Have you ever done something you find yourself immensely regretting just a mere five minutes later? That’s right, folks, I just made the mistake of requesting Finale on NetGalley. And I cannot for the life of me believe that I did it. This is what hype does to me because 99% of the decision making behind the request came from excitement over the book posted all around the internet that didn’t, in fact, belong to me. And while, yes, I am vaguely interested in reading the last book in this series since I always hate not knowing what happens and I have a very hard time turning away from books once I’ve already read another in that series, I genuinely forgot for a moment how much I hated Stephanie Garber’s Caraval. So, I’ll be honest, there’s probably some judgment I’ve earned here. But I digress.
Here’s the truth; I read Caraval some months (I should probably say years) ago at the request of a friend whose recommendations have almost always managed to not work for me so much so that I’m at the point where I rarely take them at face value anymore. It was mid-2017. I can still remember the wind rustling like blue waves through the trees around me–
I don’t know how this book ever got popular. It’s riddled with purple prose, so much to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if it made a great many more people than me gag at the ridiculous of it all. And it’s not simply that the book was undercoated with purple and then painted again and again until the crap was dripping all over your hands whenever you touched it, but it was also confusing as all hell. Nearly all the descriptions given didn’t make the slightest of sense and that confusing lack of any real substance spilled over like an ashen coated waterfall into the rest of the book from plot to characters.
It’s a genuine struggle to determine where to begin with my complaints regarding this book, but I suppose I can begin with Scarlett, a selfish and inept girl who masquerades herself through the entire novel as someone strong, protective, and caring (all for her sister, mind, who has been kidnapped by Legend and she now has to save). Nevermind that she spends the majority of the novel mooning over her love life, whether it’s concern about the Count her father wishes her to marry or the boy she’s regularly rude to and supposedly distrustful of and rarely ever makes decisions that will actually result in finding and saving her sister. We press on through the book, however, and encounter a rather ridiculous number of easily found and deciphered clues, many of which just seem to fall into Scarlett’s lap. I suppose it was meant to be this way, manipulated for Scarlett to win–and if you’ve read the book, you’ll know why.
Now to the matter of the Count that Scarlett is engaged to and her own father; everything involving these two characters is unnecessarily gross and uncomfortable. And while I’m not saying that there always has to be a purpose for a character to be abusive, the purpose behind the two girls’ father’s abusiveness is just truly ridiculous. And his attempt to get Scarlett raped was so unnecessarily awful that I honestly can’t believe more people didn’t condemn this book for it. Who honestly believes that such an act is an acceptable plot device used merely to show how much worse these characters are? Believe me, we already knew they were despicable.
And then there’s that ending. From Julian to Donatella, that ending. It was ridiculous. It was dumb. It was just…not worth it. I simply cannot get over the non-deaths. The lack of any real consequences, the sheer arrogance in losing nothing after all of that. And if everything else hadn’t already ruined the book for me up to this point, this was the catch all of book destroyers. And while I know that this is a spoiler (but it’s been a few years), I’m just going to say this: if you’re going to kill off characters for shock value and to provide the main character with the dilemma of choosing between them, it really is poor form to return and say, “well, that choice didn’t matter because both of them get to come back.” It just makes the shock value you earned feel stolen.