Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 2/9/10
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Blurb (GR): At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere.
But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.
Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock--to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin 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.
In a bold departure from her acclaimed contemporary novels, Printz Medalist Melina Marchetta has crafted an epic fantasy of ancient magic, feudal intrigue, romance, and bloodshed that will rivet you from the first page.
My second reading of Finnikin of the Rock and I am changing my mind - 5 stars!
Now, when I have more fantasy under my belt to compare this book to, I am pretty confident it offers something that many others in the genre don't. This is a fantasy that is not drowned in clunky, 1000-pages long world-building, this is a book about people. People whose country is torn into pieces, people exiled from their homeland, lost, damaged, abused men, women and children. As a story of a displaced, broken nation that fights to rebuild itself Finnikin of the Rock is almost without a flaw.
But of course there is more to love. All the nuances of the narrative, plot lines that make Melina's works so rich - there is a love story in which a couple struggle for the upper hand in their young relationship; there are scenes of friendship and loyalty; there are intricacies of the relationships between fathers and sons, respect, pride and competitiveness all tangled; there is a heartbreak of a love once powerful but now sullied by years of violence and abuse; there is an enemy, despicable and crass, but now not reformed but changed; there are strong men and there are even stronger women. It's hard to list it all, but Melina writes everything with such power, managing to break your heart with a sentence, a word, a glance.
I still think the pacing could have been better though. The climax, the high point of the story, is simply too short, too understated. There is not enough feeling of a lot being at stake, it lacks danger and excitement.
However, there are so many other things about Finnikin of the Rock I loved that I am happy to overlook the obvious flaws, to stick to my 5 stars and to wait for Froi of the Exiles with eager anticipation.