“Every story has four parts – the beginning, the middle, the almost ending, and the true ending.”
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.
CW: suicide, mild gore, violence, body horror
Second book syndrome is real and always gives me some hesitation when I’m diving into a sequel. Will it live up to the first one? Will it fall flat on its face? You can’t know until you read it, but it’s so easy to fall into a pattern of bracing yourself for the worst.
Thank GOODNESS, I didn’t have to with Legendary! It’s one of those rare books that improves by leaps and bounds on the first book, and I absolutely loved it far more than I did Caraval. It maintains the magical atmosphere of the first book, and then goes beyond, introducing better tensions, stronger characters, and a sense of high stakes and peril that really starts to take the series up a notch.
I think the thing that most improved it, though, was the POV change. I talked about it in my last review, the way I liked Scarlett, but felt that she could be a little too reactive because of how cautious she is. This time, though, the story is told from Tella’s POV, and she is nothing at all like her sister except for the fact that she would give everything for Scarlett in the same way Scarlett would give everything for her. Where Scarlett was cautious and overwhelmed, Tella is more impulsive and far more sure of herself. She’s smart and ambitious, and although she sometimes pushes herself into more danger because of her pride, she’s determined as all hell to carve a path out. It makes her so much more engaging as a POV character, and you root for her instead of pitying her because it’s easy to get the sense that she would scorn any pity sent her way.
I also appreciated the setting change. We travel to the city of Valenda in this installment, which is a far different place. The shops and districts are less centered around Caraval, since they weren’t all built solely for that purpose, but there are hidden dangers and surprisingly secrets scattered throughout. All of this ties in perfectly with the broader plot, too, which only magnifies the sense of magical foreboding; this isn’t just Legend’s game this time, but a game involving powers much older and much stronger.
Those powers are just another reason I liked this book so much more. Their inclusion raises the stakes beyond those in Caraval, and it also creates a proper history to the world these books are set in. You realize that there’s more to it than the lives of the Dragna sisters and their immediate history. There’s actual a full history, one they are just learning the full scope of, one they are not the center of, not entirely.
All of that said, I think the only thing about Legendary that I didn’t enjoy was the love triangle. I much prefer Dante and Tella’s banter and interactions to those of Tella and Jacks, but I also disliked the lengths both Dante and Jacks were going to in order to outdo each other. Tella felt more like a pawn between the two, and ultimately, I don’t feel like either one was a particularly healthy option, especially for a girl who’s got herself convinced that love isn’t in the cards for her. (Also, I kind of wanted aromantic Tella pretty badly, but that’s more of a personal disappointment, I suppose.) When I got to any of the scenes that were supposed to be romantic, I was just itching to get beyond it and back into the thick of the plot with the Deck of Destiny and Caraval.
But on the whole, Legendary was a much stronger book than Caraval, and I’m glad I decided to continue with the series rather than letting it slide! The introductions of new characters, new threats, and new magic made this a stronger novel, and it appealed to a lot of my particular interests (namely the need for MORE LORE lol). Second book syndrome wasn’t a problem here, not even a little bit.
Have you read Legendary? What’s your favorite card in the Deck of Destiny, if you have? And if you haven’t, think you’ll give it a go now? Let’s chat!