Book Review: Caraval

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scarlett has dreamed of Caraval–a place of magic and wishes. However, she is trapped on her island, promised to be married to a man she has never met. When her sister, Donatella, schemes to take them both to Caraval, nothing is as it seems and Scarlett must race against time to win the game.

I was recommended this book and wow… I loved it.

Caraval is a magical place that swept me off my feet. The magic is whimsical and I loved that timeless, yet odd aura that the game exuded. It was definitely an Alice and Wonderland and creepy carnival mashup.

Scarlett was a very sympathetic character to me. I could relate to her anxieties and fears very well. I liked that she was a worried sister anxious to return home to avoid their father’s wrath. Even though she thought of those things often, it did not bother me in the slightest because I felt like it was real. She was a real person who was very scared and I would be thinking of those things as often as she did as well. As an anxious person myself, I can attest to the obsessive thoughts and so I believe the author nailed that on the head.

The plot was also very intriguing to me. There were so many surprises that kept me on my toes. Everything that I had guessed would happen, the plot would take and turn on its head. It was a trip that I really enjoyed all the way to the end.

Writing-wise, I enjoyed Garber’s whimsical metaphors. It is very poetic and feels very… “Alice and Wonderland” to me which I appreciated. Some may not like the way she writes, things like:

“He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue. Colors that made her feel safe and guarded.”

Stephanie Garber

I know tasting midnight is impossible but it does provide interesting imagery for the reader to interpret. And honestly? I like it and I believe it added to the overall atmosphere of the book.

I also enjoyed the romance and felt that despite the short amount of time Scarlett had with Julian, their relationship progressed naturally. Honestly, I was surprised by how it all turned out but was also very pleased as well.

In all, Caraval is a fun book filled with twists and turns and above all: magic. I also loved the themes of getting over your fears and learning to be bold and take fate into your own hands. I struggle with being brave and taking chances in life and so I feel like this was a book that spoke to me personally. I cannot wait to read the sequel.



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Book Information

  • Heat level: Clean
  • Content Warning: Parental abuse and suicide
  • Audience: Young Adult
  • Genre: Fantasy Romance

Favorite Quote

“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”

Stephanie Garber

Book Blurb

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.

ARC Review: Bloodscourge

Bloodscourge by Sydney Winward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elisabeta is a skilled thief, forced to live off of her plunders and stolen goods. When her twin brother hears word that there is a treasure worth more than gold, she sets out to take it. However, the treasure is hidden in the vampire city and the captain of the guard holds the key. As a human, going into the vampire city is like going into the den of lions but she will do whatever it takes to obtain it, even if it means seducing the brute Dracula.

From the beginning, I was captivated. Call me old school, but I love a good vampire story and this did not disappoint. The author’s take on vampires is unique with bits of familiarity: no sunlight or reflections here.

I was also very happy about Dracula. Even though he is not your traditional “I vant to suck your blood” kind of Dracula, I could tell that the author did her research and was making nods to the man who inspired the myth and legend: Vlad the impaler. I loved seeing bits of that history in this version. Not only that, he is a big brute that you cannot help but love. He is a little rough around the edges with a squishy, soft interior for those he calls his family.

His interactions with Elisabeta are simply delectable. Her sassy attitude mixes well with his “tough guy” exterior and they have awesome chemistry together. This book is filled with flirting and “almost” moments that make you squeal and sigh.

I also really liked Elisabeta as a character. Although she is very flawed and may make decisions that you want to pull your hair out over, you cannot help but feel for her and her situation. Without giving too much away, I appreciated how the author handles abuse and how abuse victims may act under certain circumstances. It is not always pretty but it’s real.

In all, I loved this book and I am excited to read the next installment.

For those who love vampires and who want to see a fresh, new take on them and Dracula will love this story. If you also love romance, emotional rollercoasters, and happy endings, this is the book for you.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

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Content Warning

Behind the door sex scene, and themes of abuse and child death.

Buy The Book

Bloodscourge will be available on March 1, 2021

Buy it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple Books

Favorite Quote

“Now look what you did,” he said quietly. “You just broke the rules.”

Panic clutched her from the inside out. “What? I thought the Game had no rules.”

“Not that game,” he said, rolling his eyes. Her breath hitched as he trailed his thumb across her bottom lip. “This one. Distracting me in battle.”

She trembled beneath his touch. He had never looked at her that way before, with an intense passion seeping from his eyes. Warmth spread from her toes to her fingertips to her heart and to her lips that desperately wanted to be kissed. Right then, seducing him no longer mattered because she couldn’t do it. She didn’t want to use him for her own personal gains. But what did matter was how close he was, close enough to feel his breath on her skin.

Book Blurb

Fate has given her a second chance. The only things Elisabeta knows how to do is lie, cheat, and swindle. When her brother learns of a treasure worth kingdoms lying in the heart of Ichor Knell, the great vampire city, he sends her to steal it. However, the key to the treasury is safeguarded by the captain of the guard, a brute named Dracula.

Dracula cannot resist the beautiful and mysterious Elisabeta. As danger erupts in Ichor Knell, he is forced into a precarious position to resist the evil within the city and to protect his family and the woman he cares for immensely.

Despite the connection he feels for her, the secrets she hides could be deadly to them both. Will the truth tie them for eternity or set them on a path of destruction?

Bloodscourge: Book Tour with Author Sydney Winward

Sydney Winward

Title: Bloodscourge #3 in The Bloodborn Series

Book Release Date: March 1, 2021

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Cover Artist: Abigail Owen

Genre: Adult Paranormal romance

Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today, Sydney!

I am a big fan of your Bloodborn series. I do have to say, though, vampires have been creatures of interest in popular media and fans like myself can’t get enough of them. What inspired you to write about them? 

Honestly, I wasn’t planning on writing about them at all. But I came across an interesting prompt on Pinterest that I wanted to try out, and it ended up turning into a book, and later a series. Part of my writing process involves drawing character inspiration from pictures, so when I found the two perfect images for the main characters, that helped inspire me as well.

I love that your inspiration came from pictures, that is so unique. I have also heard that this is your favorite book that you have written in your Bloodborn series. That makes me so excited. What about this book makes it unique from the rest? 

I’d have to say the characters. Dracula is very different from what I have written so far. He’s fearsome. Brash. A bit sadistic. But he has a heart of gold. Or stone. It depends on who you ask. He’s willing to do absolutely anything for family, even to his very last breath.

Elisabeta was fun to write as well. Despite being squashed by her brother’s thumb, she’s brave enough to walk into the heart of the vampire city of Ichor Knell as a human disguised as a vampire. Unlike Dracula, she’s very selfish and willing to do horrible things to get what she wants. The two of them make an interesting pair.

Oooh, an interesting pair indeed! Speaking of your characters, Dracula is an iconic figure for horror and paranormal fans alike. Where did you draw inspiration for your new, exciting version of Dracula?  

After writing Bloodborn, when Dracula is first mentioned, I realized he had such a sad backstory, and he needed happiness of his own. Even if that happiness was found 1000 years before Bloodborn. I had to tell his story. I drew a lot of inspiration from the original Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Dracula), but I put my own twist on him.

I love that you took inspiration from history and I am even happier that he can have his own love story. Now a question from a fan: Where would I find Dracula in Ichor Knell?  

In Bloodscourge, Dracula is far from the King of the Vampires yet. In fact, he’s the captain of the guard. A poor peasant with little to offer a future mate. He spends most of his time training recruits and taking care of those he calls his family when the danger in Ichor Knell reaches its peak.

What a noble man–err, vampire! I have a soft spot for strong, caring love interests. Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book?

I prefer writing in complete silence, though music does often inspire scenes in my books. The perfect song for Dracula’s book is Natural by Imagine Dragons.

That is a great song for Dracula! Now a little more about you. What is your all-time favorite movie?

Ooooh. I have a few. I love Stardust, the live-action Cinderella, Lord of the Rings, Little Women, How to Train Your Dragon.

Ah, I am so happy that we have similar tastes! What superpower would you like to have?

Shapeshifting would be the coolest superpower. If I could transform into any person or animal, that would be awesome. I’ve always liked Mystique from X-Men.

Shapeshifting would be bomb, not going to lie. Which is your favorite season to write in and why?

Either Spring or Fall. I love to write when it’s dark outside at night and rain is coming down hard on the roof. Even better if I crack open a window to let the smell of rain into the room.

That sounds so nice–to be able to write while it’s raining. There’s something nostalgic about that kind of setting. Speaking of, if you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?

I had to look up places with cool castles. Some things that often come up in my fantasy/paranormal books are castles, forests, and rivers. So I’d say the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.

Haha! I had to look it up as well and–wow! That is a gorgeous castle. So dreamy! On a different note, for aspiring authors like myself, what advice would you give to those writers starting out?

Whether you plan to self-publish or traditionally publish, definitely produce a polished, finished product. Good editing. Professional cover. And above all, patience. It’s exciting to get a book out, but if the quality isn’t so great because of it, then it will only hurt you in the end.

I love that. Patience is a virtue so they say! Thank you for the advice, Sydney. And lastly, are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

I am soooo in love with my current WIP. I spent several months trying to figure out what my next project would be. I sifted through writing prompts. I looked at dozens of pictures for character inspiration. And finally after a long, frustrating time of waiting for inspiration to hit me, I found my next project.

It’s about a fae prince whose brother is so jealous of his magic that he kills the woman he loves and forces him to work as a slave while the rest of the world thinks he’s dead. No matter how many times he’s tried to escape his enslavement, he fails every time. It’s only when the operation is thwarted by a group of Valkyries intent on killing every man they come across when he finds hope for the very first time. Instead of killing him, a Valkyrie rescues him. However, if her Valkyrie sisters find out her secret, she could be killed.

“He was a survivor. And survivors were the most dangerous kinds of people.”

Oooh! That sounds so intriguing! I am so excited for this to be published. But, thank you so much for stopping by, Sydney. We can’t wait to get our hands on Bloodscourge.

Book Blurb

Fate has given her a second chance. The only things Elisabeta knows how to do is lie, cheat, and swindle. When her brother learns of a treasure worth kingdoms lying in the heart of Ichor Knell, the great vampire city, he sends her to steal it. However, the key to the treasury is safeguarded by the captain of the guard, a brute named Dracula.


Dracula cannot resist the beautiful and mysterious Elisabeta. As danger erupts in Ichor Knell, he is forced into a precarious position to resist the evil within the city and to protect his family and the woman he cares for immensely.


Despite the connection he feels for her, the secrets she hides could be deadly to them both. Will the truth tie them for eternity or set them on a path of destruction?

Excerpt

“Now look what you did,” he said quietly. “You just broke the rules.”

Panic clutched her from the inside out. “What? I thought the Game had no rules.”

“Not that game,” he said, rolling his eyes. Her breath hitched as he trailed his thumb across her bottom lip. “This one. Distracting me in battle.”

She trembled beneath his touch. He had never looked at her that way before, with an intense passion seeping from his eyes. Warmth spread from her toes to her fingertips to her heart and to her lips that desperately wanted to be kissed. Right then, seducing him no longer mattered because she couldn’t do it. She didn’t want to use him for her own personal gains. But what did matter was how close he was, close enough to feel his breath on her skin. 

“Kiss me,” she breathed, not able to handle the tension anymore.

“Dear Elisabeta,” he grinned wickedly, “that’s not how this game works. There are rules.”

He kissed her below her ear, and her heart nearly collapsed as the tension thickened. It was all she could do to force out her words. “I don’t like rules.”

“I’ve noticed,” he whispered in her ear.

About Sydney Winward

Sydney Winward is a multi-published author born with an artistic brain and a love of discovery for new talents. From drawing to sewing to music, she has loved to explore every opportunity that comes her way. At a young age, Sydney discovered her love of writing, and she hasn’t been able to stop writing since. Her active imagination and artistic mind take her away to different worlds and time periods, making every new story a fantastic adventure. When she is not writing (or fawning over animals in the neighborhood) she spends time with her husband and children at home in Utah.

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