Caraval is a magical carnival where participants compete to win a prize. At the previous Caraval, Scarlett competed to save her sister Tella and win their freedom. But Tella hasn’t shared all of her secrets, and those secrets will have her competing in the next Caraval–where she’ll have to choose who to save, and who to sacrifice.
In a way, Tella had been the hidden protagonist of Caraval. Scarlett might have been the narrator, but she was walking on a path that Tella laid out for her. Tella’s decisions drove the entire plot of the book. So it was super exciting to get the next book from her perspective, because though I like Scarlett, Tella has so much more agency.
And true to that promise, Legendary starts us off by revealing a whole heap of Tella’s secrets and motivations. She’d had access to way more information than we’d known (through the eyes of her sister) in the first book. And she’d tracked down that information because she’s been fighting fate for a long time now–and she’s not about to stop now.
A Heroine with Agency Despite a Relative Lack of Power
There is something so satisfying about a protagonist like Tella. She’s super out of her depth, sure, but she’s also a player instead of a pawn. She’d stumbled upon a way to see visions of the future and she’s been proactively trying to change that future. She isn’t a reactionary character. Things don’t just happen to her.
No, Tella is the one making things happen. And there is no other single player in the story who knows everything she’s up to, no matter how old or powerful they are.
So many heroines are either all innocent and naïve or do whole ‘jaded-and-don’t-care-about-anyone’ thing. Tella is refreshing, in that she’s cynical and clever but also fully driven by how much she loves her sister and mother. And even though she’s subject to the machinations of those around her, she’s got her eyes wide open. I want more heroines to be like this. (Minus the whole trope of centuries-old immortal guys dating teenage girls, anyway–that particular trend can go away any day now please.)
The Divergent Strengths of Books One and Two
Caraval came with astounding twists and turns in the story, but in order for it to pull off that sense of mystery Scarlett had to be cluelessly jerked down a path everyone else had decided for her. Legendary trades some of the unpredictability so that Tella can have the power to make her own choices, and her character is so much richer for it. I’m honestly happy to have experienced both stories, for very different reasons.