Legendary

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Caraval. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Legendary was written by Stephanie Garber and first published in 2018. It is a fantasy novel that forms the second part of the Caraval series, following on from precisely where Caraval (2017) left off. Because of this, you do really need to read the novels in sequence to have any idea of what’s going on. The final instalment of the series – provisionally titled Finale – is expected to be released in 2019.

With the help of the mysterious Legend and his Caraval, Donatella Dragna managed to escape her father and save her sister from an arranged marriage. However, all of that has come at a price. It was made possible by the sway of a mysterious friend and now he wishes for payment. There is only one thing that the stranger wants is Legend’s true name. Unfortunately for Tella, that is a closely guarded secret.

It comes as a surprise when Legend announces that there will be another Caraval, only days after the previous one ended. This one is to take place in the opulent city of Valendia to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Empress Elantine. When Tella learns that the victor this time will meet Legend in person, she knows that she has found her chance. All she has to do is win the Caraval and she will be able to pay her debt.

Yet Tella should have known that nothing is ever easy. The Caraval this time is very different and feels more real than ever before. Tella soon realises that it is not just her life that is in danger but those of every person in the city. Legend became a master magician by stealing power from a pantheon of immortal beings, and now they want it back…

Although Caraval was released last year to critical acclaim, it seems to be one of those polarising novels that readers either loved or hated. And, to be honest, I can understand why. While I enjoyed reading it at the time, it was not the most memorable of stories for me and certainly had its share of problems. However, somewhat disappointingly, Legend just failed to hook me at all. The biggest issue was that it just did not share the magical of its prequel.

Caraval was a creative and fast-paced novel. It was driven whimsy in that it was a story where anything could happen. As soon as Scarlett and Julian reached Legend’s island, the novel turned into a faerie tale, creating an incredible setting where the dangers were often hidden beneath layers of glamour. Unfortunately, the same can’t really be said for Legendary.

As the new Caraval begins, we are treated to a decadent masquerade ball. For me, this was the only moment that truly captured the feel of the first novel. While the first Caraval frequently reminded the reader not to trust what they see, this one presses on them that everything this time is “real”. Unfortunately, I felt that this also removed much of the story’s suspense.

While I do appreciate that Garber tried to do something different this time, rather than rehashing Caraval, the results were not that memorable. The story mostly just follows Tella as she wanders the city and talks with people. Don’t get me wrong, the story does still have an ultimatum. Tella still must choose who to trust – her mysterious (and possibly criminal) benefactor or the anonymous lord of the Caraval – and knows that a wrong decision could cost her dearly. Unfortunately, this never really feels as personal as Scarlett’s escape from her evil father and therefore caused the story to lack suspense.

The plot was also far less entertaining than that of Caraval. If you read the first book, you will know that it really is a roller coaster. No one is as they seem and the novel piled twists onto twists, causing the story to never play out the way you expect. This isn’t the case in Legendary. While the story is driven by Tella’s quest to learn Legend’s identity, this actually proves to be shockingly predictable. I actually correctly guessed this within the first thirty pages of the story and then spent most of the book expecting a twist that never came.

I was also left a bit underwhelmed by the world-building. To give credit where it is due, Legendary put far more effort into its world-building than Caraval did, showing us a wider world than just Legend’s magical island. Unfortunately, it still fell flat. The introduction of the Fates and their tarot-esque hierarchy was an unexpected direction of the story to take, but it wasn’t really foreshadowed very well in the first book. Still, I am curious to see where Garber will take this in Finale. The odd titbits that we learn about the Fates reminded me of the way that Albert presented the denizens of the Hinterlands in The Hazel Wood. It whet my appetite and left me really wanting to learn more about them.

However, for all my issues, I was pleased that the story did end well. The adventure is largely self-contained, nicely wrapping up this stage of Scarlett and Tella’s adventure. In fact, its ending is a lot like that of Caraval. It leaves a lot of loose ends hanging to be concluded in Finale, but does at the same time achieve all of its goals. It will certainly be interesting to find out where Garber intends to take this story next.

In terms of characterisation, Legendary is also a bit varied. I loved Tella for her confidence and down-to-earth attitude towards relationships. This alone made her feel like a very different character to the introverted and prudish Scarlett. However, at the same time, I did feel that she was perhaps a bit too naive. While Tella frequently claimed to be far smarter than her sister, this never really came across in her actions. She was very slow on the uptake, easily fooled by virtually every character that she met and very quick to fall into obvious Caraval traps.

Beyond Tella, I found the other characters to be a bit of a disappointment. While Caraval was Scarlett’s story, she has been relegated to being a secondary character in this book. While she does have her own adventures in this story, most occur off-page and are exposited to the reader towards the end of the tale. I also felt that Jacks was a bit of a wasted opportunity. As with Scarlett, much of his character development seems to occur off-page. His personality completely flips around the half-way mark but we never find out truly what causes this.

However, I was pleased to learn a lot more about Legend in this book. While his identity was faintly obvious, the story also provides a few hints towards his backstory. While I did get the impression that this was just the tip of the iceberg, it did make me curious to learn more about him. Hopefully this will be something that Garber addresses in the conclusion of the trilogy.

So, that’s about all that I have to say. All in all, Legendary was a bit of a disappointment. While it was readable, I was expecting there to be more twists and both the world-building and characterisation still have their flaws. While I will certainly be reading Finale when it is released, I’m not really in any rush to find out what will happen next.

Legendary can be purchased as a Hardback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Finale | Arkham Reviews

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