Thursday, March 14, 2013

Finnikin of the Rock - Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock book cover
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
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.

21 comments:

  1. I really loved this book, though I did have to get used to the writing a little as well :) And yeah, Evanjalin is pretty awesome, though I wanted to yell at her at times too, lol! And I always love a book that has a good map :)

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    1. I love the fact that there's a map! It helped me keep track of where everyone was in terms of location. And that's a really good thing!

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  2. I have heard about this book, but never written a review. I will definitely be looking into it. Great review!

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    1. It's actually a tough book to review, if I'm being honest. Marchetta's books are so extremely unique that it's really hard to describe what I love about them. But I tried, and I definitely am glad you enjoyed my review.

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  3. I'm planning to read this book this month! I've heard great things about it and I like the sound of it. The world-building sounds great and that is very important for me. I think I will really like Evanjalin; stubborn, determined, kick-ass, that is how I want them! Great review :D

    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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    1. Evanjalin is quite the character, if I may say. She's equal parts frustrating and fascinating, so there's that - but in the end, she's the character that I truly admired the most!

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  4. I wanted to fall head over heels for this one. I really did! Like you said, this is an introspective and slower paced book so now that I know that, I think trying to read it again in the future will be much more enjoyable!

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    1. It's a bit of a shock to the system, I think, especially when you read fantasy as much as you and I do. I think, eventually, since you kind of know what you're getting into, you'll be able to truly enjoy this one. Hope you get to pick it up again!

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  5. I've wanted to read this one for some time. I'm just a little scared off by the length. I wasn't aware the same person who wrote Jellico Road wrote this too. That makes my desire for the book go up quite a bit because I've always wanted to read Jellico Rd and have heard great things about it.

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    1. I'm not even going to lie and say that it's an easy read, because it really isn't. But I do think that it's worth it! I struggled at the start, but eventually found myself completely taken in by the story. It's done so well, honestly, that you can't help but love it.

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    1. I take it that you're a fan then? :)

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  7. This book! It took me a little while (and two renewals at the library) to get into it, but once I did... wowzer! Definitely enjoyed it and how unique of a fantasy it was. I kind of liked that it wasn't huge, epic fantasy battle, good and evil! It was just enjoyable seeing these two easily-relatable characters having to deal with their own issues. I really need to read Froi!

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    1. RIGHT? I thought that it was very different from most fantasy books because there was no epic battle to be fought, just a quieter, internal sort of struggle. But yes, read Froi! I'm reading it now and LOVING it even more than Finnikin!

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  8. This book sounds intriguing! I actually haven't read anything by Melina Marchetta before, though Jellicoe Road has been on my TBR for-e-ver. It sounds like a unique fantasy, and I'm always up for that :)

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    1. I definitely think you should read Jellicoe Road. That was my first experience with a Marchetta novel, and it's still the best one. I really loved it!

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  9. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this! I definitely had an adjustment period when reading Jellicoe Road, and I think the same thing is true for Finnikin of the Rock (I read it in my pre-blogger days, so I don't remember too well). At least in those books, Marchetta's world is a little difficult to get into initially, but definitely ends up being worth the struggle by the end. I love how you put it: "a quieter, more introspective novel." That is completely true, and I think it's something frequently overlooked in so many fantasy novels, where both writers and readers expect a story where there is some very clear resolution between good and evil. Your review has definitely whetted my appetite for a Finnikin re-reading myself before moving on to read Froi and Quintana.

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    1. I'm so glad that I convinced you to do a re-read of Finnikin! It really is a standout fantasy novel, just because of how it's written. I do hope that you get to reading the rest of the series soon :)

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  10. I enjoyed this book a lot, as well! :) Yes, the beginning is such that it takes some time getting used to it, but once you're in, you're hooked! I loved Evanjalin too!

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    1. I completely agree! I was hooked before I knew it - and I loved reading it all the way to the end. I'm reading Froi now and I love it even more!

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  11. I loved this book, but I have to admit I didn't really love Evanjalin until the second time I read it. Then, understanding what she was up to and what it required of her made me love her so, so much! I also really love Finnikin, though. I know for a lot of people, Froi is their favorite. But I like everything about Finnikin pretty much. Even his flaws.

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Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

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