Release Date: September 29th, 2008
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Age Group: Young Adult
Finnikin was only a child during the five days of the unspeakable, when the royal family of Lumatere were brutally murdered, and an imposter seized the throne. Now a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere’s walls, and those who escaped roam the surrounding lands as exiles, persecuted and despairing, dying by the thousands in fever camps. In a narrative crackling with the tension of an imminent storm, Finnikin, now on the cusp of manhood, is compelled to join forces with an arrogant and enigmatic young novice named Evanjalin, who claims that her dark dreams will lead the exiles to a surviving royal child and a way to pierce the cursed barrier and regain the land of Lumatere. But Evanjalin’s unpredictable behavior suggests that she 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.
Finding a really good Young Adult High/Epic Fantasy book or series in-between all the paranormal and romance that’s hot in the YA scene now, is hard. My first discovery was “Seven Realms” by Cinda Williams Chima, one of my all-time favorite YA Fantasy series out there. After reading “Finnikin of the Rock” I can safely say that I’ve found a second favorite. It has all the elements of a good Epic with that touch of Young Adult mixed in.
“Finnikin of the Rock” is very character driven and displays a lot of emotions and tough situations and decisions, all in the right proportions, making this a very enjoyable read. It’s not too overly laden with feelings, which you get a lot these days in YA, but perfectly fitting the setting and story.
There is some romance, of the typical Young Adult kind, but it was sweet and a lot more credible than in other YA novels. There is a lot of tension between the two lovers and the bickering really had me snickering sometimes. I don’t like my romance to mushy, so this was perfect!
The worldbuilding is rather simple, not that elaborate and the different kingdoms the characters have to travel through are not that far apart, as to not complicate things and stuff the book with travel chapters. It didn’t bother me all that much, though after reading a lot of Adult epics, the fact that another kingdom’s capital is just a day’s ride away, took some getting used to.
On the surface “Finnikin of the Rock” seems like just another High Fantasy tale with a fallen kingdom, a slain royal family, rumors about a surviving heir and the quest of a young hero to unite his scattered Lumateran people and reclaim their kingdom. Marchetta succeeded in adding just enough extras to set it apart from all the others. The people of Lumatere are divided in different regions: the Monts, the people from the River, the Flat Lands, … And in the forest there are the Forest Dwellers. These people worship another goddess, Sagrami, and when the invaders burned the Forest Dwellers’ houses and started slaughtering them, the Lumateran people closed their doors to the refugees.
Later the head of the Forest Dwellers was burned at the stake and with her final breath she cursed the kingdom. Since then there’s been a black, thick smoke surrounding the kingdom and no one can get in or out. The people who did get out in time are now known as “The Exiles” and live in camps in other countries, dying of fever, disease and hunger.
The only negative thing I can say about this book and the reason why I didn’t give it 5 dragons, but 4 dragons, is the fact that there is a grand secret revealed at the end of the story, but I guessed it at the very beginning. I like to be surprised by a story and that was taken away a bit this time. The big secret was a bit too obvious in my opinion.
Other than that, only words of praise from me. I read it in 2 days and lost track of time more than once while reading. It’s a captivating read for teens as well as adults and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes their fair portion of High Fantasy.