Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Pub date: 29th May 2018

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.’

Admittedly, I read Caraval long after it was released and after I had heard a lot of hype about it. However, it was a book that managed to live up to expectations and was well deserving of the praise it had received (and led to my pre-ordering more than one copy of Legendary over the past few months). To expect Legendary to be Caraval is unreasonable. What the novel does well is capture the same magic and experience of the world we were introduced to in the first book, creating a sensory journey that leaps off the page and hauls you into it whether you like it or not. Garber certainly knows her way around a simile and how to employ patterns of three to snare the reader.

I truly enjoyed Legendary, but I felt that its pacing just wasn’t quite right. I was waiting for the narrative to take off and found that I was still waiting after having read over half of the novel (I thought I was still in the opening third of the text at this point). This isn’t to say that there aren’t interesting and engaging events in that first half, but it feels as if they’re leading to something that doesn’t actually happen until much later. Much of the action is in the last third of the book, as seems to be quite standard of late, and while I absolutely did not want to put the story down at this point, I also felt like I’d done a lot of work to get there.

I’ve heard more than one reviewer remark that Tella isn’t as likeable as her sister, whereas I found it to be quite the opposite. Tella reads as more of a realist, willing to take risks when she must, not always thinking things through, and acknowledging when sacrifices must be made (even if these sacrifices aren’t her own). She’s got harsher edges than Scarlett and seems to make mistakes with her eyes wide open. It isn’t necessarily that she’s more vibrant than her sister, yet she feels somewhat more alive and real and relatable.

Legendary is a strong follow-up to Caraval and sets the stage for the third novel in the series. Much of its charm is in revisiting the world and the game – in knowing that there are no real rules and not trusting that what conclusions you’ve reached are going to turn out to be right. Despite returning to a setting we’re familiar with, Legendary reads as more of an adventure than Caraval, with higher stakes and greater risks. Thoroughly enjoyable.

I received an ARC of Legendary from NetGalley and the publisher.

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