see the author so obviously (and poorly) copying the Lunar Chronicles.

The author of Caraval uses not one, but TWO names from Lunar Chronicles (Scarlett, a badass lead in LC, and Iko, the fierce side-kick) and inserts them into similar albeit undeveloped roles. At times, it also seemed like Julian was Caraval’s Thorne, but instead of being beautiful and charming, Julian was just a pretty face.

Despite all the blatant knock-offs of better books, I will say I thoroughly enjoyed the ending. It brought the rating up from a 2.5 to a 3.

There were several warnings not to believe anything that occurred inside Caraval, so I was expecting some twist at the end, but was still pleasantly surprised with how everything unfolded.

Because of that, I will continue with the series to see what happens next. Hopefully it will be stronger, more unique, and a deeper world. If not, I probably won’t read book 3.


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  1. I was also pretty let down by Caraval – the concept sounded so great! I even tried continuing onto the sequel but I think I gave up after a chapter. The fanart for this series is so gorgeous but it just lacked the appeal you mentioned that the Night Circus had 🙂

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