Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Book Review: "Legendary" by Stephanie Garber

Legendary, the second book in Stephanie Garber's Caraval series, takes you on a kaleidoscopic ride full of dazzling imagery, incredible magic, and so many twists and turns, you wonder what will come with each subsequent page. It's a little dizzying, a little mesmerizing, and immensely memorable.

Before I get fully into the review, I must say that all I kept thinking about when reading this book was:

"Legend truly did deserve the name he'd given himself. Tella wondered if Legend's games ever ended, or if his world was an endless maze of fantasy and reality that left those caught inside it forever suspended somewhere between the two."

Caraval is a magical performance which usually occurs once a year. It is a grand spectacle, where no one is sure what is real and what is merely part of the game, and yet lives are forever changed by what happens within it. Everything that happens in Caraval is orchestrated by the world-renowned Caraval Master, known only as Legend. No one knows Legend's true identity—in each game he is portrayed by someone else, taking on another form. But few have more power.

Donatella (Tella) Dragna is a feisty, almost-fearless young woman who found herself swept up in the madness of Caraval when her older sister Scarlett escaped the island on which their father was holding them both prisoner. After rescuing Scarlett from an uncertain fate and saving her from an arranged marriage sure to ruin her, the sisters made it through Caraval, and now have their lives ahead of them, finally free of their father's control. But why aren't they happy?

Tella, it seems, is determined to uncover the truth behind a painful family secret. To do so, she has made a bargain with a mysterious and dangerous criminal, who has promised to give Tella what she so desperately longs for. But of course, there is a price: this person wants to know Legend's true identity, so he can use it for nefarious purposes. There really is no perfect solution for Tella, but getting what she wants means more than almost anything, so she agrees to his bargain.

Tella must immerse herself in a special round of Caraval, where the stakes are higher than ever before. Along the way, she will tempt fate—and her own mortality; encounter a dangerous heir to the throne whose power is very real; and she'll question the intentions of everyone she comes into contact with—including her own sister. She'll also be challenged by her own heart, which she never believed would lead her to love, and even if it is, she's not sure that the person at the end of the path is worth the risks and sacrifices she must take. All the while, Tella isn't sure what is real and what is merely part of the game.

"She liked the thrill that came with taking risks. She loved the feeling of doing something bold enough to make her future hold its breath while she closed her eyes and reveled in the sensation that she'd made a choice with the power to alter the course of her life. It was the closest she ever came to holding real power."

This is a fascinating series of books, and Legendary is a worthy sequel to Garber's first book, Caraval (see my review). The world she has created is fascinating, dazzling, a combination of fantasy and magic that paints pictures in your mind which are utterly glorious. I would love to see these books as movies, just to see how a filmmaker could capture this tantalizing universe.

When you're reading a book where the main character isn't sure what is real and what is artifice, things tend to get a little confusing from time to time. I had to re-read some paragraphs here and there to make sure I understood what I read. And there are a lot of different storylines and legends being unwoven in this book, so at times my attention wandered a bit until the story focused back on Tella's efforts to win Caraval. When the book hits its groove, you just want to devour it and experience it all at once.

I feel like I've been saying this a lot in my reviews recently, but this is definitely not a book for everyone. If this interests you, I'd recommend starting with Caraval first so you can truly appreciate the magic Garber creates here. This reminded me a little bit of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, so if you loved that book, definitely give this series a try. I definitely hope Garber takes us back to Caraval once more!!

NetGalley and Flatiron Books provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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