REVIEW: Finale – Stephanie Garber (Caraval #3)

9781473666788-2

Author: Stephanie Garber (website / twitter)

UK Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Young Adult, fantasy, romance

See Also: Caraval, Legendary

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. Welcome, welcome to the Caraval’s Finale. All games must come to an end . . .

After putting off starting Legendary for as long as I did, I almost wanted to dive straight into Finale. I made myself wait because I had other books I needed to review, and because I knew a day would come when I wanted just an easy, quick, guaranteed win to read. That day came during lockdown, and Finale was there waiting.

The previous two books had each followed one perspective – Scarlet took us through Caraval, while Tella narrated Legendary. For Finale, the story splits the narrative between both sisters which makes sense for a much bigger story. At the end of Legendary we know that the Fates had been released from their imprisonment, cruel gods who had been locked away to prevent them torturing humanity. Legend released them to save Tella, who had allowed herself to be locked away to release her trapped mother.

So I was a little surprised when the final book opens not immediately following the the ending of the previous one, but instead several weeks later. Legend has only contacted Tella through her dreams, Julian has dropped off the face of the planet leaving Scarlet alone, and their mother remains asleep in the rooms they have rented.  It doesn’t appear that they’ve done anything about the escaped Fates, and Tella’s even been shopping while she spends her nights in her dreams with Legend pretending she’s not interested in him.

This is a good book, but for me it didn’t escalate things the way I wanted it to after Legendary. Book 2 caught me by surprise after book 1 by expanding things and giving me a new narrative perspective and potential for darker, bigger plots. And things do get darker in this book, but there are plotlines which baffle me. Scarlet’s fiance from book 1 is brought back, only for that plotline to be suddenly curtailed – why bring him back if he is barely going to be used?

One of my frustrations with this in particular was that love triangles seemed to be needlessly created for both sisters in this book when it barely seemed necessary. There was a lot of will-they-won’t-they between two different relationships, and it almost made sense for Tella, but it felt particularly needless for Scarlet. Love does become a plot point, but does that have to mean that a lot of time is spent kissing and flirting instead of dealing with the issue at hand?

I loved the Fates – as I mentioned in the last book, I found them a delightfully dark and surprisingly grim addition that really gave me chills in the best possible way. Some of that is explored in this book, and we see that escalating, but I think I would have enjoyed something which spent more time looking at the origins of each fate and seeing how they played out in more details, something more insidious showing the way they began to exert their power through society and regain their foothold.

I suppose I just wanted a bit more of the darkness because I thought the Fates were wonderful creations and it still felt like the surface of them was barely scratched in favour of playing romance games. That said, there are things which make me think this isn’t going to be the end of this world. Comments have been made and threads left open for the author to return to it, but I’m not sure it will be with the same characters in the lead. I kind of wish, if that were the case, this hadn’t been put together as a trilogy but left open to a series, or that more was resolved or explored in these books. The ideas and magic are so wonderful that I would have enjoyed seeing them expanded on and Garber’s world building to be given free reign.

This is all fairly nitpicky, however, because I did blitz through it in two days, as I knew I would. This whole trilogy is a perfect relaxation read which ticks so many boxes. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. If you like a glamorous book with beautiful fantasy elements, a bit of romance, and a lot of style, then you’ll enjoy these. They’re the perfect length too, and their stripey spines look wonderful on a shelf, from a purely aesthetic perspective. There’s a lot of meat in there too, and I’m just secretly a bit sad, that I didn’t get more of it.

If you want some comfort reading during these weird old times, you won’t go far wrong with these. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of Garber’s work, especially if my hunch is correct and there are more books to come in this world.

Briefly:

  • A beautiful, stylish book that keeps the same aesthetic as previous instalments, but ramps up the stakes as required. I did enjoy the progress from book one where the mantra was “nothing is real”, through book two’s “oh shit maybe this is real”, then into book three “it’s all real and we’re all going to die”.
  • I would have preferred less time spent on love triangles and more time spent exploring some of the exciting characters we get introduced to – the Fates, Legend’s performers, some of them feel very pushed to the side at times.
  • It feels like this story isn’t quite finished yet. There are threads which aren’t tied up, and space for another story to be built that ties to these characters but isn’t directly following them.

Rating: 4/5 – I wanted a bit more, but it’s still a good read and has some brilliant ideas in it.

Series Rating: 4/5 – I loved Legendary, but I wasn’t as blown away by Finale. It’s fun, but I wanted things to be developed further than they were, with more exploration of the characters rather than focus on the love triangles. It’s a fun series though, and definitely glossy and well-written. If you like YA fantasy, they’re a must-read.

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