I received this book for free from Publisher, Purchased in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Also by this author: Jellicoe Road
Series: Lumatere Chronicles #1
Published by Candlewick Press on 2010-04-06
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Source: Publisher, Purchased
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Finnikin was only a child during the five days of the unspeakable, when the royal family of Lumatere were brutally murdered, and an imposter seized the throne. Now a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere’s walls, and those who escaped roam the surrounding lands as exiles, persecuted and despairing, dying by the thousands in fever camps. In a narrative crackling with the tension of an imminent storm, Finnikin, now on the cusp on manhood, is compelled to join forces with an arrogant and enigmatic young novice named Evanjalin, who claims that her dark dreams will lead the exiles to a surviving royal child and a way to pierce the cursed barrier and regain the land of Lumatere. But Evanjalin’s unpredictable behavior suggests that she is not what she seems—and the startling truth will test Finnikin’s faith not only in her, but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.
It is well in my soul. Sometimes I think we read books because they fill us up to the brim and we are able to walk about our lives knowing that these great, all encompassing stories exist and we’ve read them and want to share them with the world, to the point where people like me get all incoherent in our love. Finnikin Of The Rock by Melina Marchetta is the best book that I’ve read so far this summer, I think. I just want to take a victory lap after finishing this book, in fact I am going to go on a victory lap disguised as a run. But for serious, this book, the first of the Lumatere Chronicles is everything I have ever wanted in a fantasy book. It’s that kind of book that causes a legitimate stirring in your chest, that causes pain, that causes swoons, that when you close it you are bereft because the book is over. That’s how I feel about Finnikin of the Rock and if I thought I was in the Melina Marchetta fan club before, I am now in the super fan club, because oh my god I am in love with this book. I can’t even.
When Finnikin (of the Rock) was nine years old, his world fell apart. The five days of the unspeakable happened. The royal family of Lumatere was brutally murdered. The Forest Dwellers were massacred. An imposter stole the the throne of Lumatere. Those who could escaped Lumatere and have lived ten years as exiles, while those inside Lumatere have been living under a curse. It has been impossible to get back inside Lumatere, until now. You see, the kingdom has been sealed off. Yet, when Finnikin has this dream telling him to go find the novice Evanjalin, a whole chain of events is kicked off. You see, Evanjalin is saying that Balthazar, the heir to the throne, is alive and she can lead Finnikin to Balthazar, who can go to the gate and bring the exiles home to Lumatere, reuniting a nation torn asunder. And so, Finnikin finds Evanjalin and begins the long journey home with the First Man, Sir Topher who is to be advisor to the king, and a young thief named Froi. Finnikin will overcome many obstacles to come home to Lumatere. Finnikin Of The Rock is a deeply romantic story of not just Finnikin and the dream walker Evanjalin, but of a people who have suffered unspeakable things who will finally, finally return to their land. This is the story for those who love an underdog.
I feel like I could just go on and on and start every paragraph with I LOVE this character and I LOVE that character and I LOVE this element and I LOVE that element. But, of course, that gets kind of stale. So here’s the deal, Finnikin is one of my favorite heroes ever. He is just so damn stubborn. He is a leader and knows all these different languages because of his time in exile traveling with Sir Topher. He’s got a great capacity for kindness. Yet, when we start the book, his focus while traveling is on recording the names of the dead in his Book of Lumatere as opposed to the names of the living. He is so focused on his loss, and of course you guys it is a deep loss. But then, he meets Evanjalin and it’s kind of like this major attraction at first sight, even though she’s basically bald. She challenges him. He is not even sure if he trusts her. But, he follows her because the hope in his chest is so deep and he wants so badly to find Balthazar, pass through the gate, and go home. Also, I have to say one of the things I love about Finnikin is his weaknesses. You see, he finds himself consumed with jealousy of Balthazar. He wants to be king, in fact one of the pledges that he made as a kid alludes to him becoming king. Yet he knows he could only ever be king if Balthazar dies. So, he feels guilty about this.
ALSO OMG this needs it’s own paragraph but the relationship between Finnikin and his father Trevanion who is Captain of the Guard needs to be written about. Oh, sigh you guys, just sigh. So, all through the book I was expecting Trevanion to die because that’s how fantasy tropes usually work. But this book ended up surprising me. What I got was a very rare close bond between father and son. I got to see Trevanion show how deeply he cares for Finnikin and not hide his emotions. It’s this whole different view of masculinity that is so refreshing and different from the stoicism that I usually come across in fantasy books. I just, I loved it. And I challenge you to read Finnikin Of The Rock and not find yourself overcome by Melina Marchetta’s portrayal of a father and his son. It’s perfection.
But okay, so as much as I love Finnikin, I think I love Evanjalin even more. When Finnikin Of The Rock opens, or at least when we first come across Evanjalin she is like this mysterious character. Her motivations are hard to parse out. We really do not know much about her background or anything. Yet, we learn that she’s got a plan when it comes to getting back to Lumatere. Evanjalin is one HBIC and I mean that as a compliment. Like, if you think Finnikin is stubborn, his will is nothing compared to Evanjalin’s. She is the very definition of intractable. She’s going to do whatever it takes to save her people, even if it makes Finnikin mad at her, even if it involves stretching the truth, even if it involves going through the worst kind of pain in the world. She will do it and like a boss.
I should probably insert something about World Building here, and yes those capital letters are on purpose. Friends, Melina Marchetta is the queen now. Like, I loved this world. Actually, what I really loved were the people, from the Monts to the Flatlanders to the people of the Rock. All of them. I loved reading about the exile camps, even though it was really painful, I relished the pain of being able to feel empathy for these refugees. I loved reading about how the people followed two goddesses, one light, one dark named Sagrami and Lagrami. I loved reading about the King’s Guard. I loved reading about the prophecy from when Finnikin was eight, from this woman named Seranonna. I loved this whole entire book and the lore of Lumatere.
So, what really made me kind of need to take a run with my victory feelings at the end was the romance. For anyone who has ever said they love a slow burn, you need to read Finnikin Of The Rock. You should definitely realize this book is the real deal. How the romance develops is perfect. There’s hate. There’s love. There’s this need to find the other. There’s straight up resistance. There is talk of Finnikin’s future farm with his future bride with marigolds in her hair. There is the perfect scene at the end. There is the matter of stepping up to the plate and being worthy of the one you love. Just, oh my goodness. If you are a sucker for romantic fantasy, you will love this book. I am so overcome with feelings and emotions and so much of them stem from the relationship between Finnikin and Evanjalin.