Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta
I didn’t know what to expect about Finnikin of the Rock going into it, only that I’d heard about it from other BookTubers almost a year ago, where it had promptly sat on my amazon wishlist, and then my library checkouts shelf until it was either read it or return it. So I read it. And how I wish I hadn’t waited an entire year.
When he’s just a boy, Finnikin and his friends, the Prince of Lumatere and the Prince’s cousin, make a pledge to protect their country. Soon after, the country is wrecked, the royal family assassinated, and a curse placed over the land. Ten years later, when the main story takes place, Finnikin wanders the Land, learning everything he can and recording the fates of the other exiled Lumaterans until one day a name is whispered into his ear and he finally finds the strength to fight for his home.
The characters are complex and haggard and layered and wonderful. The women are not there as foils to the men, and there are clear arcs and growth taking place. I loved both Finnikin and Evanjalin, but also Sir Topher and Trevanion and even Froi by the end.
The story begins with a confusing and mysterious prologue of the evil events that set the story in motion, and then the reader is catapulted ten years in the future. The backstory is told in snippets rather than all at once, told when needed or as a bit of foreshadowing, which I loved. Info-dumps felt natural, as did dialogue and the actions of the characters (for the most part). Additionally, there is a twist around the 3/4 mark that I should’ve predicted, but perhaps my blindness helped me relate more to Finnikin in that moment.
The world is rich and full and beautiful, with each nation having its own identity and characteristics. People acted as they did for a reason, and I found it to be incredibly well thought out. I did find some of the names of the countries to be similar and confusing at first, but the map in the front definitely helped me get a sense of where the characters were.
Although it’s YA, it’s high class YA. Some of the actions and emotions of Finnikin are those typical of a doubt-ridden, angsty teenage boy, but I didn’t feel like they harmed the narrative in any way, and there are so many other, more adult, themes happening that sometimes it’s nice to revel in the idiocies and naivete of our youth.
It’s a fantasy with betrayal, dreamwalking, love, fighting, blood pledges, relationships, and finding strength, faith, and hope even when there is none.