“I think the most magnificent things are worth living for.”
A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.
It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.
With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.
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.
Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…
CW: violence, murder, loss of a loved one, gore, body horror
The conclusion of the Caraval series is finally here, and that was NOT what I was expecting. For the most part, though, it wasn’t what I expected in the best of ways.
In a lot of ways, Finale is a nice change of pace. We get to explore new areas of Valenda that fell by the wayside during the events of Legendary. We also get to learn more about the Deck of Destiny (MORE LORE! MORE LORE!), and the stakes shift radically. Plus, both Tella and Scarlett serve as POV characters, rather than one sister at a time, and we finally see a lot of secrets out in the open alongside their consequences (namely Legend’s identity, the story behind the Deck of Destiny and the Fates, and who Paloma Dragna really is at heart).
I really enjoyed most of all the little hidden places of Valenda, the ones tied to the Deck. They recapture a lot of the unsettling magic from Caraval that teeters on the edge of real, but also brims with sinister magic in a way that inspires wonder and caution at the same time. A full setting, one that feels like it has a life of its own, matters a lot to me. That alone can help draw me into a book, and for this series, the care taken in the setting has really gone above and beyond, doing a fantastic job of sucking the reader in.
I also loved all the encounters with the Fates, and the interactions between them. They’re not all on the same side, and I’m personally pretty fascinated by the divisions and the reasons behind them. It’s hard to manage a large cast like that, and yet it’s done well here, without revealing too much at once.
Then again, this comes with the major pitfall of Finale, the reason I’ve actually rated it lower than Legendary: sometimes, it reveals too little. The big bad is actually pretty shallow in terms of motivation, and some of the other Fates don’t seem to have any real reason for the allegiances they’ve pledged. Additionally, there are whole plot lines that go under-explored. Spoilers here for those of you who aren’t all the way caught up, but how Paloma got into the cards (humans have to replace someone willingly, so why did she do it and who did she release? who knows!), exactly what secret Tella sold to the sisters, why certain Fates chose certain sides, the brief and underwhelming appearance of Nicolas D’Arcy, and more. Essentially, it felt like the story was trying to cram in too much in order to create an explosive ending, and as a result, some really important things were left by the wayside with far too little exploration and elaboration.
Additionally, I still hate the love triangle. I usually hate love triangles, but I really don’t like this one. Everything I liked about Dante and Tella has vanished, and I never liked Tella and Jacks much to begin with. Neither one of them makes a particularly good romantic choice in my eyes, and watching Tella pinball around between them when there were also some very big and very different things at stake drove me up the wall. I much preferred Julian and Scarlett’s relationship overall, since they actually talk about things and address their feelings and complaints and problems without misleading each other half as much at all. But hey. Maybe I just hate love triangles and all the drama that comes with them. It’s very possible that’ll just never change.
Altogether, Finale made for a reasonably strong conclusion. It kept the most important elements of the series in place, like the sinister nature of Caraval magic, and the importance of the bond between the Dragna sisters and what they’d do for one another. It did, though, drop the ball in terms of how tightly it was plotted, and I have to say that I’m disappointed in that aspect. It would have been a stronger, more explosive close to the series if everything had been addressed more fully.
But all games must come to an end, right? And this is it.
So, have you read Finale yet? If you have, what’s your take on how it all came to a close? And if you haven’t, are you planning to dive into the world of Legend’s Caraval one last time? Let’s chat!