I have been a big fan of Marchetta’s contemporary young adult novels (Looking for Alibrandi, Jellicoe Road, and Saving Francesca) so when I heard that she was writing a fantasy for young adults, I knew I had to pick it up.
Ten years ago, Finnikin’s homeland of Lumatere suffered the massacre of its royal family and the vengeful curse of a mysterious priestess that caused an impenetrable dark mist to descend on the kingdom and prevent anybody from going in or out. Since that day, Finnikin and this guardian Sir Topher, along with many other Lumateran exiles have been trapped outside, with not even an inkling of how the citizens of Lumatere inside the kingdom are doing. Then, one day, Finnikin and Sir Topher are summoned to a religious cloister where it is revealed to them by a mysterious girl named Evanjalin that Balthazar, the son of the murdered king, is actually alive.
Together, the three of them set off together in search of the heir and the hope that one day Lumatere can be freed from its curse. Along the way, they encounter many refugee camps where the exiles of Lumatere now live; these camps are often nothing more than groups of tents, with people ravaged by fever and bereft of a future. The sight of these refugees drive our protagonists along on their quest to save the kingdom of Lumatere. But as they continue their travels, the mysterious Evanjalin unwittingly reveals that she is much more than what she claimed to be originally, and Finnikin must decide whether or not to trust her.
Everything about this book–the story, the characters, the plot, the history, the adventure–had so much potential but in the end it just didn’t work out for me.
One of the reasons I am such a big fan of Marchetta’s is because of her ability to draw in the reader with her writing, and make every emotion ring true. I connected very much with her protagonists in her contemporary YA novels, and I felt very emotionally tied in with the stories. However, this was not the case with Finnikin of the Rock. It felt like every chapter ended with an overwrought and overdramatic revelation or emotional realization by a character. There was no basis for it, it happened all the time, it felt fake and it made me want to roll my eyes.
The characters were at first intriguing, especially the mysterious Evanjalin. She was unpredictable, but at times to a point of being kind of out of character. Finnikin, the hero, had traditional hero characteristics (bravery, a quest, a mentor, fighting ability, honor) but not much more than that. Additionally, the romance that the author tried to inject into the plot was strangely plotted. At first our hero and heroine could barely remain civil to one another, and then a chapter later he was burning with lust for her. I didn’t get it. There wasn’t an ounce of sexual tension or emotional development. I didn’t feel like they were even friends yet, and then the romance was thrust upon us.
There was also some logistical weirdness, and all the distractions kept me from being able to enjoy the story. The world building was not solid. Marchetta’s fantasy geography and the history of the kingdoms within her world felt slapdash, stereotypical fantasy-land, and it did not stand out to me or make me care about the world in any way. I felt a large problem of the world building (as well as the characterizations, the romance, and the plot) was that there was too much telling, and not enough showing.
This book was extremely up and down for me. I would be reading along for a few pages and it would be smooth and well written and promising–but immediately it would go for some strange characterization, or awkward dialogue, or too-dramatic emotional revelation in a strange place in the story, and it would be downhill for awhile from there.
I’m still a big fan of Marchetta’s because her other books have been so amazing and are some of my favorites. However, her first foray into young adult fantasy didn’t wow me.
How did I get this book? My local library
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Author Website: http://www.melinamarchetta.com.au