Book: Legendary (Caraval #2)
Author: Stephanie Garber
This book was one of my most anticipated books of this year, as Caraval was one of my favourite books that I read last year and I couldn’t wait to dive back into the magical world that Stephanie Garber created, this time seeing it through the eyes of Scarlett’s younger sister Tella. Now I’ve been burned a little by my most anticipated reads this year as none of them have been quite as good as I was hoping, but not so with Legendary! Legendary ups the stakes from its predecessor, creating a thoroughly spellbinding story that I could not put down and devoured in just over a week. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.
After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.
The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.
We pick up pretty much just after we left off in Caraval, with the ball to celebrate the end of the game from the last book, so if you don’t have a great memory, I’d recommend refreshing yourself with at least how the last book ended, because we don’t get any recaps, we just dive straight into the story.
The book is narrated by Tella, Scarlett’s younger sister this time around and I have to admit, I much prefer her to her sister. Tella is more daring and reckless, she’s impulsive and a little naive and she makes mistakes, but she felt like a flawed, complex character to me and I found her voice a lot more engaging than Scarlett’s which made her easier to root for. We didn’t really get to see much of Tella in the last book, so it was interesting here to dive further into her motivations for her actions in the last game and to get to see that she’s so much more than she was made out to be in Caraval, she’s flirtatious and feminine and she likes pretty dresses yes, which makes people underestimate her but she’s so much stronger and smarter than everyone gives her credit for and I loved that. There was a great fight scene between her and one of the Fates, which I really loved.
I found the pace much better in this one, in the first book, it felt like the first half dragged and then the second half was much more fast paced, but this book felt like it had a much more even pace, it’s still quite slow, but it’s a beautiful unraveling of a mystery and I still felt really engaged and wanting to know what was going to happen with Tella and the game next. The chapters were a nice length, and though some were overly long, overall they were much more even and this helped with the pace feeling a bit more even here than it was in Caraval.
The writing was lovely, but it did feel like the author went overboard on some of metaphors sometimes (“smells like ink and secrets-what on earth do secrets smell like!) and there were quite a few repetitive phrases throughout the book, still for the most part, the writing created a real atmosphere and you felt like you were in the game-I especially loved the descriptions of the many, many, pretty dresses that Tella got to wear, I swear, I would risk my life in Caraval if it meant I could wear some of those clothes.
There were so many twists and turns and mysteries in this book, I was constantly intrigued throughout and wanting to know what would happen next.
I appreciated that there was a lot more worldbuilding in this book for the world outside of the game, last time we got a great idea of how Caraval worked, but not necessarily the outside world, this time we get to see a new location, Valenda, and get more insight into the religion and the mythology of the world, as Garber introduces the Fates, god-like beings who have spent centuries trapped inside a deck of cursed tarot cards. I thought the Fates were really interesting and look forward to seeing more of them in the next book. Jacks, The Prince of Hearts, was a captivating new villain and the introduction of the Fates has definitely expanded the scope of Garber’s world.
I loved the map at the beginning, it was so cool!
There were quite a few spelling errors and missing words here and there, which I found quite jarring. I know this is more an editing problem, but I think perhaps slightly more thorough proofreading was required because they were quite noticeable!
There was a LOT of romance in this book, which I didn’t mind because the chemistry between Dante and Tella was seriously strong, but I did feel like some of the romance plot could have been used to develop the relationship between the sisters on page, because much like in Caraval, it felt like we were only told how close Tella and Scarlett were as sisters and not really shown, and Tella’s romantic relationships kind of overshadow her relationship with her sister. I’m also worried we might be building towards a love triangle between Tella, Dante and Jacks (there were hints of it in this book) which I really don’t want because I still despise love triangles, even though I think this one could potentially be done well.
I was worried that having a second book set at a Caraval would be a bit boring and repetitive but the game is totally different this time around, so don’t worry too much about that, though I do wonder what will happen in the final book, since there’s no way there can be three Caravals in one year!
It was interesting to get more background on Scarlett and Tella’s mother (wow those two have seriously terrible parents!) and it will be interesting to see how everything plays out with her given the events of this book.
I wasn’t sure about Scarlett in this book, she’s more in the background, but she seemed to be doing a lot of shady stuff in this book and after what’s revealed about what she was doing at the end of the book, I’m not sure how I feel about her anymore, because what she’s doing….yeah it’s not great. I’ll be interested to see the fallout of her decisions in the next book and how it affects her relationship with her sister.
It felt like the Empress Elantine was a bit underutilized, she had the potential to be a really interesting character, but I wasn’t sure that she was used to her full effect.
We get some more insight into Legend’s identity this book, and I found the final “reveal” scene, a little bit anti-climactic because you’d essentially already been told before that point and it didn’t have the impact for me that I think Stephanie Garber intended. The resolution to everything felt a bit easy, I was really impressed with how Garber managed to keep the stakes high throughout the book and I was constantly worried for Tella, but the way everything resolved just felt a little too…..neat. I’m sure there’ll be some fallout from everything that happened in the next book, but for this one, the solution felt a little….deus ex machina-ey!
The ending…..wow! I have so many questions and theories about it, especially as to who the missing heir is, because I sense there is a lot more to that story and if my theory is correct then it could be pretty exciting. Stephanie Garber certainly knows how to end a book with a bang!
My Rating: 4.5/5
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Tella and Aiko, the game’s cartographer, have a discussion about her mother’s history. Tella also talks with Empress Elantine about her mother.
My next review will be of my next YALC prep read (yes I am still doing that, I just took a break for a week), Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman.