Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: February 9, 2010
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.
Generally, one can't write high fantasy unless you are an exceptionally talented writer. It needs too much precision of language and plot development. It needs a smooth and layered world-building. It needs surprises and shocking plot twists. Melina Marchetta is one in a million. She can write high fantasy as good as she can write realistic fiction, and that is VERY high praise since Jellicoe Road is probably my favorite book in the world.
High fantasy is like my weak point. It's where my rules and preferences change. Pace can be slower if you shower me with beautifully written words. Descriptions can be long and detailed if I need to visualize the world. And so on. Finnikin of the Rock was one of those books you want to crawl into. Those that draw you in and blur the real world. The characters were deep and complex, the plot was intricate and passionate, and the magical factor was originally engaging. The conflicts of their world will resonate and be painfully thought-provoking.
If you've read Jellicoe you know that one of Melina's greatest gifts is making little things count. Small details or connections between characters that make you sigh. Also, her spot-on romances. No mushy-wooshy cheesiness. Just heart-pounding romance. The best kind.
The search for identity, the need to belong somewhere, the longing for a lost home, the struggle to understand human nature are all themes that intertwine with the adventure and battles and faith struggles that are the spine of this novel. As rich in its prose as it is rich in everything else, this book will please fantasy readers of all ages.
Fans of Kristin Cashore and Cinda Williams Chima will absolutely love this one. Since I read it first and then listened to it, I can assure you that the audiobook is just as magical as the written form.
"Be prepared for the worst, my love, for it lives next door to the best."