Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Finnikin of the Rock is a sweeping fantasy story set in another world of kingdoms, princesses, warriors, magic and curses.
The story is set in the prosperous kingdom of Lumatere, where Finnikin as a child plays with his friend Prince Balthazar and they plan their futures- Balthazar as King and Finnikin as head of the guard. But during what they call "the 5 days of the unspeakable" the kingdom is attacked, the royal family is murdered and replaced with an imposter king, and a curse is put on the kingdom which traps half the citizens inside Lumatere under a tyrannical reign, and half the citizens outside, left to wander the other kingdoms as exiles. Years later, Finnikin now a young man is travelling the kingdoms as an ambassador for Lumatere with his guardian and mentor Sir Topher and trying to negotiate a patch of land so that the scattered exiles of Lumatere can live together united and try to rebuild. This is when he meets Evanjalin- a determined young woman who believes that the curse can be fought and they can return to Lumatere to fight the imposter king, reunite their people and reclaim their homeland. This book is full of twists and turns, unexpected revelations and a developing romance.
My favourite aspect of the story is the author's ability to really "get" human emotions and focus on the important aspects of the feelings and interactions between others. She is describing a people suffering tragedy after tragedy and still finding hope and love - people who still love each other after years and kingdoms apart. I really liked the description in the book- and how a glance or a touch of the hand could say more about the character's feelings than stating it explicitly. The main characters speak to each other with just the right amount of humour and snarkiness. This wasn't a story about war and politics, but humanity, sorrow and the power of belief. Desiny versus choice, and finding your identity and belonging.
My mistake was probably in getting the audiobook version. Although I enjoyed the story, I sometimes found myself a little lost among all the unfamiliar names and words and the description of the politics of the kingdoms, which I had forgotten everything about by the time I next came to listen to it again- and it is impossible to refer back in a story that you are listening to.
I agonised over what rating to give this book because it is not a bad book- it is excellent actually, and the kind of thing that I would have loved reading about 4/5 years ago, but I think my reading preferences have changed over time, and I just couldn't enthuse over this book as I thought it deserved. Recommended though for anyone who loves a good fantasy story about war, love, hope, magic, tragedy, revenge and loyalty.
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