My Reread & Buddy Read of Caraval


By Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250095251
Pages: 407
Genre: YA Fantasy


Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

buddy read

This read of Caraval was double the fun for me! It was a reread (you can read my original review here) and also a buddy read with Debby at Always Booking (read her thoughts here). I am sticking with the normal 5 question format and then wrapping up with my final thoughts and a quick comparison of my past and current experience.

My Questions for Debby:

What did you appreciate the most about Caraval?

The world of Caraval itself, I loved the idea of it and how it was thought out. I never knew what I was going to find on the next page. There was always a new wonder to explore, something to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Keeping in suit with question number one, what would be your biggest complaint about the book if you have one?

Lack of connection with the characters… I really had no connection. I wanted one ever so badly because I loved the world building of this story. The plot was really well thought out but the characters were really off-putting to me.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Hehehe then you have this question and I had no connection and you want me to pick one. Ugh… Julian :/ why?? I’m going to say he was the most evolved?? I’m not going to say how he evolved just that he did.

If you had to sum up this story in one sentence, what would you say?

Expect the unexpected…

Do you plan to read Legendary or any other books by Stephanie Garber after having read Caraval?

I have to say I kind of do want to read Legendary, but it’s not super high on my priority list. Unless my buddy reading partner says do it now!!!

*Bonus Question – Who is the best reading buddy ever? 😉

Hmmmm let me think about this………………..hehehe you!!!

Debby’s Question’s For Me:

Cover love or not so cover love?

Oh, this is definitely a case of total cover lover if ever there was one! And for once, I favor the US cover (which rarely happens).

As far as uniqueness for this book, how unique do you think it is?

If you had asked me this my first read through, I think my answer would have been slightly different. But I found it to be really enjoyable as a reread. I took my time and read this over the course of a few days. My first reading was crammed into one single night. This time I found that I appreciated the “game” and the storyline Garber has crafted in Caraval. I admit there are few familiar tropes and cliché moments, but overall the concept is quite unique. And so are some of the characters inserted throughout. I still greatly disagree with the Night Circus comparisons, but that does not mean it is not a rewarding story, just different.

Also since it was a reread for you, did your feelings towards the characters actions change since reading it the first time?

Yes and no. I still found myself grasping for patience with Scarlett, but there was also more empathy and acceptance on my part in terms of the abuse and sheltered life she has known. I think I benefited from reading her story twice. I feel like I picked up on certain details this time that made her more credible, although still frustrating at times. My feelings for many of the supporting characters did not change much for the better or worse.

Was the pacing of the book to fast? To slow?

Caraval is pretty fast-paced, which is one of its redeeming qualities and what carried me through it so effortlessly during my first read even though I had failed to really connect with it. That fact is also the reason I chose to start with it for the books I am giving a second chance. I knew it would be an easy read. The succinct pacing and writing play very well into the storyline though. I hope Legendary follows suit.

I’m stealing one of your questions… Who was your favorite character??? And why????

It is Scarlett. In spite of all her flaws, I felt for her and with her. I do grasp the fact that she comes from extremely difficult circumstances and carries the weight of not only her world but Tella’s on her shoulders. So while her actions and hesitations often frustrated me, I was also able to relate to certain aspects of her. And ultimately she pushes past her fears and perseveres with a big heart. I won’t label her my ideal protagonist, but in this book, she is my favorite.

My Final Thoughts & Comparison

Initial rating on Goodreads: 3 â­�

Updated Rating: 3.5 â­� (close 4)

I want to start by addressing one initial hang up I originally had with Caraval that was not an issue during this read; the frequent use of color to describe just about everything ranging from feelings to taste. Garber is utilizing what I can imagine must be synesthesia as a basis for this and admittedly I struggled with it originally. Now jumping forward nearly 2 years as I battle an onslaught of neurological conditions, I get it and can appreciate it. However, it still feels slightly overdone. But I accept this aspect of her writing now and feel this greatly impacted my experience with the book second time through for the better.

While I still found myself failing to fully connect with many of the secondary characters, I did make additional allowances for Scarlett (as mentioned above) that I feel were only possible due to a second read. And in short, I simply enjoyed Caraval this time. It felt more enchanting and entertaining. I was more immersed. I attribute this to several factors: my own changing tastes appreciated the descriptive writing more, I allowed the book more time, and it was a buddy read which means discussion surely enhanced the experience. The final verdict is that I am glad I gave Caraval a second read!

TW: Abuse (psychological and physical) with mention of suicide and brief scene of attempted sexual assault.

I have not decided whether I should redo ratings or reviews on Goodreads for the titles I am retackling. What are your thoughts? If you have any suggestions on how to handle this, I am very open to ideas.

tea cup

Enjoyed over a spiced pumpkin chai (yes I know it is not quite Fall, but it matched the atmosphere so well).

Happy Reading,


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Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

sea witchSea Witch
By Sarah Henning
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN: 9780062438775
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling



Everyone knows what happens in the end.
A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss.
But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends.
One feared, one royal, and one already dead.


Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

The rise of Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic villainess is a heart-wrenching story of friendship, betrayal, and a girl pushed beyond her limits—to become a monster.

My Thoughts

I am going to be upfront and just state that even as I write this review, I am completely torn on my love for Sea Witch and the issues I encountered with it. I really liked this book! It was an immersive read that embodied all of the traditional fairy tale elements. My cup of tea, right? Right. But perhaps it tasted a bit too familiar at times with a pace that many will find challenging.

The Skinny..

We are introduced to young Evie who lives in a small coastal fishing town that has ostracised her somewhat. She harbors a secret: she is a witch, something that is forbidden. She is also best friends with Nik, the Prince. They both grieve the loss of their friend Anna. So when a mysterious young girl who happens to resemble Anna appears and saves Nik from drowning, the three quickly form a close bond that offers Evie a chance at real happiness. However, Annemette comes with her own secrets and Evie must now find a way to preserve all that she holds dear.

“No magic can trick her. No words can ply her. No will can sway her.”

What I appreciated..

  • Sarah Henning instantly creates a world that transports the reader into a small coastal town that sets the stage beautifully for a magical maritime mystery.
  • She weaves a knowledgeable story of witches that is clearly laced throughout with familiar historical elements and combines it all with Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story to craft a smart and complete tale of villain origins.
  • The relationship dynamics between Evie and Nik are a delight to encounter in a genre where lately it feels so rare to be presented a truly genuine, good guy. Because this is who Nik is. And in this case I believed it, I bought it, and I enjoyed it. And watching their relationship evolve throughout the course of the story was for myself the most rewarding aspect of the book.
  • Henning’s writing is immersive and atmospheric. She depicts each scene with an astonishing ease that is more than ideal for crafting fairy tales.
  • Sea Witch boasts a nontraditional yet satisfying conclusion and epilogue.

“The sea is forever defined by its tide, give and take the measure of its barter. In magic, as in life, the sea does not give its subjects lightly- payment is required, the value equivalent, no matter the ask.”

Challenges some may encounter..

  • The pacing of Sea Witch is surprisingly, consistently slow. At times I struggled to commit simply because of lack of progression. It will require some patience on the readers part.
  • It was not until the very end of the story that I found myself establishing any real connection with Evie and I am not sure how I feel about that still. At times, many of the characters lacked depth.
  • Tropes. I am just going to be open and state that you will encounter a few so be prepared.
  • At times this tale held too closely to the original for my tastes, but I can appreciate that there is always that risk with retellings.

Ultimately Sea Witch offers a darker origins tale that is not without great appeal. An immersive setting and clever writing present a story that promises to entertain once you commit to savoring it all at a more leisurely pace. Knowing what to expect will likely be the key to fully enjoying it.

*I would like to thank Katherine Tegen Books & Edelweiss for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup


Savor this slower paced read over a large cup of your favorite herbal blend. I paired it with raspberry hibiscus.

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Happy Reading,


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The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

the_thiefThe Thief (The Queen’s Thief #1)
By Megan Whalen Turner
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
ISBN: 9780060824976
Pages: 280
Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction


The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

My Thoughts

This was such a refreshing and unexpected read! I picked up The Thief in an effort to complete one of my current reading challenge prompts, but I was not prepared for how endearing I was soon to find its unlikely hero and protagonist, Gen.

The skinny..

When the magus finds himself in need of a thief to help him seek out an elusive, ancient treasure for the king, he turns to the prison. It is here that he chooses young Gen, a boastful and proud thief, selected solely for his skills to help him complete the job at hand. What is the job? Only the magus knows. So Gen, happy to escape his current confinements sets out with 4 men on a long and dangerous journey. Along the way, they will they will share food, trade stories of the old gods and goddesses, and possibly come to know one another just a little.

” ‘I want you to steal something.’
I smiled. ‘Do you want the king’s seal? I can get it for you.’
‘If I were you,’ said the magus, ‘I’d stop bragging about that.’ His voice grated.
My smile grew. The gold ring with the engraved ruby had been in his safekeeping when I had stolen it away.” 

What I appreciated..

  • This is a beautiful slow burn sort of tale unfolds throughout the course of our narrator’s travels. And I adore traveling stories for some many reasons, I would not even know where to start. But the every changing setting and perils offer an environment that is ripe with opportunity. It is here we learn so much about our protagonist and companions.
  • There are elements of mythology present, though I am unable to place my finger on any specific one. It felt as if Turner plucked the best from Greek mythology and other familiar cultures and tales, crafting them into something of her own. We are gifted with stories within a story as members of the traveling party trade their tales.
  • Gen is an incredibly rewarding protagonist and narrator. He is witty, animated and invigorating. It does not take long to succumb to his odd, wily charms and find yourself slightly enchanted.
  • Turner’s writing is captivating and seamless, creating a rich and immersive experience.
  • The ending was not what I had imagined and I am thankful for that. While a few small moments were predicted, I admit to being caught unaware in the best of ways and loved the conclusion!

“It’s a funny thing that the new gods have been worshipped in Sounis since the invaders came, but when people need a truly satisfying curse, they call on the old gods. I called on all of them, one right after another, and used every curse I’d overheard in the lower city.”

Challenges some may encounter..

  • I cannot speak for later books in this series, but The Thief while a fantasy story at heart will read more true as slower paced, historical fiction during this first encounter. The fantasy elements come into limited play. So if you are expecting high fantasy, you may be setting yourself up for some disappointment.
  • I felt the character description was slightly lacking, leaving me to wonder quite a bit about Gen and a few supporting characters.

The Thief is a superb introduction to what promises to be a fulfilling and rich series. Boasting a distinct protagonist who carries a first-person narrative in the best of ways, it is likely to find an appreciative audience among fans of sharp, humorous fantasy and historical fiction. I am looking forward to picking up the next book!

tea cup


Pair with an herbal lemon verbena or lavender tea.

Grab a Copy: Book Depository

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Happy Reading,


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