Finale Review

The final novel in the Caraval series, Finale, is one of the most highly anticipated novels of the year. With the sinister ending of Legendary still looming over readers heads it’s no wonder how desperate Garbers loyal readership was to finish the series. However this anticipation begged the simple question: could any conclusion truly live up to these phenomenal expectations?

With the promise of the Fates return, released from a pack of playing cards that previously kept them prisoner, Scarlett and Tella can do nothing but wait. Grounded by their comatosed mother, unsure how to fight and nervous about the assuring doom they’re bound to face, nothing can prepare them. Surrounded by untold truths and desperate lies the sisters embark on the most dangerous game they are yet to play as their quest leads them to fated lands in search of long lost objects. Meanwhile time is running short in Valencia as the Fates turn their greed to its struggling population, guiding them with elusive and sinister lost heirs. With a Kingdom unknowingly rested upon this task, and the illusory comfort that it is only a game lost Scarlett and Tella are in more danger than ever.

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.

Having narrated a novel each, Scarlett and Tella share the recount of Finale. With Tella’s fiesty personality and quick temper her chapters stand apart to her sister’s reserved and cautious ones. This dynamic makes both women and their respective chapters distinctive as they each show bravery in their own way, both in a frenzy to protect the other. While Legendary taught Tella to be brave Finale teaches Tella loyalty as she is appraised more than ever: her childhood fascination with Legend growing dangerous and her plight as she struggles to cope with the risks Scarlett must take. Her character development, although less of a focus in this novel than Legendary, is still complex as she learns the value of her choices and decisions.

Scarlett, meanwhile, is forced to be audacious where she’s always favoured protective. It falls to her to step into the path of danger, aligning herself within the Fates’ twisted game, demanding a gallant composure she has previously lacked in earlier novels of this series. Throughout Finale Scarlett slowly develops under the cruel circumstance she is forced into. During the events of Caraval and Legendary she has learnt to trust Tella to be responsible for her own safety, however now she must form a character of her own, away from Tella’s protective older sister. This multifaceted challenge shapes Scarlett for the remainder of the novel. Her first step to independence, proposing a game between her two suitors where the prize is her hand, is jovial and cruel however this protagonist is quick to realise and her character continues to shape from there: becoming shrewd and intrepid as the novel progresses.

I’m the villain, even in my own story.

The plot of Finale is engaging enough. The ending was somewhat confusing, particularly Scarlett’s place, appearing particularly out of character and random, while Tella’s conclusion felt better suited. Paloma was disappointing, after the build up and struggle from the first two novels, she presents little interaction with the events of the novel while still remaining pivotal to the plot. The storyline was further perplexing and muddled as the characters explored various options and potential solutions for defeating the Fates. Often various leads feel random or pointless and the focus on Tella’s romance was somewhat repetitive and tiring, while Scarlett’s romantic game was resolved quickly and added little gravitas to an already cluttered storyline. Overall, however, the events are engaging and interesting bolstered only by the sinister backdrop and crucial character development talking place.

The pacing felt even and kept the novel engaging. Finale lacked the structure the Caraval game has always provided but the world still felt magical as Scarlett and Tella were faced with an even more difficult task. The storyline progresses slowly and rarely appears to drag, even when the plot hops between the different plans, yet it never feels like it’s dragging. Finale doesn’t feel slow, even when the sisters were merely waiting for the Fates to appear, however the pointless leads and random events could frustrate some readers.

Setting the novel in Valencia, introduced to the reader in Legendary, was creative and exciting. Having explored the city through Tella’s curious eyes in the last novel made its decline under the fates return even more prominent, highlighting the loss the Fates’ destruction would cause to such a enchanting setting. The inclusion of Fated objects and Fated places added a new element to the series, previously restricted to Legend’s magic and capabilities and this extension added a unique dynamic to the environment. The brief visit to the past only added to the complex world building and both these settings breathe fresh life into what could have become stale backdrop. A multitude of locations are presented to the reader during this novel and, although not fully explored, they leave an enchanting feel to the world as the implication of further wonders and sinister ploys is suggested.

Garber’s writing has only improved throughout the series, Finale at its pinnacle. Enchanting descriptions, illusions conjured with vibrant colours and a dusting of beautiful quotes creates an exquisite ensemble of this spectacular world. The almost fairytale feeling of the novel did somewhat contradict to the more serious and deadly subject matter, a line Garber has always been treading in her work, creating a picturesque fairytale and tainting it with monsters. The enchanting world spun up in this tale, made even more vibrant through the eyes of Scarlett and Tella, and the compelling touches of lost love make this novel well written. The prose provided only sparse descriptions of locations, picking up unusual and quirky details rather that in depth descriptions, often leaving settings to the reader’s imagination. This technique gave each location a storytelling vibe as peculiar details could be slotted together to build an overall picture of the events.

He smelled of magic and heartbreak, and something about the combination made her think that despite what he claimed, he wanted to be her hero.

Love remains core to Finale’s plot. As previously developed in her previous work the plethora of complex relationships are explored throughout the novel as Garber encourages the reader to consider what drives each character. While Scarlett and Julian present the passionate love affair that usually drives YA stories, it’s Tella’s cliché love triangle that takes centre stage. As Tella chooses between two men who desire to possess her more than anything her choices for happiness appear restricted. With neither suitor acting particular well throughout the novel it was troubling to read Tella, an independent and forward thinking character, so desperate to fall in love. Scarlett’s love triangle, although less central to the plot, was also disappointing as she favoured childish games over the use of communication and careful consideration, dragging along her potential suitors in a cruel manor. Both relationships glorify unhealthy romantic tropes.

The sibling relationships featured throughout the series were touched upon. Tella and Scarlett appeared to be drifting apart, the independence they’d shown in Legendary persisting as they slowly and sadly left each others lives. Meanwhile, Julian and Dante, although said to be brothers, played little part in each others stories, carrying only a passing interest in their relationship. Although the odd moment of brotherly advice or loyalty was conjured they remained mostly isolated throughout the novel. The breakdown of the sibling dynamic that always featured so heavily in Garbers writing was disappointing. Furthermore, the opportunity to fully explore the relationship between Paloma and her daughters felt missed as the novel persists with romance at its core, the loss of the themes of family truly centralised when Tella explains that she is happy to step out of Scarlett’s life for Julian.

Just because something is real doesn’t mean you believe in it.

The target audience for Finale remains very similar to that of Caraval and Legendary. The novel does not contain particularly dark themes and is digestible for any YA reader. Mentions of sex and death make it potentially unsuitable for very young readers.

Overall I can’t say if I’m disappointed by this final book. It didn’t live up to my expectations but the novels have gained so much traction it was near impossible to. It was difficult for Garber to satisfy a demanding readership and, although a good novel, it wasn’t as compelling or outstanding as I had hoped.


My Predictions for Finale

Unusual post! On May 9th the final book in the Caravel series is coming out, and I can’t wait! But as a little game I thought I’d write down some of my Predictions for this dramatic end of the series.

Note: this post WILL contain spoilers for Caravel and Legendary, read at your own peril.

🃏 The fates will get Trapped Back in the cards

Yep, easy one at first, I think they’ll manage to put the fates back in the cards. They might destroy them once and for all, but I think putting them back in the cards would be more fun.

🌹Scarlett will Loose Julian for Cheating on him

The whole ‘I like you but want to check I got the best guy possible’ attitude that some girls have is just terrible. Either you like the person you’re with or you don’t, no one else should come into it at all.

✨ Scarlett and Julian will end up Together

Yeah, they will be together in the end. He’ll forgive her and she’ll realise she loved him all along.

🎩 Dante and Jack will Fight over Tella

Anyone else felt a love triangle coming on at the end there? And Dante and Jack strike me as the old fashioned duel for the girl type.

♥️ Tella will end up Single

More a hope than a prediction, but I really hope Tella doesn’t get with either guy after how they’ve treated her. If she ends up with any of them I hope it’s Legend.

👑 Their Mother becomes Queen

The ‘their’ here refers to Scarlett and Tella. I mean, who better to be queen than a close personal friend to the ex queen. And as an ex criminal she could really cut down on the crime in the city.

🎪 Nigel takes Over Caravel

I know, I know, it is heavily implied in the blurb that Caravel will cease to exist. But maybe they could change it up a little? Make it into a humble carnival? Seems a shame to loose such a fun game, and think about all those unemployed actors! Who better to run it than its oldest player?

♣️ Legend will also get Trapped in a Card

Yeah, he’s too fragile and powerful to let roam free. He’ll fall into a card, possibly an ace or something, and spend the rest of his days as paper.

Lets Compare Notes

There you have it! My Finale predictions! Do you have any predictions? Agree with me on mine? Would love to hear your opinions in the comments!

Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Having just finished this magical tale I am in dire need of the third one. Why is March so far away 😭 I will console myself the only way I know- fangirl until March, flail when the third one is released and finally comfort myself with the end of the series three years after I’ve brought the book. So, on with the fangirling!

Legendary follows Tella, Scarlett’s formerly missing sister, as she tries to win Caravel to save her mother. But she soon discovers the cost of winning is a price she not willing to pay as the impossible choice she’s predicted to have comes to light: loose her mother or doom the empire she was just starting to fall in love with. Legendary will take the reader through twists and turns at every corner, no fact will be trustworthy and no plot point will be expected.

Stephanie Garber can be a master storyteller when she wants to be. Some of the descriptions or feelings read like poetry: described in such intricate and unusual detail that they add magic to this already very magical novel. But others feel rushed. Whole scenes pass by with no description at all, it can feel clogged up and hastily written, with clunky descriptions tacked on at the end. However for most of the exciting parts of the novel it reads beautifully and it was only really the beginning on the boat when I struggled with the clunky descriptions, I’d still say as a whole this book is very pretty to read and the descriptions are sparse enough to not draw out the text unnecessarily yet frequent enough to capture the reader in the world the author has created.

“The world had tasted like magic and starshine, like granted wishes and dreams come true, yet breath it all, death still coated Tella’s tongue”

Tella is the spunky heroin we are used to in YA but she has few abilities compared to many YA heroins. She shows you don’t need to be skilled with a weapon, good at fighting or have magical powers to be a strong female lead. She likes dresses and weaving flowers into her hair and boys yet clearly shows she can hold her own and make her way in the world, never really relying on anyone. These traits made her more relatable to me than many heroins and make her a very good narrator.

Furthermore, Tella’s character growth throughout the novel is an attestment to Garber’s writing. Like it did with her sister, Caravel tests Tella in ways she never expected and pushes her beyond her comfort in a way that only gives strength to her already firey character. Following her adventures the reader can see Tella learn more about herself as well as her surroundings and the mysterious men who surround her, learning to trust and love in a game designed to trap her.

His chuckle was dark. ‘I’m definitely not the hero.’

‘I already knew that,’ Tella said. ‘It’s my story, so clearly I’m the hero.

This novel is shrouded in mystery. I spent half the book itching to skip ahead and find out what’s going on- you’ll be relieved to know I didn’t. (Ok, maybe once but let’s not dwell on that). If you enjoyed the mystery of Caravel then it’s sequel will definitely take you for a ride, although, unlike Caravel, there’s no continued insistence that it’s a game. The plot has twists and turns a plenty and Tella’s exciting and seemingly impossible to solve predicaments will immediately draw any reader in.

One small disappointment in this otherwise excellent novel would be how little Scarlett’s character appears. As the main character of Caravel I was hoping to see her adaption to her new circumstances more. She clearly continues to develop throughout this novel: we occasionally see how she is growing from being her nervous, over protective self to be more free and accepting of new possibilities. But the reader can’t really track this progress or the events that lead up to it since her presence is dotted sparsely throughout the novel.

It would also have been nice to see the sisters’ relationship more, which again undergoes dramatic changes: Scarlett learning to trust her sister’s decision and Tella learning to really value that trust. A lot happens to their small family in this novel, given how much of it revolves around their mother, but Scarlett is so reserved about the situation that she doesn’t want to talk about it with Tella.

“She tried to smile then. She was finally the hero. All it had cost her was everything.”

However, these small hiccups aren’t really a problem and I did feel we had a lot of Tella’s opinions and schemes to progress the plot and provide background on their family and ever changing relationship.

Overall, this novel was excellent. Particularly once the game has begun, it’s captivating, enchanting and beautifully written. With a quick moving plot and untrustworthy narrative it makes for a great read.