Also by this author: Caraval, Once Upon a Broken Heart (Once Upon a Broken Heart, #1)
Series: Caraval #2
Published by Flatiron Books on May 29, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Also in this series: Caraval
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Stephanie Garber’s Caraval was one of my most anticipated reads for 2017. While, unfortunately, it did not quite live up to my very high expectations for it, I still found it an entertaining enough read that I wanted to continue the series, especially once I read the premise for the second book, Legendary, and saw that the story was being told from the perspective of my favorite character from Caraval, younger sister Donatella Dragna, or Tella as she is called. I didn’t feel like nearly enough attention was paid to Tella in the first book, so knowing that the second book is her story made Legendary a must-read for me. I kept my expectations in check this time around and I’m thrilled to say that Legendary far exceeded all of my expectations and now has me eager to complete the series.
Reviewing middle books in a series is always so hard for me. I want to gush about everything I loved, but it’s hard to do it without potentially spoiling the first book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. I’ve therefore decided to do this review a little differently than I normally do and just present you with all of the reasons why Legendary worked so much better for me than Caraval did. Hopefully it’s not spoilery, and if it is, hopefully it’s only mildly so.
5 REASONS WHY I ENJOYED LEGENDARY MORE THAN CARAVAL
- Tella is a more compelling narrator than Scarlett. I’ll admit it…and I’m pretty sure I admitted it when I reviewed Caraval, Scarlett was not my favorite Dragna sister. While I liked her loyalty and devotion to her sister, Tella, beyond that she just didn’t really hold my attention at all. Tella, on the other hand, is a much more complex and interesting character. She’s the sister who everyone thinks is just high strung and flaky, and so they always underestimate her. I enjoyed watching the second installment of this series unfold through Tella’s eyes and even more so, I loved getting inside her head and discovering that there really is so much more to her than people give her credit for. Tella was actually my favorite character in Caraval and even though that first book was only an okay read for me, as soon as I heard Legendary was Tella’s story, I knew I had to continue the series and I’m thrilled that I did because the second book far exceeded my expectations and that’s mostly because of the change in perspective from Scarlett to Tella.
- Caraval Fall Out. Something that really made Legendary a more interesting read for me than Caraval was the fallout from being in an environment where literally no one could be trusted. Now that Scarlett and Tella are interacting with some of the Caraval players outside of the game, it adds an underlying element of mistrust in all of their interactions that I found very entertaining. It’s like “Can I trust you now? Do you really like me or is this still an act?” All of the players are clearly gifted actors so it was easy to understand why Tella and Scarlett remained so suspicious of them.
- Greater sense of urgency. Instead of just being an elite game that everyone is dying to play as in the first book, this time the Caraval experience has much higher stakes, thanks to a bargain Tella has secretly made with a mysterious and shady individual. There’s something she desperately wants that he says only he can deliver, but he’ll only do so if she can get something for him in return, the true identity of Caraval mastermind, Legend. Legend’s identity is one of Caraval’s best kept secrets and the only way she can get it is to win Caraval. As soon as Tella begins to play, however, she learns that this Caraval is quite different from the first one she participated in, dangerously so. It becomes clear that Legend has enemies who will stop at nothing to take him down and won’t hesitate to take Tella down as well if she gets in their way.
- Rules are Made to be Broken. One of the reasons I wasn’t keen on Scarlett in the first book was her refusal to let the main rule of Caraval sink into her head. No matter how many times people reminded her it was just a game, nothing was real, she just took everything so seriously and kept diving off the deep end. For that reason, I loved the twist Garber throws in Legendary. Instead of being told that nothing is real and everything’s a game, Tella is instead warned that this time around, everything IS real. It keeps Tella and the reader in a constant state of doubt over whether things are real or not because this situation is the exact opposite of what we and Tella were expecting and it’s hard to believe Caraval would completely change up its number one rule.
- Less “Purple” Prose. I was not a huge fan of some of the writing in Caraval. In some ways it felt like Garber was just trying too hard to convey a sense of the magical atmosphere that is Caraval, using overly flowery descriptions that sometimes didn’t make sense and therefore slowed down my reading of the story. That said, however, Garber really hits her stride in Legendary and her efforts to capture the magical atmosphere of the latest Caraval setting just felt so much more effortless. I really appreciated how easily I was able to breeze through the writing this time and only stumbled over an occasional “purple” phrase: “The air tasted like wonder. Like candied butterfly wings caught in sugared spiderwebs, and drunken peaches coated in luck.” I’ll admit that one gave me pause, but generally speaking, the descriptions just felt so much more natural and streamlined in Legendary and Garber has done this while still retaining all of the magical quality that is Caraval.
BONUS REASON (BECAUSE I JUST COULDN’T STOP AT 5!)
- The Fates. I can’t really say anything about this without spoiling the second book. If you’ve already read it, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, you‘ll know why I loved this part so much. The addition of the Fates to the story was both unexpected and totally brilliant.
So there you have it. I hope I’ve managed to convey my love of the second book without completely spoiling the first for those who haven’t started the series yet. I’ll close by saying while I may have gotten off to a rough start with the Caraval series, I’m all in now and can’t wait to get my hands on the final book in this magical trilogy.
Stephanie Garber’s limitless imagination takes flight once more in the colorful, mesmerizing, and immersive sequel to the bestselling breakout debut Caraval
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.
I still haven’t read Caraval but that’s awesome you really liked this one even MORE. That’s not always true of second books, but having a new narrator/perspective to follow can sometimes help.
I agree. It’s pretty rare for me to like a second book this much more than I did the first.
I also wasn’t a huge fan of Caraval, but I decided my reading list is too long to read sequels that I wasn’t excited about, so I probably won’t be reading this. But I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed it!
Oh yes, I have tons of those too. If not for Tella, I probably would have passed on this one as well. Glad I didn’t though 🙂
I had a lot of the same issues as you did with Caraval, with the purple prose and uninteresting main character. I also wanted more of Tella in Caraval, so I was really excited to hear she was getting her own book. I’m so happy to hear this worked better than Caraval, especially the writing.
I’ll definitely be curious to see what you think of Legendary since we did have so many of the same issues with the first book.
This makes me more excited to read Legendary, because I agree with your thoughts on Caraval… I felt lukewarm towards it (while everyone else was raving about it, so I felt like I might be missing something), but the potential was there, and I remember thinking that I wished there was more of Tella, so… yay! Your review was very helpful, I’m now looking forward to this book 🙂
I’m glad to hear it and I hope your experience with Legendary is as good as mine 🙂
I didn’t realize that Legendary was coming out so soon. It’s great that you enjoyed this one even more than Caraval. Sounds like the change in POV really worked in its favor.
It really did and it has me curious about whose POV the final book will be in.
Your review makes me want to get to Caraval just so I can get to this one!! It is unusual that a second book outshines the first. Great revew!
Yeah, it was a pleasant surprise for me because I usually tend to like the middle books in trilogies the least.
I had not heard of this series, but I love the genre. I will look for it!
I hope you enjoy it!
I’m so glad to see you enjoyed Legendary! Mine just showed up on release day and I cannot wait to dive in. Your reasons for why you lived this all sounds fantastic to me, so I’m glad to have seen your review for it. 🙂
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
I need to start this series. It seems really good. I like the things you pointed out and am glad you enjoyed this one, even though you had issues with the first. Great review!
I’m curious to see what you think of it!
Oooh! Good to know! I still need to read the first book 🙂
Yes, it’s definitely a series worth continuing even if you have some issues with the first book like I did.
Ok, you’ve made me curious about this series again. I have Caravel but never picked it up, now I may just read it to get to this book…lol Great review!
If you try it, I hope you love it! I’m glad I didn’t give up after the first book, lol.
haha I love that you had to add a bonus reason! I live anything that involves the fates! I need to stop procrastinating and read this series! You make it sound so good! I especially like that Rules are Made to be Broken and glad to hear the writing got better! 🙂
Yes, if you’re on the fence after the first book, I’d definitely to say still give the second book a try. It’s amazing what a simple shift in narrator can do.
Ooh, interesting. I quite liked the first half of Caraval and then got increasingly frustrated as it went on (I had an early ARC, and in the final act in particular it felt like it needed a complete rewrite or at least a hefty edit), so ended up thinking it was okay but not feeling drawn to the sequel. You’ve tempted me to reconsider 🙂
If I hadn’t heard that Tella would be narrating this one, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up either. I did end up being glad I reconsidered 🙂
Oooh, The Fates! Not an addition you see often in books! I like that the second shows growth int he author and the book so clearly — definitely a series to catch up on!
The Fates and the way they were incorporated into this story was really great. I can’t wait to see how the series continues now that they’re in the mix.
This answers all of the questions I had! Caraval definitely missed that sense of urgency and you’re right, the focus was mostly the beautiful writing. I can’t wait to Tella’s head, I’ll have to pick this up soon! 🙂
Yeah, it’s kind of amazing how much more I enjoyed the basic story with just the change in narrator and nature of the game. Can’t wait to see what you think of it!
While I’m sad you didn’t love Caraval as much as you hoped, I’m glad you liked this sequel more! I just got my copy a couple days ago and can’t wait to dive in this summer!
I hope you love it!
I really enjoyed Caraval and Legendary is one I was really excited for this year but somehow forgot to schedule it in! I glossed over your review and only read the headlines because I don’t want any spoilers but it looks like I need to get to this one ASAP!!!!!
Great review! I completely agree with you, I loved Tella as a narrator; she felt more levelheaded than Scarlett, I feel like Garber finally got into her groove in this book because her characters were much more defined. Even, like you mentioned, her writing got better. I agree there was a lot less purple prose, I like it to an extent, but I agree the first book had a lot, Legendary I was able to just coast through!
That’s exactly the way I felt and it has me really excited for the third book, which I honestly didn’t expect myself to say going into Legendary.