Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Welcome to the magical land of Lumatere, where a curse has shrouded the entire kingdom in a black fog, leaving half of its people trapped inside while thousands of exiles wander the land, looking for a place to settle. This has been the fate of Lumatere since the Five Days of the Unspeakable, in which the entire royal family was slaughtered and countless Lumaterans were brutally killed. Finnikin of the Rock follows Finnikin and the King’s First Man, Sir Topher, as they travel the land, creating records of the exiles they come across and looking for a new place for the exiled Lumaterans to settle and call home. One day, Sir Topher and Finnikin meet a young girl named Evanjalin, who claims to be able to walk through the sleep of others and swears that the young Lumateran prince survived the attack ten years prior. Through the rest of the book, we follow Finnikin as he attempts to gather the exiles and bring them back to their homeland.
I have heard many people rave about Finnikin of the Rock, and I can understand why so many people like it. I think it could be a good book to pick up if you are looking to get into reading fantasy, since it is not as complicated as a lot of fantasy worlds tend to be. Unfortunately, I ended up having a lot of problems with this book. The world didn’t really seem feasible, with five different races of people existing side by side within a tiny kingdom of just a couple thousand. But the logistics of the world was the least of my worries – it’s fantasy, I can let some things like that slide. My main problems were with the character development and the plot.
Let’s discuss the characters first. First and foremost, I really hated Evanjalin. Since she is one of the main characters, and pretty much the driving force behind the plot of this book, my dislike of her really hindered my enjoyment as I was reading. But she was just so annoying! She was manipulative and sneaky and yet every character seemed to love her for reasons beyond my understanding. I also really didn’t believe the love between Finnikin and Evanjalin at all. I would completely forget that they were supposed to be in love until one of them delivered a line about how they felt. Their actions in between those scenes didn’t betray any kind of fondness between the two characters. I kept finding myself going, “Oh yeah, Finnikin has a crush on her,” because I continually forgot about it.
Another character that I had issues with was Froi. Froi was just a small child when the Lumaterans were exiled, so he has no memory of his homeland and was raised as an orphan on the streets. At the beginning of the book, Froi is a pretty awful person. He does some truly despicable things. But then suddenly, he is accepted as a member of the group and everyone loves him and wants to look out for him. I understand the intended purpose of this shift in attitude – the characters and the reader are supposed to forgive Froi for his actions because he can’t help the horrible situation he grew up in. Redemption – I get it. My problem is that Froi did absolutely NOTHING to earn this redemption. I remember reading one interaction between Froi and another character and thinking, “Wait a second. Since when did everyone stop hating him? What happened?” I’m all for redemption stories, but Froi was just suddenly portrayed as a great character without doing anything to deserve it. The reason this really bothers me is that Froi is the central character in book two in this series of companion novels, Froi of the Exiles. I’m really not sure if I want to read an entire book about Froi after being so confused and disappointed with his character development.
Ok, now on to the plot. I found myself pretty bored through most of this book because nothing ever really seemed to happen. It wasn’t until I was about 50 pages away from the end before I finally got excited about what was going on. There was much more action that happened at the end, whereas the majority of the book followed our band of heroes as they wandered around the land looking for help or allies. I also thought the magic system in this book was a little weird. Blood magic allows people to walk through the dreams of others in this world, but it is only the women who are graced with this ability, and I personally felt like the descriptions of how this magic is possible were a little strange.
In the end, I wasn’t a big fan of Finnikin of the Rock. I’m not going to go so far as to say I wouldn’t recommend it, because there were some good aspects to this book. The world was interesting and there were a few characters that I liked (Finnikin and Trevanion), but these things weren’t enough to redeem the book in my eyes. I know that a lot of people out there really love this book, and I can understand why people enjoy it. I can even imagine this book being good for someone who is not used to reading fantasy and wants to try out the genre. Fantasy can sometimes be pretty dense, and since there are not a lot of names to remember or rules to the magic system in this book, it could be an easy one to start with. It just wasn’t the book for me, however. Maybe if I hadn’t felt such strong dislike toward two of the main characters, I would have enjoyed it more. I’m not sure. I still haven’t decided if I want to continue with the series. I will definitely be stepping away from it for a while, and who knows if sometime in the future I will decide to give Froi a second chance.
(more like 2.75/5 stars)
When you don’t like a book that everyone seems to love…..
…..blame it on the books.