Book: Finale (Caraval #3)
Author: Stephanie Garber
BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-There are no conversations between named female characters in this book that don’t somehow involve men.
This book was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, after loving both Caraval and Legendary, I was really looking forward to seeing how this series wrapped up and the ending of Legendary promised an exciting “Finale” (pardon the pun) and this time we got both sisters’ POV. I have to say though, I was kind of disappointed by this book? It lacked focus and structure and almost felt like a bunch of ideas thrown together rather than a cohesive storyline. Whilst using the Caraval game a third time might have been overkill, it gave structure to the first two books and without it this time, it was actually quite difficult to follow the story. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series!
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…all games must come to an end.
It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates have been freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella has seen Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.
Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finaly, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.
Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun―with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win…and those who will lose everything.
This book picks up about two months after the end of Legendary, Legend is on the verge of becoming Emperor, but the Fates have not yet awakened. It all starts off quite well, there’s a lovely prologue which shows the girls with their mother just before she “disappeared”, however as the book goes on, it becomes clear that there’s no real structure, and the author seems to jump from one plot idea to the other without really developing any of them fully. Most of the plot threads from Finale that it seemed as if they would be important were kind of dropped, the Fates didn’t play nearly as important of a role as I thought they would, nothing really ever came of Legend’s ploy to be Emperor and the whole Paradise/Lost Heir thing? Barely even mentioned. I think this was a side effect of not having a Caraval game being the focus of this book, without that framework, there was nothing for Garber to structure her ideas around and she kind of just threw everything in with no particular thread linking them together.
The pace was also really quite slow for the first couple of sections of the book, it’s structured into a prologue, Beginning, Middle, Almost Ending, True Ending and an epilogue and it’s only really towards the end of the Middle that things really start to pick up. These have never been particularly fast paced books, which is fine but Caraval and Legendary had the mystery of the Caraval games, trying to work out what was real and what was the game, whereas this book you were just waiting for something to happen.
I also found it a bit ridiculous that Garber introduced a new villain in the final book and it became all about fighting him. It’s hard to talk about this without going into spoilery territory, but I thought from the last book, this book was going to be all about stopping the Fates and getting them back into the cards, and it kind of veers off course from that and brings in this entirely new villain in the form of a Fate we hadn’t even really seen before and to be honest, he wasn’t even that compelling of a villain? It honestly would have been more compelling if Legend had become the villain of this story rather than someone completely new.
There was way too much focus on the romantic drama in this book, the first two books were fantasy with light romance, whereas this book felt like a romance with light fantasy. And it was all pointless anyway, because both girls end up with who you know they’re going to end up with so all the constant angsty back and forth, particularly from Tella is just infuriating. The romance just completely took over all aspects of the plot and the thing is, I actually did like the romances in this series before this book, but in this book I was like “Okay we get it, you both like *insert character’s romantic interest here*, can we please get back to the Fates potentially destroying the world?”. The romantic drama could have easily been solved within the first part, if only the CHARACTERS ACTUALLY TALKED TO EACH OTHER. Both options for Tella were kind of awful as well, they were emotionally abusive to her and I honestly wish she’d just chosen herself.
I do like Stephanie Garber’s writing, but she’s always had a tendency of going overboard on the similes and metaphors and leaning into prose that just doesn’t make sense, like “he smelled of ink and heartbreak” and whilst in the first two books, I felt like it created a good atmosphere, in this one I just found it annoying! There was so much repetition of stuff you’d already read and it would only come like two paragraphs after the first instance of seeing it, and I’m like, I have a pretty good memory, I don’t need reminding of something I read literally two seconds ago. There were parts of this book when I really did enjoy the writing, in fact, it is more good than bad, but when it’s bad, it’s really bad.
There’s a plot twist involving Scarlett that a lot of people have complained about, I personally didn’t mind it, but I think it would have made more sense if the author had chosen a different character given that the character she chose didn’t have any link to Scarlett’s ability to see people’s emotions at all, though I suppose it would have made Tella’s storyline a bit creepy! (I’m sorry, that was super cryptic, but I can’t really explain it better because it would be very spoilery).
I definitely feel like this book could have been shorter? If the author had narrowed her focus on just destroying the Fates, like it seemed she would in the last book, then I think it could have had a much more streamlined and easy to make sense of plot. This book is almost 500 pages, and it really didn’t need to be that.
I was expecting Paradise to play way more of a role in this book. She’s so important in Legendary, Tella spends the whole book trying to find out what happened to her and then she’s basically hardly there in this book and I felt like that was such a missed opportunity because Paradise is such an interesting character and I wish she’d been explored more.
The chapter lengths were pretty uneven, we went from super long Tella chapters to super short Scarlett chapters and I reckon it would have helped the pacing more if the chapters had been more even. It’s also kind of unbalanced in terms of the Scarlett/Tella narration, Tella gets far more chapters than Scarlett and weirdly I would have actually preferred more Scarlett? The two girls really seemed to switch places in this book, Scarlett is the one with more agency who seems to be actually doing more in the whole taking down the fates thing and Tella seems mostly focused on her romantic drama. I did like that we finally got to see them working together a bit more in this book though, they felt more connected as sisters in this book than they did in either Caraval or Legendary.
They spend the whole book trying to work out how to take down the villain, when they already knew how all along and it seemed so pointless. Garber would introduce all these plot points and then dropped them the next chapter, it was like she couldn’t make up her mind what direction she actually wanted to take this book. Everything is solved way too easily as well, as soon as the characters faced a problem, the solution was just dropped in their lap. so the stakes never felt very high.
I really wish that this book had come with a warning for arachnophobes, there’s a section that involved spiders that I really couldn’t handle!
I loved the map at the beginning of the book, it was really beautiful.
There’s a part of the book which relies on time travel as a solution, and again without delving too far into spoilery territory, it’s something I always find a bit iffy because it’s very difficult to explain and very few authors actually get it right, I don’t think Stephanie Garber did.
I felt like a lot of questions went unanswered, especially what happened to Caraval after the ending, I felt like that wasn’t really made entirely clear.
I did like the ending. It was maybe a little too neat and some of the things that happened were a bit of a stretch, but I loved how everything came full circle and tied back to the first book, when so much of the book felt disconnected to the previous two, it was nice to have that one thread at the end that tied everything back together, I found that really satisfying.
I know I’ve been quite negative about this book in this review, and it must seem like I didn’t really like it at all, but I do still love the characters and the world and there were definitely aspects of the book that I enjoyed, I think the negative stuff just stuck more because I was so anticipating this book and it didn’t really go at all like I expected. I think people who like heavy romance in their books will love this one a lot more than I did!
My Rating: 3.5/5
My next review will be of my June #RockMyTBR book, The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee. I just started it yesterday and I’m really loving it so far!