Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ARC Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Title: Legendary (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publication Date: May 29, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 416
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Review for book 1

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.

Caraval was one of my absolute favorite reads of 2017 and I was pretty sure nothing could top it! Still, I had to get my hands on a copy of Legendary and I dug in as soon as I had it. I wasn't sure it would live up to the same magic as Caraval, but as I got deeper into the story, it appeared lightening actually had struck twice. What I'm trying to say is Legendary is somehow even better than its predecessor!

While Scarlett was the MC of Caraval, Legendary is Tella's story. I didn't have a problem with Scarlett while reading the first book, but Tella ended up being an even more fantastic main character! She was extremely relatable, always a bit terrified of everything happening around her, but staying strong to do what needed to be done. Everything that went on in this book was mysterious and Tella was never quite sure of herself. Though she definitely had some reckless moments, they were at least understandable and I enjoyed every minute I got to spend with her.

Of course, Tella isn't the only character in this story. Some other familiar faces are back from Caraval and while some have smaller roles, others become much more important. Dante quickly became one of my favorites, as did Jacks, one of the new characters introduced. There were a few minutes where I thought the dreaded love triangle might make an appearance, but luckily that wasn't the case. Still, I found myself feeling all kinds of feelings for both these mysterious (there's that word again) men! And the romance was absolutely swoon-worthy. Scarlett and Julian also showed up from time to time, but this story really wasn't about them and I found that I didn't much care what they were going through (but not in a mean way??). I just really wanted to spend all my time with Tella, Dante, and Jacks and thankfully, that's mostly what I got.

One of the things I wasn't quite sure of going into this sequel was where the story could possibly go. I knew there was more to learn about Legend and Caraval, but I had no idea what would happen next and whether it could possibly be as magical as the story of Scarlett making it through Caraval. Well, my fear was completely unfounded because Stephanie Garber's imagination knows no bounds. I was on the edge of my seat as Tella went into the game for herself this time around and with even higher stakes than when Scarlett played! There was so much to unpack in this story! I loved that we got a deeper look into the mythology of Legend and his game and where the magic comes from.

Which finally brings me to the world. Caraval already proved that Stephanie Garber can craft an incredible fantasy world and Legend put me right back into it. Though the game moved to a new location, I felt like I could picture each and every part of it. In fact, I find myself thinking about these amazing settings and picturing it clearly in my mind like I've been there amidst the palace and temples. This author truly has a gift.

I didn't think I could love a book more than I loved Caraval, but Legendary has surpassed it! It has everything - drama, magic, romance, mystery... Someone asked me to describe in a word what Caraval was and the only word I could use was "magic." Caraval, and Legendary by extension, is dark magic from the world to the characters to the story it tells. I absolutely recommend this book to any lover of fantasy and (obviously) anyone who loved Caraval!