Legendary by Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Publication date: 29 May 2018
Genre: YA fantasy
Page count: 432 pages
Format: Digital proof
Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review will not have spoilers for Legendary, however there will be many spoilers for Caraval. If you’d like to read my review of Caraval, you can find it here.
Caraval was one of the biggest releases of 2017. It was the book everyone was talking about for months! Fully caught up in the hype surrounding that book, I read Caraval and was actually pretty disappointed — I even listed it as one of my most disappointing books of 2017. However, I fully acknowledge that the hype was probably the contributing factor to my disappointment. When Legendary was released, I was determined to read it early and beat the hype.
A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.
The stunning sequel to the Sunday Times bestselling Caraval
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.
Legendary begins where Caraval ends, in fact it begins the morning after. Tella is reeling from the discovery of the mysterious note in her pocket and Scarlett is trying to pick up the pieces after the game has ended and the illusion is lifted. Where Caraval follows Scarlett, the more timid and broken Dragna sister, Legendary follows Tella. There were many complaints about Scarlett as a character in the first book, which I vehemently disagree with, so I think that Legendary will appeal to many Caraval fans because of its focus on Tella. However, I just don’t think that it’s a spectacular book, despite being fun to read.
The first thing I noticed about Legendary is the increase in world building and mythology. So much of Caraval is confined to the Dragna’s home island and the game itself — we learn so little about the world. Garber was obviously on a mission to fix that in Legendary. We get the mythology of the Fates and see imperial city. We learn more about the political landscape of the empire and learn more about Scarlett and Tella’s mother. I really enjoyed diving a little deeper into this magical world, and the world building was easily my favourite part of the book. I loved learning more about the Fates and watching Tella puzzle out the mysteries surrounding them. This was the biggest improvement over Caraval.
For me, the plot felt a little like a cop-out in the way that Catching Fire did. It was just a rehashing of the first book — I wish we got something a little different. Tella has to play the game of Caraval, albeit in a new setting and with more knowledge than Scarlett had in the first book. But the fun of Caraval was trying to figure out what was going on –who was telling the truth, who was lying, what was real, and what was part of the game. Because we are armed with the knowledge of the first book, the magic and mystery of Caraval is lessened the second time around. I just wasn’t as intrigued by what was going on in Legendary — I expected plot twists and knew that no one was what they seemed. I really felt like the magic was gone.
The heart of this book is, of course, Tella — the story is told in the first person through her eyes. I like Tella — it’s incredibly easy to like her — but she didn’t get the same character growth that Scarlett did. Scarlett is a different person by the time Caraval ends — she is stronger, she is more fierce, and she has learned to let down the walls she put up after years of abuse. Tella, however, doesn’t have the issues that her sister did. It felt like she had absolutely no character growth throughout the story — the Tella at the beginning is the Tella at the end — because there was nowhere for her character to go. This may not bother some readers because she is still fun to read about, however I really felt like Garber did a disservice to this character. The most we learned about her was that she’s never been in love and refuses for fall for anyone, which we are told about 30 times.
There are many side characters in this story that I don’t want to elaborate on due to spoilers, but I did want to talk about Scarlett and her relationship with Tella. We are constantly told that the two sisters are so close — they would literally die for each other. We didn’t really see much of that in Caraval, mostly because Tella was locked away for the majority of the book, but we also didn’t see much of it in Legendary. I thought it was a real missed opportunity. As someone who has a very close relationship with their sister, I would have loved to see them really work together and bond. But Scarlett is so absent from the book and when she’s there, she’s trying to work through the emotions that Caraval brought her. I really wish that we got to see more sibling bonding, something that I don’t think gets enough attention in YA.
Overall, I found Legendary to be pretty lackluster. It didn’t have the interesting character growth we found in Caraval. The romance was so stale and boring — there was no chemistry and the only real reason they seemed to be together is because they’re both attractive. The magic and mystery of Caraval itself was lacking because we knew exactly what to expect from the first book. However it has interesting world building and I really liked seeing the aftermath of the first book — we don’t often think about what happens to the characters after their adventures are over. I think that fans of Caraval may end up liking this book, but for me it can be described as ‘meh’.
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