2.5 out of 5 stars
Tella thinks about herself for 478 pages. The End.
Mehhhhhhhhh. I didn’t love Caraval (3.5 stars) or Legendary (2.5 stars). This whole series talks about and drips with and swims in magic, without actually feeling very magical. My overall take on the first book holds true to the end: “Caraval sets up its own mystique so well, that the eventual plot isn’t quite as clever as it gives itself credit for.”
This series’s biggest mistake was moving from Scarlett to Tella as the main focus. Tella is a twit. Everyone is in love with her, of course. (“Troooooooooooooooooooope,” sang the fat lady, until the bitter end.) Tella does little and thinks less – except about herself. She spends pages and pages (endless audiobook time) being bewildered when a guy who said he didn’t want/need/care about her actually doesn’t want, need, or care about her. Because she was sure he did. Because she’s sure he must. Because she has no other thoughts, and yet has the biggest part, and how else to fill all these pages?! ( :: back of hand to forehead, she faints for attention :: )
Also, there’s a line in Finale that describes a jail cell as smelling like “damp water.” Kill me.
Scarlett is still here: her character more interesting and her story far more important. The challenge she faces is actually quite compelling, and the magic surrounding it is easily followed; it makes sense. She’s actually saving the little world in which they’ve found themselves. Scarlett deserves far more of this story’s attention. It still wouldn’t be great, but it would be better.
Overall, the world of the Caraval series still lacks. It’s somehow “without,” in the way that Heath Ledger’s Patrick means it in 10 Things I Hate About You. A surreally magical, cleverly mysterious game with deadly consequences set amid a Venetian-style masquerade sounds fantastic. But this Finale ends without ever reaching that potential.