finnikinFinnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta
Release Date: April 6, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance…and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin’s faith in her…but in himself

Review:

I want to start off by asking a rhetorical question: why did it take me so long to read any Marchetta? Everyone seems to love her and Saving Francesca has been on my TBR for awhile. I was feeling like some fantasy after a weekend of stats homework, and Finnikin was right there waiting for me. And I love it.

This is classic fantasy, all swords and magic and evil, imposter kings. Finnikin is fighting to recover his beloved land of Lumatere, a decade after the royal family was slaughtered and the kingdom closed by impenetrable gates and black mist. Lumatere is lost to most, but not to Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, nor the badass novice, Evanjalin.  Evanjalin is not all she seems, and this is her story as much as it is Finnikin’s.  We see them fight to gather the old aristocracy, the ones loyal to the murdered royal family, and begin to make a resistance to the false-king of lost Lumatere.  This is a fast-paced story that doesn’t languish anywhere even though the party travels through most of the novel.  They are forced to fight, to steal, to cheat, to kill, all just to get back to the land of their birth.  Evanjalin is supposedly promised to Balthazar, the heir who lived, but Finnikin has been hearing some freaky prophecy since he was a child, so we don’t know anything, really.  There is a love story, but it is so subtle as to hardly exist at all (at least in the first half).  Finnikin’s father, Trevanion, and his band of merry men King’s Guard are reunited eventually, and then things begin to get real.

I sat around at class, in my apartment, on the bus, and tried to tease this prophecy of Finnikin’s out in my head.  I got to about chapter nineteen before I thought I knew what it meant.  At this point, it is clear that Finnikin and Evanjalin are in love, but what is not clear is is the heir actually lives.  The exiles begin to make their way home to Lumatere.  At around this same time, Marchetta manages to humanize Froi, a character I haven’t mentioned yet. Froi is a Lumateran orphan who is basically a feral child.  He steals from Evanjalin the first time we see him, and then he tries to rape her.  I was hoping someone would kill him, or sell him to the Sorel slave traders, but Froi begins turning into something else, something I’m interested in seeing.  Finnikin is fickle and has a tendency to turn on people, even Evanjalin, at the slightest provocation.  Evanjalin, and even Froi, eventually, became the heroes of this novel to me.  Evanjalin is stronger than all these men, if not physically then psychically and emotionally, and she manipulates them as she sees fit.  Her manipulations, however, are not out of malice or a desire to hurt; she just knows what needs to be done to accomplish the goal of retaking Lumatere.

The twist is one I wasn’t expecting, though I may be in the minority here.  It made me love the characters even more, but it made me feel even worse for Finnikin.  He’s so rigid in his beliefs of what his purpose is, and he is challenged at every turn.  He no longer knows who he is or where he stands.  I love Froi’s voice as he narrated these chapters, and the love story is so immensely powerful after the twist is revealed.  I hated everyone at the end–Finnikin, Evanjalin, everyone–because they’re all so hard-headed and wrong.  They’re all wrong and right at once.  They are self-righteous and stubborn, two traits that drive me up a wall.  Finnikin is especially annoying, because he is at once self-righteous and plagued by survivor’s guilt.  I wanted to scream at him to let it go, and Evanjalin can be no better.  She has never really known how to compromise, and in her position at the end of the book, she doesn’t have to.  All of that means nothing, though, because I loved this story to distraction.

This is a beautiful story of betrayal and darkness, love and victory, and it shouldn’t be missed.