A love worth dying for, a game worth playing, a book worth crying over. If that doesn’t sum up my feelings of Stephanie Garber’s Finale, then nothing else will. I have been with this series since the beginning, since Scarlett was tricked to play Caraval, since Legend was just a name, since Tella gave her everything for the promise of tomorrow, and here we are, at the finale of this great story. I’ll admit I don’t handle endings well, especially when I’m invested. Finale was the last of my favorite series ending, and I sobbed as was due. Scarlett taught me that boundaries are good but there are things worth taking risks for, Tella taught me to love life unabashedly and with zeal for every moment (the good and the bad), and Caraval taught me that magic is of the heart and what you make of it. So here is my proposal, my very tear educed review of Finale. And if this doesn’t convince you to read this incredible series, than I’m not doing my job.
I’ll admit, Finale didn’t go exactly how I thought. There were so many twists and turns that shook me (have we talked about Tella and Legend yet?!) I had many theories (and I’m not normally one for theories). Stephanie wove an amazing interlocking story that kept me on my toes the entire time. Without spoiling too much, I can promise so many OH MY GOSH moments that will leave you dizzy with glee and despair. Guard your heart, because the plot of Finale will have you laughing one moment and cringing the next, right before Stephanie drops you into a well so deep your heart aches. Just remember— it’s only a game.
Comparing this to Legendary (book 2), I feel that we get a full sister interaction, and as the younger sister, I found myself smiling when Stephanie nailed every interaction between Scarlett and Tella. In their trials and rivals and the love that is threaded through every single action they have with each other. This series as a whole is one of the best sister representations I have read. I appreciate the nuanced moments Stephanie had between sisters, that they don’t have to say they love each other— it just is. There’s nothing showy about it. It exists in and of itself.
Now… can I please spoil this?
We need to talk about Dante and Julian. Because that relationship is one of my favorites. It’s messy and haunting and beautiful. I absolutely love the juxtaposition between them and the Dragna sisters. Where one is full of unyielding love, Julian and Dante always come to a head, and their arguments are visceral where despite what Dante says about love he truly does care. It makes me think about what we give up for love sometimes. Because we love too deeply, because we care too much, we sacrifice our soul. But maybe that’s just my take away.
*** END SPOILER**
In the end, I cannot express my joy with how Finale ends for our dynamic duos— that each of them gets exactly what they deserve and need in life, and in ways they don’t always expect.
Maybe all of that should have gone under this section? But the sibling relations are such a plot point that I feel it fits better under plot. But what is plot without character? So let me fangirl just a bit more about these characters.
My Dragna girls are my heart, and despite their difference, actually in spite of it, they make the most amazing dynamic duo. Finale is really their love story, and the length they will go for each other, the end of the earth story that links them together. This is what Caraval, Legendary, and Finale are at the top of my list for sibling books— because Stephanie Garber writes siblings in a way that is relatable and poignant and real. If I could convince my sister to read this series, I know she’d agree. (Which would we be? Well… that’s a secret, but I have a pretty good idea)
My boys. My poor, poor messy boys. If you want your heart to ache, to weep and shudder and haunt you forever, then read about my boys Julian and Dante (* Spoiler for Legendary* No, he’s not Legend, he’s Dante). Their relationship showcases how messy siblings can be, how we howl and hurt and argue, but in the end, we’re all we have. There’s a special place for this relationship in my book, because Finale captures it so beautifully, haunting at love’s lost and joy’s found.
You didn’t think I could talk about character without Jacks, right? Let me tell you, I love Jacks! I’ll shout it to the ends of the earth. His character is this mix of repulsion and love and respect. He was a character I never anticipated loving, and yet… and yet. Stephanie weaves so much magic into Jacks essence that it’s hard NOT to love him, despite what we know about it. Despite that fact that he’s a Fate, that he’s a killer, that he takes advantage of every single situation. Do you have feels about Jacks? Did he deserve that ending? I don’t know. I have some hope of a future novella or short about where Jacks ends up, picking up after Finale ends and he has his own future to stare down.
I can also say the rest of the cast is equally enticing and intriguing. We get introduced to the Fate and oh my— prepare yourself for a wild ride on that front.
What should I fangirl about here? Stephanie Garber’s poetically beautiful prose? The moment I sobbed and slammed the book shut? The feels in my heart that haunt me until this day? What I cannot articulate is the gorgeous ability Stephanie Garber has in crafting a book that hits you on every front. Finale is the culmination of this series, and every single word, every moment, every character has their role to play. Craft is not a game to Garber, because she is the master of Caraval— a legend in my book.
What am I trying to do with this review? Convince you to read the Caraval series, to read Finale and I dare you to not cry or sob or scream. This series, and Finale particularly, changed how I view books. It instills a magic into your life that is hard to ignore. Every single book in this series has its own magic, and for that I cannot express how much I love these books.
Caraval created magic, Legendary made my heart thrive off magic, and Finale brought me to my knees as I realized the magic was in me all along. So, if there is one take-away from this review that you have, it should be that you are your own magic, and love is worth fighting for, that magic is all around you, and that there is no love like a siblings. So hug them close and kiss their forehead while whispering “oh the adventures we’ll have, but none will compare to loving you.”
Keep fangirling, and hug a sibling — Camille