This is a hard book to review, because even though I just finished it, I almost couldn’t tell you what happened in it. That’s because it reads like a dream sequence… no rules, anything is possible, and every detail is described in colors and emotions, with scenes shifting into different fantastical settings for no apparent reason all the time.
Here’s the best I can do: Tella loves Legend, but he abandoned her at the Temple of the Stars at the end of Legendary (after freeing her from the Deck of Destiny at what seemed like great personal cost.) She understands he cannot love, because he is an immortal; he can only be obsessed with a mortal. The moment he falls in love, he becomes mortal, which is why he doesn’t want to love her. Jax, the Prince of Hearts, is also obsessed with her. She’s his True Love, but same rules apply to him. Scarlett loves Julian, but he left her at the end of the last Caraval, and now Scarlett has decided to give her former fiance, Count Nicholas Darcy, a chance… mostly to make Julian jealous. Most of the plot revolves around these love triangles, though there’s not much tension in the relationships themselves because it’s so obvious who should end up with whom. The tension comes in with what lengths they are willing to go to in order to possess the object of their obsession. Meanwhile, the girls’ mother Paloma/Paradise has been freed from the Deck of Destiny–but so have all the Fates (including Jax, who was free throughout Legendary even though the rest of the Fates hadn’t been freed yet, though I don’t understand why). They want to regain their former power… though I was never clear on what exactly they had to do in order to do so. By turns, Legend, the Fates, Esmeralda (the witch who gave Legend his power) and the Fallen Star (the Fate who created all the other Fates, and thus the main villain in this novel) all seem evil, maiming or injuring random passersby just because. But they also band together by turns for various common goals–though I couldn’t tell you what those goals were, exactly. I do remember a few ultra-dramatic plot twists that reminded me a bit of a soap opera (who is Scarlett’s real father? Who was Empress Elantine’s true heir?), but I couldn’t really tell you whether these twists fit or didn’t fit with the previous two books. I don’t recall any setup for them, certainly.
Finale is certainly poetic, gorgeously so, but it was so slippery that I felt like I couldn’t sink my teeth in anywhere. Each new fantastical scene shift, each new magical rule, and each dramatic reveal became almost laughable after awhile. At a certain point, the whole story requires suspension of disbelief, and you just go with it. Still, I’m glad I read it, if only because the emotions and the descriptions are SO well done!
My rating: *** 1/2