by Melina Marchetta
Plot Summary:Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.
Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.
But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin's faith in her . . . but in himself.
Review:Wow. An intelligent YA novel with rich fantasy world-building and a plot rooted in the characters yet with fast-paced action. This is absolutely how it's done. Finnikin of the Rock is such a wonderful, immersive book with full, rich storytelling!
The amazing-ness starts with the characters because of the depth to them - both good sides and bad - they are complex and believable and because they feel so real, the emotions this book delves into sometimes gave me chills, I was so in tune with what the characters were feeling. Although heroic Finnikin is the title character - and the one who must lead his people to their destiny (as foreshadowed in the beginning) - Evanjalin is my favorite character. So strong, stalwart and capable, she is an amazing heroine who doesn't back down from hard truths, and has a resolute, strong will that makes for dramatic clashes in personalities with other characters (I'll give you three guesses for who wins through) but she works for the admiration of everyone around her, including this reader. I love how smart, perceptive and adaptable she is, and the fantastic role she has in this story.
With such deftly created characters I was very invested in the romance and it helped that the story gave it time to grow and develop between the characters - which made the complications that arose feel real and important enough to be the undoing of the couple. It was a balanced relationship - not all sugar, but definitely sweet, but not all darkness either. And it's so interesting in my opinion when an author creates a character that comes off a bit negatively or unlikable in the beginning and then have the reader's opinion completely turn around by the end (or halfway) because to introduce such a complex character seems like a real feat and this book does it twice!
The world-building is richly detailed - the more so because of a history that haunts the main characters which the author has to gradually unfold as the story progresses, and it is done in such a way that the pace never flags, and the reader is never confused, but always kept interested. And the twists and turns in plot help keep the interest up. There are some major surprise reveals, especially when it comes to Evanjalin!
The plot really felt masterfully executed because pieces of a puzzle were slowly given to the reader - in the way Finnikin's life changes, and the importance of the quest that he is pulled into, and the true events of the dark days in Lumatere's past. Yet the story fits the pieces together so well, in an admirable feat of storytelling with lyrical writing and incredible characters. There is so much that happens in this story - some really interesting character arcs and intricate world building - that it has an epic feel without it being a lengthy tome, which is great but I am glad there are two more books in the series for me to savor! This outstanding fantasy adventure novel is highly recommended! Enjoy the world, enjoy the action, and especially enjoy the characters!