Thursday, March 14, 2013
Series: Lumatere Chronicles #1
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: February 9, 2010
Source/Format: Bought/Kindle eBook
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere.
But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.
Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock--to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin 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. (from Goodreads)
After reading Jellicoe Road last year and gushing all about Melina's writing, I was eagerly anticipating starting the rest of her books. While I was excited back then, it's certainly take some time for me to finally pick up Finnikin of the Rock, the first of the Lumatere Chronicles, and I finally did so as a participant in the read-along hosted by Hannah. I honestly had difficulty really getting into the story at the beginning, but eventually, a few chapters in, I found myself extremely invested in the outcome of this story and the lives of these intricately written characters. Finnikin of the Rock is not the easiest of books to read, but I found it to be well worth my while.
The book was daunting to me at the start, and for the first few chapters, I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. This had a lot to do with the way the story is written, which is a road block that I also encountered with Jellicoe Road. After a few chapters, my brain had adjusted to the story and I was eager to see what was going to happen from there. So, I will warn all of you - it does take some time to get invested in this novel.
A core element of a good fantasy novel is strong world-building. While there's certainly still a bit of mystery left for the readers, Finnikin of the Rock boasted a nice, strong foundation of the world that this series is set in. Every single place mentioned, every culture referred to is all particular to this novel. While it may be confusing to most readers, I soaked it all up, fascinated by the little details that Melina wove into her bigger picture storyline. It helped that there was a map at the front of the book (which I took a screen cap of) to help me navigate during the journey Finnikin and company take.
But what really sets this novel apart, at least for me, are the characters. Melina writes this entire cast of characters that are complex, real and surprisingly easy to relate to. Each character was memorable and unique, and I find that a week or two after finishing the novel, I'm still thinking about them all. This is not to say that I always liked every single character in the book; in fact, I'm pretty sure that I went through a phase where I teetered on the brink of hating each and every single one of them (except, perhaps, Beatriss and Balthazar) because I didn't always like their choices. I loved the fact that this happened because it just drove home the point that these characters aren't necessarily perfect or right all the time, which made them truly pop out to me.
Finnikin is actually not my favorite, in spite of the fact that the story mostly revolves around him. He's been journeying with his mentor, Sir Topher, for years, visiting exile camps and trying to find a place to create a "new Lumatere" since the old one appeared to be lost to them. Finnikin grated on my nerves at times. Sometimes, he was too focused on the future and determined to put his past behind him; other times, he dwelt on the past and the people who had died or suffered after the loss of their beloved Lumatere. And there were plenty of times when I felt like he lacked courage. But the reason why I do have a soft spot for him is because this self-doubt, denial and desire to flee or forget is so very human. While I didn't necessarily agree with him all the time, I could understand him and his motives.
Evanjalin is my favorite, despite the fact that I was sorely tempted to yell at her at times. She's stubborn and tough, determined and mysterious, kick-ass yet still very vulnerable. She's got an independent nature, and that often leads to her taking the road less traveled in spite of what others would say. It was her combination of strength and vulnerability that really allowed me to feel for her, and fall in love with her character. The one thing that bothered me about her was her tendency to omit the truth in conversations, often just including the details that were pertinent at the time and nothing more. While I could understand her reasons for doing so, it did bother me, especially when it was so blatantly obvious that she certainly knew more than she let on. When everything is said and done though, Evanjalin is a great character.
Majority of the fantasy novels I read always culminate in some epic battle of good versus evil (innocent versus corrupt, etc). This one does not, which caught me off guard. At first, I was up in arms about it, but in the end, I realized that it could not have played out any other way. While this book is about the Lumaterans finding their way home with the help of Evanjalin, it is not about an external battle with swords and weapons (though they do appear, mind you). It is, rather, a quieter, more introspective novel - and the battles raging are mostly internal. Finnikin and Evanjalin (and most of the secondary cast) have individual issues to be dealt with, and this story shows us how they do that even as they reclaim Lumatere for their own people.
This novel is another remarkably written, complex piece of work from Melina Marchetta. It's one of those novels where you really have to get used to the writing and the storytelling first, but where you'll discover that it's worth it once you've finished. I thoroughly enjoyed Finnikin of the Rock, and am looking forward to continuing the series with Froi of the Exiles this month.