Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. Candlewick. 2010. Gift.
The Plot: When Finnikin was nine, the world as he knew it ended. The royal family of Lumatere, murdered; his father, the head of the King’s Guard, jailed; chaos, murder, betrayal, and curses resulted in half of the kingdom of Lumatere in exile and half trapped in the kingdom itself.
For ten years, Finnikin has dedicated himself to the exiles of Lumatere. He sees his people struggle in refuge camps, forgetting their language, struck down by disease, homeless, murdered.
A whisper of a rumor is heard: one of the royal family survived. Prince Balthazar, Finnikin’s childhood friend. There have been rumors before, of course, of Balthazar’s escape, because his body wasn’t found after the slaughter of his sisters and parents. Evanjalin, another teenage refugee, has the gift of walking through other’s sleep. She can find Balthazar, she is certain, she can find the lost heir, lead him to the gates of Lumatere, break the curse that traps half their people outside the kingdom, half inside. All she needs is Finnikin, and for him to trust her. In ten years of exile, Finnikin has learned to trust only himself. Together, can they save their people?
The Good: I love this book so much that I stayed up till four in the morning reading it.
I love this book so much that I am now torn between two book boyfriends (Eugenides and Finnikin), feeling like a fool, loving them both is breaking all the rules.
The reader is thrust into Finnikin’s world, and it takes a while to find one’s footing. To understand what has happened in Lumatere, to comprehend the horror of exile, to appreciate what Finnikin has sacrificed and accomplished in ten years. The reader is playing catch up in Finnikin’s world — much as the exiles have done and continue to do so, in the world outside of Lumatere.
The exiles; their experiences are as varied as the people. Finnikin was apprenticed to Sir Topher, loyal to Lumatere and to Finnikin’s father, Trevanion. Sir Topher is driven to take care of the exiles, find a solution, and to educate Finnikin. Ironically, had Finnikin remained in Lumatere, Finnikin would have been raised to be his father’s son: a member of the King’s Guard. Raised outside the kingdom walls, Finnikin has been given an almost royal education, in languages, politics, and fighting styles beyond that of his native country. He is caught up, heart and soul, in Sir Topher’s mission to care for the people.
Finnikin had given up hope of returning to Lumatere, focusing instead on life outside. Better to deal with the reality of today than waste time dreaming of home. With the appearance of Evanjalin, hope appears. Evanjalin, an exile, has survived the worst of exile life: massacre and slavery. Yet she still has hope. She still has faith. She believes. Evanjalin wants Finnikin to have hope. She doesn’t defer to Finnikin; she challenges him, she ignores him, she pushes him.
Marchetta has created a complex and often dark world. The stakes are high; people are tortured, raped, murdered. The worst happens. It isn’t sugarcoated and light. It is harsh and brutal. And yet — love survives, and life, and happiness, and even hope. It isn’t easy. But then, life isn’t. The worst happens and the world doesn’t end. People go on.
I love, love, love Finnikin. I love him because he is a true, good, person, stronger and better than he may realize. I love, love, love Evanjalin because she is driven and has a mission and, like Finnikin, is a true, good, person. And I love, love, love how Finnikin and Evanjalin begin to see each other as friends and then something more. And I love, love, love Finnkin of the Rock because it is about these two wonderful people.
What else? There is adventure! One cannot simply go up to the gates and say “go away curse! open up!”. And once the gates are open, what then? People are needed. An army is needed. What Finnikin has to do to put all the pieces in place…. fights and battles and escapes. There are politics aplenty, from who killed the royal family and why to how the sudden loss of one kingdom impacts the other kingdoms in this land. There is also a haunting picture of the immigrant experience, as we see how unwelcome the exiles are made.
Finnikin of the Rock is a standalone book. Marchetta’s universe and supporting cast of characters is so engaging that I’m left wanting more. Lucky for me, and you, Marchetta is working on a sequel!
Part of the joy of today’s young adult fiction is that many of the titles can be enjoyed by adults. Finnikin is nineteen, and any reader will enjoy the story of restoring a kingdom.
Is this a Favorite Book Read in 2010? YES!!!!! I so adore Finnikin, and his relationship with Evanjalin, and Evanjalin’s strength. I love that I feel as if I knew Lumatere, knew the hills and mountains. And I love that cried for the last fifty pages of the book.
Oh, before I forget, the two covers. The top one is the US edition; the bottom, the UK edition. Which do you like better?