Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Review - Finnikin of the Rock / Melina Marchetta

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 see seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin's faith in her . . . but in himself. Penguin

Review - I am an ardent Melina Marchetta worshipper for many years. Actually I have been since her debut novel, Looking for Alibrandi, was published in 1992 - I know I am revealing my age but oh phooey! Despite my love, I was immeditately wary when I saw that this novel fell within the fantasy genre. Now I don't want to be a book snob but the only fantasy I have really enjoyed are authored by Tamora Pierce (I am very willing to be proven wrong - make your recommendations).

Melina is gifted in her characterisation and as such, I was quickly sucked into the world of Skuldendore and the royal family of Lumatere. Typically the invented lands and weird names of the fantasy genre, similtaneously scare and baffle me but this wasn't the case in this novel. In fact, I rarely found myself referring to the map or even puzzling over which kind of landscape they were trudging over now. Why? The characters were too involving, the relationships and dialogue too rich and the politics of the lands too interesting to wallow over those things.

There is magic but it's grounded, so as not to lose the reader. Dream walking and magical geographical boundaries are the worst of it. It's here where the novel really gets interesting -the royal family was slaughtered ten years prior, quickly followed by the torturous murders of countless citizens in retribution. These events are refered to as the Five Days of the Unspeakable. Parallels to Dafur cannot be lost, as can't the affect fear has on people. Those who flee Lumatere's limits, Finnikin and other refugees, are separated from their loved ones by a magical barrier that makes communication impossible. The aim is to bring the scattered Lumaterians together, if not in Lumatere then a piece of land gifted from their neighbouring countries.

All Marchetta's previous works have featured female protagonists with strong familial themes, Finnikin is male but the theme of family is just as present. Finnikin was a character that I warmed up to slowly, he's someone that makes no ties to land nor people in recent years, traveling his fictional land with his mentor, Sir Topher.It is upon the introduction of Evanjalin, that Finnikin embarks on the biggest journey of all. Her presence stretches him to his limits (and past them) and the dialogue between them is sparky. The give and take of this relationship is what really makes this a page turner. I loved Evanjalin but I was equally frustrated with her most of the time too. It's these wonderfully crafted characters that really make you see them succeed.

I feel that this a great departure for Marchetta, she really challenges herself which should be congratulated. That being said, I did guess correctly the mystery early on but it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the journey. I find myself wondering, is there anything Melina can't do?

Published: 9 September 2008 (AUST)
Format: Paperback , 416 pages
Imprint: Viking
Publisher: Penguin Aus.
Origin: Australia


Liviania said...

No, there is nothing Melina can't do. That's why I love her so much. (I read LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI in 2003 on a librarian's recommendation, and I've never looked back.)

Danielle Zappavigna said...

i have this on my shelf, your review convinced me i really must read it soon!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

This looks pretty good, I almost picked it up once, I think I really will next time.

Unknown said...

I'm intrigued, I'll have to add it to my to read list. :)

And I'd recommend Graceling, but I know you've already read it. Haha.

food for silverfish said...

will definately have to read this one. have read all her others and love them.
i love tamora pierce too! her alanna the lioness series was my favourite, i haven't really read much like it since.

Anonymous said...

This was my least favourite Marchetta book. Don't get me wrong - it's well written, but I just didn't find it a stand out among other fantasy novels I've read.

For YA fantasy recs, I'd say Patricia McKillip (The Changeling Sea, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Od Magic, The Riddlemaster trilogy, The Bell at Sealey Head -- anything BUT Something Rich and Strange). Or maybe The Silver-Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. Not all of these are romances, though, so beware the ending!

A.J. said...

I loved it! X3

Rhiannon said...

hunger games and catching fire! epic, epic books. I would highly reccomend them if you haven't already checked them out. I also love Tamora Pierce, have you checked out the Pursuing the Lioness contest over at Tempting Persephone? It was a lot of fun for us long time Tamora Pierce fans.

Bibliovore said...

I'm an inveterate reader-from-the-back. Unapologetic, you might say. So I knew Evanjalin's secret from the start. Still enjoyed this muchly. The love story wasn't just "Oh, we're in love! Hugs and puppies!" but "Oh, we're in love. Aw, great. Now what?"

Unknown said...

I am surprised! I've read your blog for a while now and have enjoyed your opinions. As a YA reader you absolutely must read Garth Nix's work. My favorite series of his is the Abhorsen trilogy, but his others are quite excellent also.

Alyssa said...

I agree with you about the plot being predictable... well, the MAIN plot secret at least. But yes, I was also left wondering if there is anything Marchetta cannot write! Maybe a novel in reverse, or a thin paranormal romance. :)
- Alyssa of Redhead Heroines
Book Review of "Finnikin of the Rock" by Melina Marchetta