A part of me, a very small part, wanted to be a little generous and give this book two stars. I very nearly did, initially, as credit is deserved when credit is due and Finale definitely improved over the disasters that the first two novels were. Unfortunately, when I look back at all my notes while reading this novel, it becomes pretty clear that despite improvements, this book retains a great number of the problems that arose in previous novels of the series. And while the villain of this particular novel was a nice change of pace from the prior books, various decisions that Garber made on his end were incredibly ridiculous, predictable, and even manipulative on her end. And ultimately, I am still left wondering what on earth possesses Garber to believe that I, as a reader, should have any sort of positive feeling toward a single one of these characters. It all comes down to, I think, the image that Garber has in her head and the poor portrayal of the characters. She tells us regularly who each of these characters are and then proceeds to write them in a manner that does not match those previous statements.
Lets begin with the characters; they’re all generally awful people. Not a single one, literally aside from Legend who is purported as one of the most selfish, comes across as unselfish. Scarlet is selfish, Julian is selfish, and Tella is the most selfish. Worse, she is petty to the point of instantly hating another woman for simply being pretty and knowing Legend somewhat intimately. Yet, somehow I am supposed to believe that these characters are loving and self-sacrificing. They’re just not. Of all the characters, ironically the only one I could ever bring myself to like a tiny amount, surprisingly enough as I hated him in the past two novels, was Legend if only for his few moments of sacrifice. And then the single moment where I actually felt anything for what was happening in this novel came from a heart-wrenching moment with a dog who really never deserved to be made part of the disaster that is the lives of these characters.
The men in this story are disturbingly predatory in a great many ways and fortunately Garber does call this behavior out as problematic. But even so, there was a moment within the story in which one of the characters is forced, unknowingly, into doing something that she would never willingly do and then later made to feel bad for hurting the character who’d forced her out of a desire to reverse it, though reversal was impossible. This entire side plot made me extremely uncomfortable and made the implication that one should feel bad for hurting the person who took away your ability to consent.
And, to cherry top the novel is the inclusion of not one but two ridiculous love triangles. The love triangles only exist to further show the selfishness of the main characters, though I suppose Garber’s desire for them was to make readers doubt and guess at her ultimate goal for the ships. It doesn’t work, of course, and predicting the relationship outcome for the novel takes no time or work at all. Not only do we already know who both Tella and Scarlett will end up with, but we spend a ridiculous amount of time on Tella’s runabout between the two immortal men in her life who supposedly only want to possess her. Tella regularly questions which man actually “loves” her, despite the answer being painstakingly obvious in every way aside from the character in question actually making the statement, “I love you.” Scarlett’s love triangle is blessedly short-lived in comparison, though it lasted much longer than necessary and also served as a plot point to further the rest of the story. It was all rather painful to read.
The main villain of the story had potential. In fact, it was the work that went into the fates that made me almost appreciate the story. They were interesting and, had the main characters been better, might have served for decent adversaries. But not only were all their efforts to defeat these villains somewhat paltry and silly, following the previous novels by having everything relevant simply land in the laps of the characters trying to defeat the monsters the fates were, the moment in which they finally win was incredibly anti-climactic. Add in the fact that Garber goes as far as she can to make us feel bad for the villain as he’s defeated and I was left more annoyed than before. The backstory of the villain doesn’t make me care about him, though it is made clear that Garber wants me to care. It was a poor attempt at manipulating the emotions of her readers and later resulted in one of the most ridiculous endings I’ve read in quite some time.
As a small aside, I couldn’t help noticing some very uncanny similarities between one of the villains in this novel, Jacks, and the character Jac from Amanda Foody’s Ace of Shades series. Their abilities to take away pain, mainly, and the fact that it hurts them in the process as they feel all the pain of the person for whom they are taking it. This alone was somewhat fascinating to me as I went and checked the publication dates of these books and noticed that they were fairly similar and so I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that anything was borrowed from the others’ novels, but it does seem as though Jacks has far too many similarities and Jac did come first.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.