Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1) by Melina Marchetta
Published by Candlewick Press on February 9, 2010 (first published on September 29, 2008)
Genres: young adult, fantasy, romance
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I’m kicking myself. That’s how good this book is.
I’m kicking myself, because I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner.
This series comes highly recommended by several of my trusted review sources, and, though it’s an amazing series (judging by the first book, at least), it’s also incredibly underhyped. And that makes me sad, because Finnikin has everything bookworms could possibly want in a good YA high fantasy: strong and vivid characters, a steady-yet-unpredictable plot (the twist blew my mind, it was so clever), a wonderful romance that does not overpower the rest of the novel, and solid, detailed world-building. I was so happy.
I loved every single side character in this book (except for Froi, though he grew on me eventually). They’re all such fighters, so fierce and strong in their own ways (especially Evanjalin and Trevanion, both of whom I was cheering for so hard). They’ve all undergone hardship or trauma of some sort since the five days of the unspeakable (the name for the assassination of Lumatere’s royal family). The people of Lumatere are refugees, scattered and suffering, and I loved that Marchetta chose to portray a hurting, broken nation rather than one simply corrupt from the inside. Instead of focusing mainly on the cruelty of the current powers at hand, Marchetta focuses on the suffering and the humanity of the subjects, making their exile a matter of the heart rather than just a political issue. She characterizes the island of Skuldenore not by its boundaries or its nations, but by the people themselves and by the cultures and causes they hold.
It’s something I’ve seen before, but not the way she portrayed it. It felt so fresh and so real, and my heart ached for the people of Lumatere and sympathized with their plight. I was rooting for all of these characters every step of the way.
I’ve mentioned how the plot is steady, but unpredictable.What I mean by that is that the plot does not meander and stays course, but still has several twists which kept me on the edge of my seat. I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll tell you this: You’ll think you know exactly what’s going to happen, but, once you get to a certain point in this book, you’ll completely reevaulate your assumptions.
Finally, the romance. It was slow-burn and gradual and stubborn, just like the two characters it involved. I loved how fierce both of those characters are, and how they rub off of each other so well. They’re explosive, but in a slow and growing way, like rocks that create a spark, which expands into a fire that slowly warms you up. Even though they clash in several ways and they’re both strong-willed, they complement each other very nicely. (And, honestly, they’re probably one of my OTPs [One True Pairings].) Their relationship is a great reminder that nobody’s perfect and that compromise is necessary in relationships.
And the best part about it? Though it’s intense, it’s only an undertone to the main plot, never distracting from the rest of the story or the characters’ purpose. I loved that, just like I loved them.
If you enjoy YA fantasy and you’re looking for some great high fantasy, please, please, please check this book out. It’s very rare that I can love a book as completely as I loved this one. Books like this remind me why I love reading so much.