I had high hopes for the sequel to Caraval and Legendary surpassed them all. I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait for book three.
Spoiler Alert: As this is the second in the series there may be some spoilers for Caraval from here on in.
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.
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Wow this book was just so good. As soon as I finished I wanted to go right back to the beginning and read it all over again. Having read a lot of great reviews and very much enjoying Caraval I did have high(ish) hopes but wow this surpassed them all.
The story picks up not long after Caraval and this time around follows younger sister Tella as she tries to fulfill her side of the deal she made to rescue her sister Scarlett from their abusive father and discover who Legend really is (something I very much wanted to know too). It’s not long before she discovers the only way to find Legend is to take part in the game and win. Tella may think that she’s been behind the scenes and knows it’s not real but this is a very different game from the one her sister played and the stakes have never been higher.
I did wonder how Garber could follow up Caraval and keep the mystery when the reader knows the truth behind it but she does it masterfully. From the very start it’s made clear that this is not the same. There’s no warning that it’s only a game and not to get swept away but instead that this time it’s real. But, is it or is the “it’s all real” just another part of the game? It’s such a wonderful spin that you still can’t help wondering what’s real and what’s not. We know some of the characters from the previous book and we know they’re actors playing a part but there are a few new characters and Legend is known for setting the scene well before the game begins so just what is an act and what is true, is anyone who they appear and just who is Legend? It’s even more confounding when it turns out that one thing we thought we’d discovered in Caraval was not remotely true.
I was right there with Tella as she quickly began to doubt her own convictions and started to question if everyone was in fact playing some kind of game with her. At moments it seems as if even sister Scarlett could be in on the game and don’t even get me started on love interests Dante and Jacks.
While picking up this book felt initially like sinking into a familiar and reassuring world with characters I knew and cared for Garber takes it to a whole new level, developing both the world and the people in it into something completely new, strange and unsettling but consistent with what came before. The magic system is further developed but there’s also more insight into the wider world, its people and the various religious and belief systems which added so much depth and detail I found myself completely immersed in this magical world.
For the most part I also loved how the characters were developed. I hadn’t been keen on Tella in the first book but she really made this story for me. She’d always seemed quite a selfish and shallow character, thoughtless and determined to get her way but it’s not long until we find her motivations were very different from what I believed. I adored how forthright she was. There’s no hesitation. She may be scared or have doubts but she makes a decision and she goes for it, putting on a show that nothing gets to her and relying on the fact that most people (myself included) underestimate her. She is a little reckless and her actions are frustrating at times but she’s young (something I kept forgetting) and it makes for such an exciting and engaging read.
Tella is also incredibly self reliant and I loved how she didn’t look to anyone else to solve her problems. She’s not looking for romance but that’s not to say she doesn’t find some and when she does it is truly swoon worthy. There were more than a few occasions when I just wanted to melt into a big puddle on the floor. I should add a warning that there’s a bit of love triangle going on but both of the love interests are just yummy and not necessarily what they seem. Dante may be flirty and sweet but he’s one of the performers so may be playing a game and Jacks is probably not part of the game but is very mercurial and changes from cold and nasty to charming from one moment to the next. I found myself completely hooked every time Tella had a scene with them.
To be honest though I found myself completely hooked on the story as a whole. It’s full of mystery and intrigue and there were so many sudden reveals and twists my jaw was almost constantly on the floor. There was more than one occasion when I was seriously considering just staying on the train and not going to work so I could keep on reading.
If I had one criticism, and it is pretty minor, I would have liked to see more in terms of the game and the other players. It feels like a very personal game this time and the focus is almost solely on Tella. I couldn’t help wondering what everyone else was doing, what the game was for them. I was also a little disappointed in Scarlett, how little she featured and how she acted. We are seeing her from Tella’s pov but she felt like a very different character than in Caraval.
This is however an absolutely brilliant read and moved the story on so well. The conclusion when it comes is fantastic but left me wanting more. I hope we don’t have too long to wait for the next book, Finale.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own