Published by Flatiron Books on May 29, 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.
Last year’s smash hit Caraval was one of my favorite releases of 2017, however I know many people didn’t feel that way. I suppose I am a sucker for purple prose and beautiful, immersive descriptions, though I can see how that could get on the nerves of some more literal readers. I have clung to my stubborn beliefs that Stephanie Garber is a mastermind of the written word, and I almost lost my mind when I saw Legendary available for preorder on Amazon.
My copy arrived in the mail alongside my apprehension – what if this suffered from Sequel Syndrome and fell flat in all the ways its older, established sibling succeeded? Was I setting myself up for failure?
There are spoilers for Caraval here, though they won’t be any more major than what you can get off the Legendary book flap. Just a warning!
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
We are left with a cliffhanger the size of a crater when we are forced to exit the world of Caraval, and so I’ve been holding onto those questions for quite some time now. Thankfully, Legendary manages to answer a good many of them, but it also tacks on enough new ones to make up for that imbalance – after all, you have to be persuaded to buy the third book next year, right?
This time, we get into Donatella’s head: the perpetual little sister, the baby, the one who was presented in the first book as an airhead who would stick her tongue down the throat of any man kind enough to smile at her.
Donatella, I said.
It’s clear that Tella feels her reputation like a brand on her skin, as she is constantly thinking about how she is more than just a pretty face, not a toy to be played with. Tella is constantly fighting against this mark against her, and begins to use these feminine wiles and more ladylike attributes in her favor toward the middle and end of the book.
We begin with a sort of “recap and what’s to come” session, learning about how Tella had died in order for her sister Scarlett to win Caraval, how Scarlett is currently dating some actor guy who is utterly forgettable and whose name starts with J, and how – most importantly – Tella has been corresponding with a “friend” who has promised to find her mother (who we’ve assumed was very much dead) in exchange for a simple favor.
Of course, as you can guess, the favor is not so simple: her friend wants Legend’s name. His real name.
Though Caraval itself was just mere days ago, there is another one being planned in the capital city to celebrate the empress’s birthday – a special Caraval, where everyone across the land can participate. And the winner will meet Legend himself. Naturally, the only way to get his real name would be to meet him – possibly kick him in the shins, but shake the man’s hand first. So it is with trepidation that Tella ventures to the castle in the capital city, to sign up for the game and win not just Legend’s name, but her mother’s life.
From there, we’re trapped in a whirlwind that would give too many spoilers if I say too much more than that. But this is a sequel to a book that had so many plot twists you might as well have been doing a dot-to-dot of a lightning bolt, so this shouldn’t surprise you.
Among others, the things you’ll find in Legendary include: Mardi Gras-esque costumes, wool cloaks, undead ghost people, cults, magic rings, top hats, curtains, wanted posters, tattoos, and a deck of cards. Oh, and a good time. A hell of a good time.
The Bottom Line
Guys, I just really unashamedly love this universe. Sure, the prose is purple and Ms. Garber can’t just say “the water was blue,” she has to give it 5 modifying adjectives, but I like that. It creates a sense of immersion I don’t ever find in any other books – I can’t compare this series to anything because it’s its own unique blend of mystery and awe.
I remember exiting the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus with my father as a young child, no older than 5 or 6, and walking across a breezeway back to our car. A stuffed elephant plushie was pinned under my arm, one hand clenched in my father’s, my other brandishing a purple and pink plastic sword made to look like a dragon breathing fire. My sword pulsated light into the dimly-lit summertime sunset as we walked across broken popcorn kernels, cracked peanut shells, abandoned cotton candy sticks: the detritus of a circus’s remains.
That feeling of nostalgia, awe and wonder at the things I’d seen and would never forget … that’s what Caraval and Legendary did for me. And if they did it for you in the first book, they’ll do it again in the second. A different way, but still there nevertheless. Please grab your purple and pink plastic dragon sword and venture out into the carnival night – and remember, it’s only a game.
“Not everyone gets a true ending. There are two types of endings because most people give up at the part of the story where things are the worst, where the situation feels hopeless. But that’s when hope is needed most. only those who persevere can find their true ending.”