Review of Finale by Stephanie Garber

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.

Caraval has always been a series I have really enjoyed, i’ve never outright been blown away by them though but the first 2 books were commendable 4* reads for me. The set up for Finale was cliffhangertastic and I had really high hopes that this would be the book to push it up to a 5* but sadly I ended up the other way.

Firstly though, the hardback is just as gorgeous as I’ve come to expect from the series. First editions have the usual hidden covers, this time each with a quote rather than a picture. Also, for the first time we have sprayed edges! The map of Valenda inside is hilarious, it makes sense as you get through the story, but when I first saw it I felt it was genius and a unique take on the usual dry fantasy maps. The story is told for the first time in dual pov between Scarlet and Donatella but they don’t alternate though and the story flips as and when necessary which is nice.

The magics as usual are breathtaking, even with the limitations given the period of mourning that Valenda finds itself in, a beautiful picture is painted. The world building has a high attention to detail and as the fates gradually get used to their freedom from the deck of destiny it has a very slight thriller feel trying to work our what or who will appear next. It’s also pretty macabre – remember in Legendary when the children disappeared in the play? Well quadruple your feelings for this one, it shows that Stephanie Garber has a real talent outside of romance and I would love to see her take a turn at a darker series next. Scarlett has been a bit of a let down for me over the first two books and I’m happy to say that she really pulls it back in Finale, she’s finally given the story arc she deserves and gains a fair bit of depth along the way. There are so many fantastical places in Finale, it’s such a wonderful world – I adored the fact that there is a tithe to pay when our characters least expect it and this leads to both comedy and tragedy. Did I mention how much I loved the world building….?

Where did it all go wrong for me then? I didn’t enjoy the direction that some of the characters went in, Donatella who thusfar has been a strong, daring and vibrant character felt to be reduced to a simpering mess,  An exciting character that I though would be a major player was gone in a blink and felt like it was a hugely missed opportunity. I wanted to know more about the fates, fated objects and fated places, they had the potential to weave so much more magic into the story which at times ended up feeling like a melodrama. Love is the central theme though, you’re shouting at me, but it really didn’t need to be as sappy as it was. The ending was rushed and confusing (also a little icky) and I felt that there were many things that weren’t wrapped up satisfactorily, in short after 3 books, I felt let down. I even found Legend to be tawdry and despite everything felt like Jacks was the star of the show – I’m actually pretty sad at (in my view) such a missed opportunity especially as just a couple more chapters could have easily made it so much better.

3*

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