Hello humans! I remember back when I started blogging it was sort of the peak of the Caraval hype. I was so into all of the circus-themed things that were going on and I ordered a copy like that *snaps fingers*. Looking back at my review (because remembering things from a year ago is hard) I enjoyed Caraval for what it was, but with that enjoyment came a sense that this book could have somehow been more. So, when I had the opportunity to read the sequel Legendary I was, understandably looking forward to seeing what was in store.
Potential Spoilers for Caraval (but not Legendary) up ahead.
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.
The question was, whether this sequel could combat the main criticisms that people had for Caraval, that it was mostly gimmick with not quite as much substance to hold that concept aloft? I personally was left feeling a little bit disappointed in this sequel, but sequels are hard to master and there are some things I liked about this book.
A new narrator, which is always exciting. This book is written from the perspective of the other sister Tella, which I was totally here for. I personally like a second novel that has a different point of view as it often allows for a different kind of character development. Tella certainly is my favourite out of the two sisters as she’s just got a little bit more gumption than Scarlett. That’s just my opinion of course.
What I did think was a little odd, was that the main goal of the first book was to unite these two sisters who have shared so much trauma together, yet this book opts to divide them again. It’s not that these characters are forcibly split apart, it’s a story choice to have made the story entirely focussed on Tella and to have Scarlett as more of a side character. I’m wondering if this is building to a dual POV third novel? If not then I am very confused, it just made the conclusion of Caraval feel like it was worth a little less since it didn’t make much of a difference to the start of Legendary.
I do like the way that these books manage to jumble up what is true and what is ‘part of the game.’ This is particularly effective in this sequel as we know some of the characters within the game a little better, and I think, as a reader, you’re a little more suspicious of pretty much everything. That is, of course, a double-edged sword as it doesn’t fully allow you to enjoy the magic and mystery of the game (in the way that you can in, for example, The Night Circus) but it does also add to the general sense of unease that is so important to the plot.
This is quite a slow read, which is again something of personal preference, I would have liked a little more pace and action and a little less mooning about romance? Especially since this book is meant to be a little more high stakes than Caraval to have the narrator spend time that could be spent solving puzzles ruminating on the arms of a particular male character (it happens more than once, I’m fairly sure) got a little bit grating for me.
I will say that the ending of this book is a huge improvement, I thought that this was the best section of this book and I wish the pacing and the characterisation could have been at that level throughout.
I am still going to read and enjoy the third book in this series and I would recommend them to any YA fantasy fans who like the aesthetic ideas in Caraval but this isn’t a book I would expect everyone to love.
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? What did you think of Caraval? Are there any other hyped books that you can think of? Let me know in the comments below!