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What A Wicked Game To Play

Welcome back to the world of Caraval. It's only a game...

What A Wicked Game To Play

BOOK REPORT for Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber

Cover Story: Aces
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 8
Talky Talk: Quit Playin’ Games With My Heart
Bonus Factors: Tarot, Series Standalone
Relationship Status: Wicked Game

Cover Story: Aces

While not quite as pretty as Caraval, Legendary is still a pretty good cover. It definitely screams “mystery and fantasy,” but in a more elegant way than most other YA fantasy I’ve seen. I’m so glad the designers went with generally abstract covers for this series, because it easily could have gone oh-so-very wrong. (I don’t know how they resisted Fancy Dress Cover temptation, given Scarlett’s wardrobe in Caraval—but I digress!)

The Deal:

Warning: if you haven’t read the first book in the series, spoilers abound!

After winning the game of Caraval, sisters Scarlett and Donatella (Tella) are free—or so Scarlett thinks, anyway. She doesn’t know that Tella made a bargain to uncover Legend’s identity in exchange for finding their mother, and that the next game of Caraval, which is happening almost immediately after the previous one ended, has even higher stakes than the last.

Tella’s determination is destined to be her downfall. Somehow, she has to protect her sister and herself in her quest for their mother. If she fails, she dies. But if she succeeds in unmasking Legend, the glittering, enchanted world of Caraval may be lost forever. She has a deadline to meet, and all the beautiful dresses and eerily handsome princes in the world can’t stop her.

It’s only a game…but tell that to Tella’s ever-slowing heart.

BFF Charm: Yay

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Tella in Caraval, thinking I liked circumspect Scarlett better—but that’s because we didn’t get the chance to get into Tella’s head. Tella is not nearly the flighty, fragile thing that Scarlett thinks. Sure, she likes drinking champagne and kissing boys (me too!), and makes some bad choices in kissing partners occasionally (haven’t we all?), but Tella has a steely core that belies her outward appearance. Even when she’s angry with her sister and mother and the world, she’s fiercely loyal and fiercely determined. You can’t help but admire that.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Stephanie Garber writes a heck of a kissing scene, you guys—and since Tella likes to kiss boys as a hobby or general lifestyle choice, we get some more action than in Caraval. It’s as if Stephanie Garber read my mind: MORE KISSING! More putting of the face upon another face! The people [me] demand it!

Talky Talk: Quit Playin’ Games With My Heart

I love this series: first, because Garber’s writing is so lush and beautiful without going full purple prose. Second, because I love the sheer instinct-upending terror of a game that may or may not be real. As someone who thrives on routine and reliability, the very idea of entering a world where illusions abound makes me feel like somehow I just time traveled back to my first year of law school (but sexier, and with better clothes).

I didn’t know how the stakes could get any higher than the last game of Caraval, but Garber has indeed upped them, and her pacing is top-notch. Once you pick up this book, it’s incredibly hard to put it down: the world of Caraval is beautiful and dangerous, and who needs to do things like “dishes” or “work that pays you in real human earth dollars” when you could be living vicariously through Tella? (And how much longer does she have to live?! How can you put it down without knowing how it will end?)

Bonus Factor: Tarot

Garber has created a tarot-like deck of cards that have far more to them than meets the eye. If you love tarot and its imagery, you might find some similarities; even if you don’t know a thing about it, her descriptions of the cards are far more eerie than anything Rider-Waite has to offer.

Bonus Factor: Series Standalone

What I loved about Caraval was that even though I knew it was to be a series, it read like a standalone, which makes waiting for the sequel so much easier. Legendary is the same: its ending could function as the end of the series, but there is one more book left. (That was news to me up until recently—when I finished the book a few months ago, I indeed thought it was the end of the series, and was perfectly satisfied.)

Relationship Status: Wicked Game

I jumped at the chance to go out with the beautiful world of Caraval once more, and our date kept me guessing the entire time. Usually I don’t go for game-playing, but when it looks, smells, sounds, and even tastes so rich, who am I to say no? Now I hear that we’ve got a third date planned, so I’m off to find the next magical ballgown—and maybe some protective charms so I won’t lose my head.

Literary Matchmaking: 

  

If you like games come to life with dangerously sexy gamemasters, read the classic Forbidden Game series by L.J. Smith. (Posh and I both regard this as a favorite from our actual teen years!)

If you want more lush, gorgeous writing (and a good dose of tarot), you’ll naturally have to read (or re-read) The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater.

For deadly-serious stakes and a fierce, stubborn protagonist (plus bad Fancy Dress covers that will make you extra-grateful for the Caraval covers), make sure you read The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Flatiron Books. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one.  Legendary is available now.

Jennie's photo About the Author: Jennie Kendrick lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness of historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. She is also a literary agent with Lupine Grove Creative. When she's not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, and thrifts for vintage everything.