#BookReview: Caraval by Stephanie Garber #MPBooks

Review of the magical and mysterious Caraval, a book everyone wants to read this year!

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Caraval book cover
UK book cover

Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

UK Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Fantasy

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Description: WELCOME TO CARAVAL, WHERE NOTHING IS QUITE WHAT IT SEEMS
Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

My Review: I’m not sure how to start this review. I absolutely loved this book, once I got into it, but wow the ending was quite a shock and left me a little speechless and just a little bit annoyed.

Caraval has really been a hyped up novel this year and I couldn’t help but want to read it after hearing so much about it. The story follow Scarlett and her sister Tella who live on the small isle of Trisda but their life is marred by their abusive father who enjoys punishing the girls for any wrong-doing. For years Scarlett has been writing to the mysterious Master of Caraval to ask for tickets to the magical show but never hears back until days before her arranged wedding to a man she has never met. When tickets arrive though there is an opportunity to finally escape their abusive father so the girls go to the island where Caraval is taking place. However as soon as they arrive Tella goes missing and Scarlett must take part in the game in order to find her sister.

At the start of the book I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. We’re quickly introduced to Scarlett and Tella along with a scene showing how brutal and twisted their father is, but despite the fast pacing of this novel and the simple descriptions I just didn’t get into this book from the very beginning. The scene didn’t feel as threatening as I thought it should and the general story up until Scarlett reaches Caraval felt almost too fast paced and I didn’t get a feel for the characters until later. However despite my initial thoughts, this story soon drew me into the magic and from then on I was hooked.

The story is told in the third person but follows Scarlett as she searches for her sister with the help, or not, of the man who brought her to the island. The world of Caraval is an interesting and really mesmerising one. It’s like a magical and dark circus show that happens at night and Scarlett quickly becomes involved in the game/performance. The magic in the story and the overall Caraval is like the old fashioned circuses that existed in Victorian times. Just like a magical act, this book is filled with surprises and twists and I’m so happy that I didn’t see any of them coming. I’m very good at spotting twists in stories and often don’t find myself surprised but this book had me hooked as I really didn’t know what was going to happen next and the story kept up this pace of twists and turns right until the end.

The ending of this book is really good. It finishes really well with surprises revealed right until the last pages and it was really satisfying to read, however the epilogue is where I felt annoyed. Something simple happens but it sets up the story for a book two, leaving certain questions in your head and though I’m eager to read book two, when it is released, and there’s nothing wrong with the ending, I’d rather have had a book two without the mini cliff-hanger ending that this epilogue created.

The book has nothing offensive in it though given the dark and twisted nature of some characters I would recommend it for teens and older. Despite the many, many reviews calling this a YA novel it is not. Teens will enjoy this book and some characters are younger but this book is a general fantasy story and not specifically a YA book which usually has more specific appeal.

Caraval is everything it’s hyped up to be and I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading a story with lots of twists and magic and for those who enjoy stories with a historic setting. Although the book takes place in a fictional world the timeframe is the past and it just added to the magical feel of this tale.


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#BookReview: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor #MPBooks

An amazing, beautiful and stunning fantasy book that’s earned Phoenix the Peacock’s favourite stamp!

Strange the Dreamer book cover
Hodder & Stoughton UK book cover with sprayed blue pages

Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Fantasy

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Description: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around – and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Image of Phoenix the Peacock's favourite stamp
This book earns Phoenix the Peacock’s favourite stamp!

My Review: This is such an amazing book with such a wonderful and detailed story and although I’ve finished reading it I’m already eager to get part two of this duology!¬† I was desperate to read a good fantasy book after having no fantasy to read for quite a few weeks so I checked this out of the library and it’s been such an amazing read I am now going to buy the book to keep (and possibly hug – I’m weird, I do that with books I love!)

The front cover and title alone were intriguing when I first saw this book as well as the amazing blue sprayed edges which all make sense as you read through the story, the blue becoming a big feature in the story.¬† The book begins with a beautiful if cryptic prologue and then moves on to tell the tale of Lazlo Strange.¬† Although most of the story focusses on the adult Lazlo, the beginning of the book reveals how Lazlo grew up, an orphan raised by monks who was destined to follow that path but instead became a librarian.¬† Lazlo’s character is one that’s easily likable, a typical librarian with a deep¬†passion for stories that no others in his line of work seem to have.

As the story progresses we’re introduced to more characters and the curiosity over the mysterious place called Weep.¬† I was hooked on this book from the very start, something about Laini Taylor’s writing is just so vivid, she really brings to life an amazing world that is so well imagined and so real you feel so engrossed in the story.¬† I’ve never read any books by Taylor before this one but she’s made me a fan with this one and I’ll be on the look out to read more from her.

The story shifts away from just following Lazlo and begins to switch back and forth among different characters from part two onwards.¬† The setting also changes.¬† There’s never confusion over which characters we’re following and the tale just gets more and more interesting.¬† Even though the book is pure fantasy, the world of Weep and its secrets aren’t the typical ones I’d expect from a regular fantasy novel, instead it’s an amazing and unique imagined world.

It’s hard for me to talk about the story without revealing spoilers so I won’t but it’s so long and detailed and yet it’s just written in such a way that I struggle to find the words to describe how engrossed and emotionally attached I became to the characters and their tale.¬† Even when you learn of some dark things that happen there’s more detail to it, to certain characters actions than just mere good and bad.¬† Every bit of the story has additional layers, which may not be apparent at first, that really lead to just more curiosity and questions.¬† Taylor’s writing style is a little more descriptive than some books, something which can sometimes bother me, but in this book it really didn’t.¬† Everything was just written so well that it just added to the story, sucking me more into the tale.

The ending of the book is satisfying and although I began to suspect something about one of the main characters I was still amazed.¬† The revelation was greater than I expected it to be and it wasn’t at all the ending of the story which was such a shock and completely unpredictable¬†that I got very emotional over it.¬† I was so involved in this story emotionally that I was pleased, stunned, upset¬†and almost cried at the ending ( I say almost as I don’t usually cry when reading).¬† It was so good and although I feel satisfied with the end I’m also left wanting to read the next book as the story is far from over and just got darker with that ending.

What I loved more than anything when reading this was the way the story sucked me into it’s world and how some insignificant details told early on really came back in the ending.¬† I was so drawn into this book that it made me want to be there, be a part of that world and it’s not often a book has such an appeal to me like that so this is going on my favourites shelf!¬† The story also hasn’t got anything offensive at all in it which was a bonus for me.

I’d really recommend this book to any fantasy fans out there, although some of the characters are young this isn’t a YA novel but one that could be enjoyed by adults and teens alike.¬† It’s not the darkest of tales but it’s so layered with intrigue and has such wonderful world building that I’m not sure how anyone could dislike the book.¬† This is definitely one of my favourites and I plan to buy it now as well as book two as soon as it’s available.¬† If you’re looking for a long and satisfying fantasy story then pick up this book, you won’t be disappointed!


Do you like the¬†look of this book?¬†¬†Is it something you‚Äôd enjoy or are you thinking of buying?¬†¬†Please do comment¬†ūüôā¬†¬†You can also find me in these places:¬†

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