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Friday, January 6, 2012

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

2008 Printz Award Winner Melina Marchetta crafts an epic fantasy of ancient magic, exile, feudal intrigue, and romance that rivets from the first page.

Finnikin was only a child during the five days of the unspeakable, when the royal family of Lumatere were brutally murdered, and an imposter seized the throne. Now a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere’s walls, and those who escaped roam the surrounding lands as exiles, persecuted and despairing, dying by the thousands in fever camps. In a narrative crackling with the tension of an imminent storm, Finnikin, now on the cusp of manhood, is compelled to join forces with an arrogant and enigmatic young novice named Evanjalin, who claims that her dark dreams will lead the exiles to a surviving royal child and a way to pierce the cursed barrier and regain the land of Lumatere. But Evanjalin’s unpredictable behavior suggests that she 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.

This is how you write epic fantasy. Writers, if you want to know how to write amazing fantasy, please read this novel. Marchetta skilfully breaks down fantasy cliches and puts them into an amazing, fast-paced and adventurous novel that while hefty, doesn't feel hefty at all.

Lumatere has been destroyed for the past ten years, since the five days of the unspeakable. During those five days, the royal family was massacred; the religious Forest Dwellers killed; Finnikin's father was sent to prison and his lover died after giving birth to a stillborn baby. Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, travel the country assisting the exiles and recording all of the data (who died, who lives, sickness, hunger, etc) in their Book of Lumatere . (I keep spelling Lumatere wrong.) Finnikin is sleeping one night when a voice whispers in his ear the name of the dead prince, Bahalzar, and he knows he must go to the cloister of Lagrami. There he meets Evanjalin, a novice, who "walks the sleep" and claims to know where Bahalzar is living.

Okay, let's start with Evanjalin. She is my new favorite YA heroine. Writers, if you want to write kickass girls, read this book. Marchetta transformed the cliche of a badass girl by giving Evanjalin real feelings . Sometimes you read books with supposedly badass girls, like the amazing number of dystopian novels being released. These books usually have badass girls, but a lot of times they are trying too hard to be badass or don't end up being badass at all. Marchetta transformed Evanjalin into a real person by giving her flaws, feelings, and sympathy towards other characters. I seriously adore her. (view spoiler)[ Though she is way more of an Evanjalin than an Isaboe in my head. (hide spoiler)]

The rest of the characters were just as developed with flaws and emotions and feelings. Trevanion truly loved Lady Beatriss, and I'm interested to see how that plays out over the next book as supposedly the plot line is resolved. Finnikin really loved Evanjalin/I; Froi really started to redeem himself; and essentially every character was fantastic.

The plot was where I was a bit concerned. Recovering a kingdom isn't exactly new ground in fantasy. While the description sounded interesting, I was worried that the Bahaltzar storyline would be predictable. But it wasn't. Marchetta cleverly took tropes -- the missing prince, the wise healer, the brave soldier, the thief, the badass -- and turned them into real people, real settings, and a real story. Nothing was predictable. If you reread the story you find all the hints, the clues; everything is set up and foreshadowed.

Marchetta's writing....can I just put every word in the dictionary next to "beautiful" here? Joking aside, it was as beautiful as always, rich and fluid. (There are too many commas in this paragraph moving on).

The one major issue some might have is the heftiness of this book. I'm unsure of the climax (view spoiler)[ either when they reveal Bahalzar is dead or the battle itself (hide spoiler)] but my two ideas happen in the middle of the story, but all the scenes count and they are all very, very interesting.

If you like Marchetta, read this book. If you like fantasy, read it. Nah. Everybody read it.



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