Day 1 | Day 2
TITLE: Finnikin of the Rock
SERIES: Lumatere Chronicles, #1
AUTHOR: Melina Marchetta
FORMAT: eBook, 417 Pages
Ten years ago, tragedy and betrayal destroyed the kingdom of Lumatere. The royal family was ruthlessly murdered, an impostor took the throne, and a terrible curse brought darkness in its wake. Finnikin, now numbering among the thousands of the displaced and the exiled, has spent those ten years traveling the country in search of a second homeland for his people. It all seems hopeless, until word reaches Finnikin and his guardian of a girl who can lead them to an unexpected salvation: a surviving heir to the throne, one who could lead them back to Lumatere at last. Countless dangers, lies, and secrets stand between them and their beloved home, but the only way is forward, and neither Finnikin nor Evanjalin would ever consider turning back.
Guys, I still can’t be coherent over this book. It’s so pathetic. I already spent the entire experience reading it either A) running around the house cheering or B) running around the house weeping because it was JUST. THAT. GOOD. It reminded me of all the things I love about High Fantasy, because it contains all of them and then some. The characters are compelling, the story is moving… even the romance (which is not the most prominent feature by a long shot) had me squeaking and carrying on like an idiot. As soon as I turned the last page, I turned BACK and read the last chapter again because I couldn’t bear to let go. In fact, I am refraining from starting the next book in the series on purpose, knowing that I will get absolutely nothing done if I let myself read it right now. Anyway, keep reading for more of my lovestruck babbling.
Don’t be fooled: while this book is called Finnikin of the Rock, Finnikin himself only carries half the story. The other half is in the hands of Evanjalin, a force of nature whose determination, foresight, and resourcefulness are just plain intense. She became an instant favorite of mine. I read a lot of books in this genre, and it saddens me to admit that there is a shortage of fantasy heroines for girls and women to look up to; like video games, it’s still unfortunately very much the territory of men and male-oriented themes. Even Finnikin has quite a few moments spent being a colossal man-child. I maintain that Evanjalin is the heart of this book, even if it doesn’t bear her name in the title. Finnikin himself often acknowledges that he’d be lost without her, and it’s completely true. This is a girl who’s come through the fire, who has been forced to endure death, betrayal, and countless dangers to make it to where she is now. She’s a fighter, and she’s tough without losing her inherent qualities of kindness and compassion. Most of all, she makes mistakes. She lies, takes risks, drives her companions up the wall with her crackpot schemes. But Evanjalin is willing to do anything to save the land of her birth, and that in itself is heroic to me.
Okay, so Evanjalin leads Finnikin around by the nose a lot. This isn’t disparaging Finnikin, who balances her utterly. Another quality of the book that makes me love it is the relationship between these two, who spend a lot of time at odds with one another and yet are inseparable nonetheless. It’s a friendship, and an undeniable romance (more of a rivalmance, actually), but most of all a partnership. They would tear throats for each other, go to war for each other, die for each other. It’s the kind of epic love story that is all the more powerful because it isn’t the only thing going on. It’s there, behind the scenes, and when it takes center stage it just results in the most poignant, moving moments of the entire story. They’re not a perfect pair — their relationship is frequently challenged, both by outside elements and by their own doubts. But there’s no stopping them, and there’s no question that they belong together.
Hang on, I have to go cry again. Ugh. This book reduces me to a sobbing wreck.
Ahem. Back to me reviewing this book. The plot itself is a bit linear, mostly following the usual layout of an epic adventure, but Marchetta fills in the tried and true format with living, breathing details. Finnikin and Evanjalin were born in the kingdom of Lumatere, brought down by regicide, betrayal and dark magic a decade ago. Their people are exiles, wandering the continent in search of a home to replace the one they lost. There is suffering, poverty, and bloodshed. One of the main conflicts between Finn and Evanjalin is the question of what their next step should be. Is it better for the Lumaterans to establish a second homeland and finally surrender the one that is rightfully theirs, or should they come together and reclaim their kingdom once and for all? There’s no easy answer to that question, and no painless way to win. No matter which direction they choose, loss and sacrifice are inevitable. This is the story of their journey home, wherever home will finally be, but it’s also a journey of self-discovery, and the process of learning what home truly means.
Before you decide you want to experience this book, be aware that readers who don’t usually go for fantasy may be discouraged by the sheer size of Marchetta’s world and its population of characters. There are a lot of names to remember, places to recall, and an entire history to learn. There is never a massive info dump, but if you’re daunted by this aspect of the genre, you may have some issues.
Finnikin of the Rock now has a permanent place in my heart. It’s unforgettable, intense, and moving. It took my heart and crushed it, and yet I just want more. Regular readers of the genre will appreciate its handling of the usual ingredients for epic High Fantasy while still coming through with unique elements. Those who gravitate toward books with compelling characters need look no further. And if you’re a girl who reads fantasy and has long been disappointed with how terribly boy-centric they are, you need to meet Evanjalin and watch her run circles around Finnikin. It’s extremely gratifying. (Note: if you don’t like this book, don’t tell me. We may have to fight. LOL.)