Finnikin of the Rock

10636358by Melina Marchetta
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars

This book perplexed me. I think it might be a case of right book / wrong time. The writing is good – the story is good – I just had so much trouble connecting with it. Part of it might be because I don’t have a strong sense of “home” or “national pride” and since that is essentially the entire theme of this book it would explain why I couldn’t get into it.

Finnikin of the Rock and his mentor Sir Topher are traveling around various kingdoms chronicling a list of names and stories from Lumateran refugees. During the five days of the unspeakable, the royal family was murdered and an imposter king took the throne. For ten years, Lumatere has been bound by a dark blood curse, preventing anyone from entering or leaving the kingdom. Then Finnikin encounters a novice named Evanjalin who claims to know the prince lives and wants to reunite Lumaterans to take back their kingdom.

Lots and lots of world-building: countries, politics, trade, people – names and names and names – in the first fifty pages. The writing feels very formal (think Lord of the Rings style) and for me that always puts distance between me and the main character. I had trouble seeing any stakes for these characters (again, since I don’t relate to the reclaiming a home theme) and I never felt like I knew what they were thinking. Aspects of the religion and magic fascinated me, but those got the shortest explanations.

There is a strange blend of overt sexism (also trigger warning for attempted rape) with overt feminism. It also made me very uncomfortable that the character who escaped being raped was forced to be around her rapist for the remainder of the book—and even befriended him in a way. At times he would attempt to leave the narrative and she was the one returning him to their group for unclear reasons.

I think revisiting this at another time would allow me to be more objective. As it stands – hm, I say to this story. Hmmmm.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Finnikin of the Rock is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Dragonfly by Julia Golding – A betrothal between a wild prince and an orderly princess goes awry when they are both kidnapped. They must work together to escape and save their kingdoms, and along the way you get plenty of world-building and intrigue.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – Seraphina is a talented musician working for the king, but as tensions mount between the dragons and humans she begins to worry her own past might be revealed. Fascinating characters and a world that will stick with you. See my review here.
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner – Another example of myth and world-building adding to the story.  A thief is released from prison to hunt a treasure for the king. Cleverness and adventure and amazing writing! I loved this and need to read it again.
  • The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien – If you’re talking about a king returning from exile to reclaim his kingdom you have to think of this classic story. Friendships, battles, plenty of world-building history and mythology as well. The Fellowship’s quest comes to a close in this epic finale.
  • Eon by Alison Goodman – An incredible non-western setting where Eon (a girl disguised as a boy) competes to be chosen for one of the twelve zodiacal dragons which help rule and stabilize the kingdom. See my review here.

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