Legendary by Stephanie Garber

I was provided with a free digital copy of this book by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

For the last couple of years, I have sponsored a tiny little book club at the high school where I teach. The first book we chose to read this year was Stephanie Garber’s Caraval, and everyone really enjoyed the book. As much as I love literary fiction and books that provoke thoughtful discussion and introspection, I also enjoy the occasional “brain candy” that really only serves one primary purpose–to entertain. As I read Caraval with my students, I had to remind myself–frequently–that the book was written with THEM in mind, and not as deeply profound fiction. Once I became used to the cliche-riddled and simplistic prose geared toward young adults, I found myself flying through the pages and totally immersed in the story.

The same proved to be true for Legendary, the follow-up book to Garber’s Caraval. Legendary is the second book in what will become the Caraval Series and will end with the third book, Finale, which will be released next year. Legendary picks up on the same night that Caraval ends, but instead of following the adventures of the oldest Dragna sister, Scarlett, Legendary focuses on her younger–and much bolder–sister, Donatella. Tella receives a note from “a friend” implying that Tella owes him something in exchange for information about the whereabouts of her mother, Paloma, who disappeared several years earlier. When Legend’s Caraval takes Tella, Scarlett, and all the players from the previous game to a new island in celebration of the empress’s birthday, Tella’s connection to her mother’s Deck of Destiny and the Fates connected to them throws her right in the center of the “game.”

Although I enjoyed Caraval, I actually found myself much more captivated by the story of Legendary. One of my chief complaints about Caraval was that Scarlett’s character was a tad irritating to me. Her journey to becoming braver and more willing to take risks took entirely too long for me, and even then, she never felt like a true heroine of a story. Legendary provides readers with the protagonist we craved in the previous book. Tella is stronger, more independent, and more willing to fight for what she wants, and as a result, her story is much more exciting. In addition, all the questions that Caraval seemed to leave unanswered are addressed in Legendary and with much less obvious plot holes AND less obvious twists. The writing is still full of cheesy lines about things like getting lost in a handsome man’s eyes or his touch setting someone’s skin on fire, but the cheesiness just seems to work better this time around. Don’t get me wrong–Caraval was a fun ride as well–but the minor issues that I took with the book were much more insignificant in Legendary. Tella’s quest to find and save her mother had a few predictable elements, and her story with Dante felt very similar to Scarlett’s story with Julian from Caraval (girl meets boy, girl is infuriated by boy several times, but girl is obviously incredible attracted to boy), but Tella’s spunk gave Legendary the spark it needed to keep me even more captivated.

Garber has also created another magical world full of wildly interesting characters. Many familiar faces are back, such as Nigel, Jovan, and Aiko, but readers who are hoping for a focus on Scarlett and Julian’s relationship will be disappointed. The focus is all on Tella this time around, and although Scarlett and Julian are both present and, at times, play important roles, their relationship is mostly insignificant to Tella’s adventure.

Readers who haven’t read Caraval should definitely pick it up and give it a read before reading Legendary, but they should also be aware that although the writing style is the same, the characters are the same, and some elements of the plot are similar, the two books feel very different. In most cases, a follow-up is not nearly as good as the original, but in this one, I think Legendary is the winner.



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