My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 416 pages
Release date: 29 May 2018
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.
“Everyone either wants Legend, or wants to be Legend. The only way to keep innocent young girls from running off to find him is to tell them he’s a monster. But that doesn’t mean it’s all a lie.”
Is this book called Donatella? No, it absolutely is not. It’s called Legendary. People were already all over this half a year before it was released:
I may have felt rather cheated by Caraval‘s brand of plot twist, but like everyone else, I returned to finally unmask its mysterious mastermind. And wow, despite the many levels on which it is even more evasive and confusing than its predecessor, Legendary improves on Caraval in a way that’s rare enough for middle books in trilogies to do, it’s a welcome surprise every time.
This series is so much better when you stop taking it as high fantasy thriller and start taking it as romantic suspense. Caraval still doesn’t make much sense. The entire execution of this ambitious concept remains frustratingly convoluted, and won’t hold up to scrutiny. But what is much, much better in Legendary is, you guessed it, the romance.
For one, as leading characters, Donatella and Dante (and I guess Jacks, but more on him later) are a league above Scarlett and Julian respectively. Tella is braver, cleverer and more confident in her skin; she has a refreshing swagger while staying a deeply flawed person. Her wit and boldness make her a fascinating protagonist, the likes of which you rarely find in YA fiction.
“Tella wasn’t going to be a coward and pretend she didn’t have choices just because she didn’t like them.”
There are so many layers to this girl that you don’t see even at the end of Caraval. This novel may not be called Donatella, but she is its lifeblood, and she is the reason why everything else works so well.
And Dante? Dante is where Stephanie Garber decides “screw it” and goes all in with the dangerous bad boy love interest she toyed with in Julian. For many authors that would be cringe-inciting, but the difference between Garber and those authors is that she’s actually good at writing dangerous bad boy. Forget the clues, Dante is the real attraction of Caraval. Of course, like every other character in this series, he has secrets. Lots of them.
“No matter what this looks like, I’m still not the hero in your story.”
That’s some dramatic brooding right there, but hey, it works.
Now I’m going to say this and mean it: The sexual tension is on point. Ladies and gents, this is a YA novel that knows how to write sexy. They exist! Legendary proves it. Really, this is the sexiest YA novel I’ve read since The Forbidden Game. Neither of these novels have anything more explicit than kissing, but that doesn’t diminish the intensity of their chemistry.
Setting aside the delicious stuff, this has to be the weirdest love triangle I’ve ever seen, as well as one of the few I can remember caring about. Honestly, considering the quality of your standard love triangle, that’s a big plus. On one side you have Dante, enigmatic Caraval performer, and on the other you have Jacks, who’s basically a cosmic force trying to kill Tella. Putting it that way, well, I’m not even sure if it does qualify as a love triangle, but there are definitely hints at it. Think of it as Tom and Julian from The Forbidden Game, except you don’t know which one’s Tom and which is Julian.
As Caraval has led readers to expect, Garber’s plot twists are numerous and intriguing; although some are easy to predict in part, the hectic, wild nature of Legendary‘s plot means that there’s always another surprise in store.
Some readers might find the purple prose annoying. Personally, I take it as a romance novel and don’t care if Garber wants to describe every colour as the grey of shattered dreams or the purple of nostalgic wishes, but the ornamental writing could probably be toned down a notch or two.
Legendary raises so many unanswered questions, it’ll be a real feat for Garber to pull everything together in the last book. The ending itself is open, nothing like the ending of Caraval that revealed all the cards and showed you all the points at which you got swept away. This time, the gratification is delayed for the fittingly titled Finale. If it can capitalise on the massive expansion of world building and mysteries that Legendary brought, Caraval’s Book Three will be a dazzling finale.