When I started to read this book, I put it down after the first 80 pages and sent a message to my friend to tell her that I felt like I was reading a fanfiction of the first two books. I think the author got too carried away with trying to please the fans: I was someone who wanted more Tella and Legend, but not this much.
It’s sad when a book doesn’t live up to your expectations, especially when you spend a year with it as your most anticipated book. If it was a standalone, this could have been great. But, when you remember that it’s the final book in a trilogy you loved every word of, it’s hard to ignore how it’s missing all the magic you put it on a pedestal for.
I wish I could give it a half star rating, because 3 stars is too low, but 4 stars is too high. I originally gave it 4, but I’m rounding down to 3 because that’s a better representation of my first reaction to the book. It’s almost painful for me to write this review because of how highly I think of the series.
This review has so many potential spoilers that I’m not going to tag them all, otherwise it will just look like a ‘fill in the blanks’.
The characters were what I loved most about this book, so I’m going to focus on them. The book is dual-narrated by Scarlett and Donatella, and features mainly characters that I’ve known and grown to love from the first two books, as well as the addition of the Fates and their mother.
- Scarlett: between the sisters, I was more interested and invested in her storyline, but I think she had a lot less ‘screen time’ than Tella. I love her significantly more than I did in the first book, even though she still did childish things and I don’t really understand her motivations.
- Tella: she used to be my favourite sister, but she did so many questionable things in this book that I’ve lost some of my love for her. She seems to have lost some of her characterisation from Legendary and is a shadow of her former self, obsessed with loving people who don’t love her.
- Julian: I’ve never been sure what to think of him. He’s too perfect and not in an endearing way. All of his actions and motives seem to revolve around Scarlett, and I’m not sure if he has any personality besides loving her.
- Legend: I loved him so much as Dante in the second book, but everything that made him likable disappeared in this one. I will forever love Dante. I just don’t know how to feel about him as Legend. There’s a quote in the description about Tella discovering the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist, and I think that’s an accurate way of describing what’s happening. It’s like Legend is a whole new character.
- Jacks: I love him. He was the villain throughout the second book, but Tella was still shocked when he did villainous things. I love that he embraces his actions and doesn’t hide from being a villain. However, his character is reduced to a minor side character who just shows up at convenient times to woo Tella. He has less of a purpose and is mainly there to cause drama. Also, how did he manage to escape the cards before the more powerful Fates?
- The Fallen Star/Gavriel: he is the main villain of the book, but he doesn’t really do many villainous things. Personally, as the concept of the Fates was introduced in Legendary, it’s strange for one to be the main villain, especially as he isn’t introduced until the final book of the series. We don’t have a chance to fear him. And he’s defeated so easily.
- The other Fates: the Maiden Death and Poison have such a strong aesthetic. Everyone made a big deal about how the Assassin was ‘mad’ but that never seemed to appear through his character or the plot. The rest of them were more like very minor side characters who didn’t play a pivotal role in the story. Most are just mentioned by name because they’ve been seen, not because they’ve done anything.
The plot felt weaker in this book than the last two, almost to the point where I didn’t really know what was supposed to be happening. A large portion of it felt too rushed and linear for what I was expecting. Unlike the previous books, it didn’t focus on the mystery of the Caraval and the magic that caught my interest in the first place.
The writing was still stunning. It was so beautiful. So magical. So enchanting. The way Garber writes makes everything seem otherworldly and fairytalelike. I admire her imagination and how vividly she brings everything to life. Caraval world is so detailed and magnificent, and I love how you never know if something is real or not. There’s always a deception, twist and turns.
My one problem with the writing is that she likes to repeat things and its actually kind of annoying. Characters would keep repeating things that happened only a few sentences ago as if we’d already forgotten. The plot itself is also repetitive in some places, focusing on lavish descriptions of beautiful dresses and pretty boys in ‘love triangles’ and damsels in distresses. I felt like most of the time we were being told rather than shown. It’s full of characters speaking in long paragraphs about the history of something. It dragged and made me lose focus. I don’t want to be told everything; I want to see it.
The book felt very anticlimactic. Dramatic events happened out of nowhere with no warning or build up and had very little impact other than being shocking for a few pages. I’m going to put a list of a few of the events that bothered me the most.
- Paloma’s entire existence. Tella spent the entire second book trying to save her, then she wakes up, runs off, has an outfit change, meets her former lover, stabs him, gets stabbed, then dies all in the space of a few pages. Her existence adds nothing to the plot and takes away the value of everything Tella did to rescue her.
- Scarlett’s ‘love triangle’ was set up to be something a lot bigger than it was, but she decided she chose Julian almost immediately. She makes a competition to see who will ‘win’ her and regrets it instantly, but keeps stringing the other guy along. Then he just dies??
- Tella and Jacks’ relationship. She finds out that they’re ‘married’ then they separate within paragraphs. He curses her to be in love with him, but she goes into a dream with Legend and the curse disappears a few pages later.
- The blood book that I don’t remember the name of. They spent so much effort trying to get it and trying to get the blood to use it against the villain, but Tella just ended up using it to find out she was ‘married’ and that’s the only purpose the book had.
- Scarlett’s real father?? I felt like this came out of nowhere just to add drama to the plot, and everyone accepted it without question. Then Scarlett spends the entire time hating him, but breaks down when he dies because he had a redemption speech.
The world in this series is something I have praised, but I think this book relies on you remembering the world from the previous books rather than developing a version of it without Caraval.
I loved the myths and the folklore of the Fates. But I feel like we’re never really given true context and explanation of how they work. It felt like the world was never given a reason for being the way it was. But, I suppose that’s just the way of magic and we’re not supposed to question it.
I found the Fates interesting, but I still feel like the story could have carried on the same without most of them there. They were what I found most interesting about the book – especially their backstories – but they purpose didn’t feel important. It felt more like they were setting up for their own spinoff series.
Also, this is probably another plot point, but I don’t want to even acknowledge the time-travel loophole because that’s one of my least favourite tropes for tying up a loose end. And I still don’t understand why it was necessary.
I think Finale has one of the most unsatisfying endings that I’ve ever read. It just… happened. Everything feels rushed and it wraps up too neatly and all the inconvenient things get ignored. It was a high stakes story which should’ve had so many sacrifices, but the ending was too convenient and too much of a Happily Ever After.
There’s this quote in the book description: “Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.” And, spoiler alert: no one loses anything, let alone everything. There are moments where it feels like something could be lost, but the day is saved straight away.
The writing is beautiful. The world is magical. Despite my disappointment, I still completely recommend this series. I didn’t hate this book, but I just didn’t love it either. I know my review sounds very negative and almost ranty, but I loved being back in the world and with these characters again.
Also, I’m going to place a bet that there’s probably going to be a spinoff series or something. Garber definitely left enough space to expand this world, especially with that scene at the market. If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Also, I’d be totally down for a new story about The Fates.
I’m going to take a moment at the end here to appreciate how stunning the book physically is. I have a Waterstones exclusive hardback, and it has red stained pages and it’s signed and I think there are four different options for what’s written on the front cover beneath the dust jacket. My series no longer matches, but this book is so beautiful that I don’t care.