The Mystery Of Caraval + How To: Caraval Inspired Red Velvet Cupcakes | Book Review

by - Monday, February 13, 2017

Caraval No Spoiler Book Review | sprinkledpages

So I’m sure by now you have all heard of Caraval by Stephanie Garber! It’s her debut novel and it has been such an anticipated release on everyone’s lists since mid-2016 to early-2017.

People have been going crazy over this book because:
a) it has such a gorgeous cover + there are 5 editions you can collect. Both the UK and the US editions are absolutely gorgeous and the paperback and hardbacks too!
b) is it sounds absolutely amazing! It has been compared to the Night Circus
c) those that got ARCs of it in late 2016 were absolutely RAVING about it!

Along with just a review, I also decided to spice things up a little by making Caraval inspired red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting!

After the enormously pleasing response I got on Frostblood, I have decided to incorporate more baking into my book blog because it’s so nice to be able to share all these delicious recipes with you all! I also love being able to put my creativity to use in making some bookish inspired sweet treats!

Let’s get started!

About the book. 

Book: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Pages: 407
Publisher: Hodder And Stoughton
Published in: January 2017
Australian RRP: $24.99 paperback
Synopsis: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. (source)
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Magic Realism
Recommended for: Anyone 14+.

Thank you to Hachette Australia who provided me with a review copy however all thoughts and opinions are my own and this is an honest review.

My thoughts.


The writing of Caraval is so mystical and poetic. The care that is taken to describe scenes is absolutely stunning from the beautiful word choices to the alluring imagery. It has such a good flow to it where you find yourself so deeply immersed in the world that you have no idea where all your time has passed! The writing just sucks you into the story and transports you to this amazing, mysterious and dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.

Caraval No Spoiler Book Review | sprinkledpages

It is also quite easy to read. I read the book in two days because of how short and easy it was to get into. It was so addictive and hard to put down, especially after you hit half way as the plot began to thicken.

The writing worked so well for this style of book because it just added to the magic and mystery of Caraval with the alluring and beautiful prose. Stephanie Garber worked wonders with her writing of this novel.

The only criticisms I can give the writing are that at times things seemed to happen a bit too…fast. There would be one or two sentences to describe something important and if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would miss it and have to go back and re-read. I feel like more lengthy descriptions would have worked very well for this book but hopefully next time!

{ IDEA }

I haven’t read many circus books, including The Night Circus so I would say that this idea seems pretty original to me! But even if it isn’t, I feel Garber did an amazing job of making this stand apart from other YA novels.

Firstly, it is quite deceptively dangerous. Looking at the cover and the blurb, you would definitely think it’s quite mysterious but not many would say dangerous. But as you continue to get swept away with the magic and mystery, you definitely feel yourself not being able to trust anyone, even Scarlett at times as her mind begins to play tricks on her.

Secondly, it has such a huge focus on sisterhood rather than romance, which is quite refreshing. Being an only child, I can’t say I really understand sisterhood but the selfless actions of Scarlett to save her sister Tella are quite well written and realistic. Also, they are quite different to other YA novels!

Thirdly, A CIRCUS THAT IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS LIKE??? SIGN ME UP! While I don’t read a lot of mystery, I do enjoy it and this book was such a perfect blend of mystery, magic realism and romance. Those three elements combined together so well to create such a spellbinding and unique story!

Caraval No Spoiler Book Review | sprinkledpages

{ PLOT }

I feel like this is where the story let me down a little bit. While the plot was very addictive, the slow start had me feeling a little ‘meh’. The book didn’t really pick up until half way and when it did, I kinda felt it would be…more?

By that I mean more mystery and magic and more difficult clues and quests. Not to say it wasn’t but I guess I was hoping for it to be more shocking!

But in saying that, I still really enjoyed it and managed to read it in two days despite my busy schedule so it was pretty enjoyable!

I can’t say too much more about the plot as this is a mystery book after all so you’re just going to have to read it to know more!


Scarlett was such a sweet heart! I felt Garber did a pretty good job of writing her because as a reader, you could sense her desperation and want and longing and fear. She played the role of a concerned and cautious older sister so well and I liked how that drew a stark contrast to the relaxed, carefree and spontaneous younger sister Tella.

And while you can feel the sisterhood bond from Scarlett’s side of the story, I guess I didn’t connect to it that much because you don’t see it returned from Tella.

I also found it quite hard to connect to the characters. Even though I liked them and felt for them in their situation, it was difficult to develop that bond that I have with some of my favourite characters in the past! Nonetheless though, the two sisters were great protagonists.

And another character I wanted to chat about was of course Julian! It was so hard to know whether he was to be trusted or not but you couldn’t help but love him. He was the perfect addition to the story with his aura of mystery and knack for knowing so much more than he let on.

Overall the characters were pretty good but a little hard to bond with!


Caraval is such an intriguing, alluring and mysterious novel. From the very beginning where you are told ‘remember, it’s just a game’ you are drawn in and it’s absolutely impossible to put it down! Everything about this book is absolutely stunning from the drop dead gorgeous cover to the drool worthy writing to the amazing and unique idea!

While I do feel it is a little overhyped, I still enjoyed it a lot and really recommend you check it out!


Have you read Caraval? What did you think? Or are you planning to? And if you have a copy, what symbol did you get? I got the rose and I love it!


And the most exciting part of my post! FOOOOODD

I’m going to teach you how to make these delicious, light and fluffy red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and cute little banner cupcake toppers!

Caraval No Spoiler Book Review | sprinkledpages


  • Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (I used this recipe – I found it much, much easier than other recipes + it yields very nice results! It also has a video tutorial on how to do it!)

Just a quick tip though! With the cream cheese icing, make sure you don’t add too much icing sugar because it will make it RUNNIER than thicker, which is something I had to learn the hard way when I made these bad boys last time.

Another tip, I halved the amount of icing sugar in the icing in this recipe and didn’t add any lemon juice in. You can follow the recipe exactly as it says but I found when I had put ½ cup icing sugar in, it had already formed soft peaks and I didn’t want to push it.

An alternative to making red velvet cupcakes is having chocolate cupcakes with red icing but I felt the red velvet was just more carnival themed and I loved that! But there are so many variations of this so you can go crazy with it all!

  • Red coloured paper
  • Toothpicks
  • PVA
  • Scissors
  • Pencil

  1. If your toothpicks are too long, cut them into a length of about 2 – 3 inches, according to how high you want them to stick out
  2. With the red paper, cut out a banner shape and use that as a template for the rest
  3. Using PVA glue, line a strip down the side of the paper and stick the toothpick, sharp point down and allow for it to dry
  4. Poke into the centre of the cupcake

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT! Delicious Caraval inspired red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Caraval No Spoiler Book Review | sprinkledpages

If you re-create this, please, please, please do tag me on Instagram (@sprinkledpages) or Twitter (@sprinkledpages) because I would honestly love to see your re-creations!

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21 happy thoughts

  1. Love the cupcakes! This book was fantastic, so the cupcakes match it well! :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting Nicole! <3

  2. Yum, those cupcakes look absolutely delicious! Now I'm super hungry.

    I luuuurved Caraval. The lyrical writing drew me in but it was the world of Caraval that kept me enamoured right until the very end. I even adored the romance, it was the perfect blend of mystery and sexiness without overpowering the storyline. So glad you enjoyed this one too Anisha, looking forward to giving those cupcakes a try myself :)

    1. KELLY YOU SO SWEET <33333

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting and omg when you do try them out, make sure to send me photos so I can drool!!!!

  3. Um, those cupcakes look incredible! I looove red velvet so I will have to try them! You made them look so pretty too, mine would look... well not like that ;) I have Caraval, but I have not read it yet. I have had it since May, I am just... I am kind of afraid of the hype at this point! But, the fact that you liked it even though it IS a bit overhyped is actually quite promising! I hope to get to it soon. Great review, and great cupcakes!! :D

    1. IM SURE THEY WOULD LOOK AMAZING SHANNON! And OMG you should read it even if it is a little overhyped! Thanks for reading and commenting <3

  4. Yum, these red velvet cupcakes look delicious and fun to make! I'll definitely have to try this recipe as their one of my daughters favorites. CARAVAL is high on my TBR pile and your review has me that much more excited to begin!! :)

    1. THANK YOU SO MUCH! And OMG yay I hope you enjoy it!

  5. Definitely loving those cupcakes! They fit the theme (and gorgeous cover) of Caraval so well! Caraval was such an amazing and fun I have to go and make these! Loved this!

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting Kelly!

  6. I haven't read Caraval, but goodness me, it always gets good reviews!

    1. Yeah it does! Thanks for reading and commenting! <3

  7. OH WOW! I am SO SO EXCITED that you liked Caraval - I'm SO BEYOND EXCITED FOR IT!

    Those cupcakes look delicious as well. CUPCAKES ARE MY FAVOURITE!

    Lovely post, Anisha.

    Aditi @

    1. Thank you so much Aditi! And OMG hope you enjoy it! <3

  8. First of all, your blog is SO lovely! <3

    Also, I'm glad you enjoyed Caraval, and those cupcakes are adorable! They also look super yummy :) Fantastic post!

    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles


  9. omg i absolutely loved caraval! it's definitely one of my new favourite books, that's for sure. have you seen the labyrinth (with david bowie)? i felt some parts of the book were straight from the movie (not that it was a bad thing, i had major nostalgia for my younger days). great review, and those are some delicious looking cupcakes!

    1. I have not yet seen Labyrinth but I have heard it was inspired from that! And thank you so much for reading and commenting Chelsea!

  10. I love this review. I'm so glad you enjoyed Caraval but I am super super glad you mentioned the descriptions because I completely agree. I found myself a little lost and although the prose was gorgeous some of it didn't make sense. But overall is was a truly beautiful book. Cupcake recipe? Oh I will just have to try this, they look amazing!

    Fantastic review Anisha!

    Cody @ Literary-ly Obsessed




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