Caraval, Legendary, and Finale by Stephanie Garber

Thoughts at a glance: ***** (It was amazing!)

Summary: This is a review for the entire series (because I read them all in one go), but I will paste here the blurb for the first book, so as to avoid spoiling anyway. My review, however, will talk about the entire series as a whole, and WILL contain spoilers for at least the first two books.

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Thoughts: This one had been on my radar for a while, and seeing as how the last book came out last month, and the summary for the first book gave me heavy Night Circus vibes, I knew I definitely wanted to read it. (And I was in the mood for something heady and magical anyway.)

I read these all in succession, so they all bleed together just a little bit for me, but here goes: 

Caraval (book 1) focuses on Scarlett and her quest to get her sister back. I loved that, just like our protagonist, I really had no idea what was real and what wasn't. It's rare when I read a book where I don't figure out the big reveal well ahead of time, and this one surprised me. The story and the writing were everything I thought it would be--rich, poetic, and completely engrossing. Part of the reason why I read the entire trilogy in such quick succession was that I didn't want to come up for air between books! Caraval made me want to plunge headlong into this beautiful, magical, dangerous world.

Legendary (book 2) is about Donatella, though Scarlett appears throughout the book as well. Shortly after the end of the first game, the sisters and the entire Caraval crew travel to the city of Valenda for a bigger, more extravagant, more high-stakes game hosted by the Empress Elantine, and Donatella now finds herself a major player in the game, seeking the ultimate prize of the man, the myth, the LEGEND himself. We meet some new characters, and we are re-introduced to some old characters. We also learn about magical beings called the Fates, who are threatening to break free and take over the Empire. 

Finale (book 3) is the culmination of everything, as the Fates are now looking to take back their power, and the sisters are the key to stopping that from happening. There are twists and turns and intrigues, and while Finale is a little heavy on the love triangles, I still wasn't exactly sure how things were going to go and what was real and not real. 

I gave five stars to the first two books, and four stars for the last one, mainly because I had some continuity questions after finishing it. For example (non-spoilery), there were a lot of stories and rumors about Legend that were discussed in the first book that weren't really addressed or explained after we find out his real identity, and I refuse to accept "They were JUST rumors" as an explanation, because that's too convenient and unsatisfying. I may have to go back and reread them all, just to see if the answers were there all along, but I kept finding myself asking "WAIT, BUT WHAT ABOUT ____?" as I read through the last book.

That said, it was massively enjoyable and engrossing, and for a book series that contained "only" kissing, it was surprisingly blush-inducing!! But I guess that's why we call it fantasy :) 

The series left some room for further tales or spinoffs, so I hope that happens. And I would absolutely love to know more about the Fates. Maybe Garber should release collection of myths and fairy tales involving the Fates, the way Leigh Bardugo did for her Grishaverse stories. I can guarantee that even writing one for just the Prince of Hearts alone would pique a lot of interest ;)