Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber
“The air tasted like wonder. Like candied butterfly wings caught in sugared spiderwebs, and drunken peaches coated in luck.” ― Stephanie Garber, Legendary
Oh, boy, this is going to be a long one! Prepare yourselves for a bit of whining coming your way. It's probably unfair, but I would likely have been a little more generous in my review of Legendary had it not been so massively hyped up and had I not enjoyed Caraval. My expectations were quite high and they were, frankly, not met. I really wish I had loved this book the way the majority of its readers have, however it just fell flat for me, despite the crazy amount of descriptions the author employs, which brings me to my first gripe. This book is DRENCHED in metaphors, similes and so, so many adjectives. I am all for nice descriptions, especially if they aid in world building, but in this book it started to become laughable! There were comparisons that didn't make sense, evocations of sights and scents (for example: "ink and heartbeats" or the above quote) which seemed ridiculous to me. Obviously, this appealed to many readers, and I'm happy if you are one of them. I never like to dislike a book, especially not a 450 page one I actually finished, but this one was so frustrating for me. Maybe I should have set it aside, but I wanted to like it so badly, I decided to power through.
Another issue I had was that I compared it to Caraval. Caraval is not a favorite book, but it was entertaining and I liked Scarlett as a protagonist. Sadly, I didn't much like Tella. Or rather I didn't like that Tella's immaturity and irritating naïveté made me feel old;) The characters felt much more like caricatures in Legendary than in Caraval to me. Maybe it was that the story felt more novel and unusual in Caraval, and a little meh already in Legendary. Both books give readers your typical beautiful heroines with gorgeous men obsessed with them but also treating them kind of mean, which seems archaic and tired. Tella struck me as naive, if I'm being generous, or self-obsessed, if I'm blunt. Also, how blind is she when it comes to Dante?? So irritating! It took Tella AGES to grasp the most obvious facts. Tella thinks she is much more capable and independent than her sister, but to me she just seems reckless and constantly needs to be saved (and have men quite literally carry her around), which seems like an overused story-line, especially in this genre.
I don't want to be unfair in reviewing this book, because the author is creative, even if her creativity felt a little forced on me in this book, a little too much showing not too little telling, if that makes sense.
Despite all my complaints, I don’t want to make this book out to have been all bad, otherwise it’s as much my fault for reading it! The plotting and story did have some interesting moments and I will say, some twists were truly unpredictable and added considerably to the story. It wasn’t exactly fast paced, but there was plenty of action, which kept it from being boring. That being said, whenever I was starting to get interested in the story, I would run into gems like this: “And, oh glory, he was shirtless. So very shirtless”, and the eye rolling would commence. Maybe I’m more cynical than I thought...
In the end of the day, it was an okay book that felt more disappointing than it maybe should have, because of the hype surrounding it and the previous one having been enjoyable for me. I just felt so underwhelmed by Legendary, given the positive reviews I had read and the way it had been talked up. I truly wish I could have fallen under Legendary's spell like so many other readers, but when I compare it to other books in this genre (Uprooted, The Cruel Prince, In Other Lands to name a few) I felt it was so much less engaging and immersive, the way I want a fantasy novel to be. Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste as with all books, and while I wanted to be swept away by the magic of this book, a sense of eye rolling incredulity held me back. If you read it, I hope you are among the majority who loved it, but I am looking forward to my next book now.