REVIEW: FINALE BY STEPHANIE GARBER

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Title: Finale
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Pages: 496
My Rating: 3 stars

 

THREE_CATS

 

“His voice had softened, and she might have called it sweet, but there was nothing sweet about the way he smiled. It was a smile that promised she’d enjoy this new game, even as she lost it.”

 

I wanted to like this book SO much more than I actually did, and it is probably the biggest disappointment of my reading journey so far this year. After absolutely loving Caraval and Legendary, my expectations were set really high for Finale. While I did enjoy the book overall, unfortunately there were elements that left it lacking, and there was enough missing from the story to make this my least favorite installment of the series so far. I was a little worried going into Finale- this book doesn’t have an actual round of Caraval taking place, and I was nervous that missing this element would take away from how much I enjoyed reading the story. One of the things that made the previous books so good was that you never knew what was real and what was a charade of Caraval; you could never trust the things that happened because there was always the chance that they were part of the game. Thankfully there ended up being enough going on that I never found myself bored, but I truly missed the game element and I feel that this change, along with a few other issues, hurt the narrative overall.

 

Pros:
– mermaids with tropical teal braids and pearly pink tails, a skirt made of fluttering butterflies, an immortal library, sheets that tuck themselves back in
– the ability to be visited in dreams and to mold the dreams to your liking, a key that unlocks any door and a map that leads to the place you want to be most
– murderous spiders, unstable god-like beings with all manner of magical powers

Cons:
– Legend and Jacks felt interchangeable, love triangle, Tella and Scarlett were less headstrong and independent than they were before
– there wasn’t enough purpose to the main story, the pacing was often rushed in places and lacking in others
– Tella can’t make up her mind between Legend and Jacks for most of the book, but they’re both horrible and she never considers that maybe neither of them would be the better option

 

I was conflicted about Finale having alternating POVs. On one hand, I enjoyed being able to see things from more than one perspective and getting that much extra insight into what was going on. On the other had, I hadn’t missed Scarlett’s POV, and wasn’t 100% impressed with the return of her ability to feel emotions as colors. The general concept is fun, but the descriptions of the colored emotions was way overdone. “Scarlett’s feelings were a commotion of colors, swirling around her in garlands of excited aquamarine, nervous marigold, and frustrated gingersnap.” I enjoyed Tella much more than Scarlett as a narrator, but in the grand scheme of this book and this series, the descriptions of Scarlett’s seeing color thing was a small nit pick that didn’t ruin the overall experience for me, and was actually toned down a bit in this installment.

 

“Most of my life, I’ve romanticized death. I used to love the idea of something being so tremendous that it was worth dying for. But I was wrong. I think the most magnificent things are worth living for.”

 

Some of the staples of the Caraval series were still present in this book, and I definitely enjoyed them. The gorgeous descriptions of the dresses, the illusions and magic, and the dangerous bargains- just to name a few. Learning about the different Fates and their abilities was fun, and things were always a bit tense because of how volatile the immortals could be at any moment. I also appreciated finally getting a bit more information on how Tella and Scarlett’s mother ended up with the Deck of Destiny and what happened leading up to her imprisonment. The writing was consistently strong, with dialog that flowed and words turned to illustrations. The scenery was always described in beautiful detail, from lush gardens to black, white, and red gambling dens, and I loved reading about and picturing each new setting the characters found themselves in.

 

A  whole chunk of this book is taken up by boys playing mind games with Tella. Oh, and there are two love triangles. Dante and Jacks are messing around with Tella’s heart, and Julian and the Count are competing for Scarlett’s heart. It was tiring! At least Scarlett made up her mind relatively early on. In Tella’s case, the men would do something nice, followed by something mean, and it was an annoying emotional rollercoaster that seriously flirted with emotional abuse. I could have really done without all the duplicity and would have enjoyed a story that was focused more on beating the fates and less on the hot and cold relationships of all the main characters. (And yes, I know that Dante and Jacks have certain reasons to not want to be in love, but it could have been handled better!)

 

“I want to feel love in its every form. I used to be so scared of it, but now I think love is another type of magic. It makes everything brighter, it makes people who have it stronger, it breaks rules that aren’t supposed to exist, it’s infinitely valuable. I can’t imagine my life without it. And if you felt any love in your heart, you would understand.”

 

Things did seem to pick up around the halfway mark, and when we started to see more of the Fates and learn more about them is when my interest started to be drawn back in. The problem throughout this book was that the pacing didn’t feel right; something big would happen out of nowhere, followed by pages of hot and cold relationship drama and searching for a way to kill the fates, and it ended up making everything seems scattered. The buildup wasn’t there, and this made scenes that would have been shocking or emotional not have the full impact that they should have provided. Overall, I would have preferred a conclusion at the end of Legendary and for this to have ended as a duology instead of the story dragging out. As I said earlier, my expectations were set really high for Finale, and unfortunately they just weren’t met.

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