While that may sound contrived, it's actually really well done. This special set of tarot cards was one of their mother's most notable possessions, secretly hidden away until a young Donatella accidentally discovered them during an innocent childhood game. By the simple act of turning over a few of the cards, she feels she is doomed to a life of loss and unrequited love, the former of which is quickly confirmed when her mother disappears. The latter becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, with Tella treating her male suitors as disposable forms of entertainment and keeping everyone, even her sister, unwaveringly at arm's length. That is, until she meets Dante. The bit-part rogue from Scarlett's adventure in Caraval quickly becomes a charmingly unwelcome staple in Tella's world as she finds herself squarely in the midst of a power-struggle between Legend and the mythical Fates. To save her mother, Tella must win the game, but the cost may be more than she can bear.
Garber's prose continues to keep the pages turning, even though her incessant use of character names (Every. Goddamn. Sentence.) does grate on my nerves. Accessible and engaging, her storytelling blends mystery and action with an albeit less impressive display of magic when compared to the first book. The effort she previously put into painting wondrous, whimsical details is instead put toward exhaustive descriptions of clothing. Appropriate, maybe, give Tella is the main focus of this story and she does love fashion. Romance is the icing on the cake, with our protagonist doing her utmost to resist Dante's charms, convinced she is incapable of lasting love. Little by little, we get to watch her shift and change as the story goes on, and by the end I found myself genuinely rooting for Tella - something I would have claimed to be impossible only a week ago.
In a lot of ways, Tella is a breath of fresh air after Caraval. Scarlett's waffling, self-conscious, hyper-cautious nature grew tiresome. Even though the romance is better in the first book, Tella's personality places this one superior in my mind. Fiesty and cocksure, clever and jaded, the younger Dragna sister makes for a far more interesting protagonist. Not one to give up without a vigorous round of fisticuffs (literally), her depth and spirit make Legendary a step up from it's predecessor. And the best part? We finally learn Legend's true identity! (I'm really glad Garber didn't try to hold that card until the third book.)
Overall, an entertaining series. My copy of Finale got delayed in shipping so I'm putting a filler book in between, but I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion.