Friday, October 01, 2010

Finnikin of the Rock--Melina Marchetta

Young Finnikin dreamt that he needed to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. The son of the Captain of the Guard, Finnikin took the protection of his kingdom very seriously and convinced his two young friends--the king's son Balthazar and his cousin Lucien-- to make a blood oath to protect the kingdom they all loved. Finnikin thinks the matter is settled... and then the five days of the unspeakable happens. The king, queen, prince and princesses are all slaughtered by assassins, the people turn on each other and Finnikin's father is banished from the kingdom. When things can't get any worse, a magical spell is cast dividing the kingdom from the rest of the world, trapping half the population within its borders and excluding the other half.

10 years later Finnikin is awoken by the whisper of a name--Balthazar--and begins a dangerous journey hoping to find the young prince still alive. He is led by Evanjalin, a mysterious young woman who claims she can "walk the sleep" of the people trapped inside the castle grounds. Finnikin finds himself hoping that his country and his people can be saved, but can he really trust Evanjalin?

Most people who don't read fantasy books think that it's all about magic or fantastic creatures or things that just can't happen in real life. But good fantasy, nearly all good fantasy, is really just a commentary on things that DO happen in real life. It's easier to accept that these people in a fantasy world would rape and murder each other after a tragic event. We feel outraged reading about it because it goes against the nature of our souls. But these things do happen in our world--genocide, racism, rape and murder. We need to be just as outraged.

Marchetta is a realistic fiction writer who most recently won the Printz Award for the wonderful "Jellicoe Road." "Finnikin of the Rock" is her first fantasy novel and hopefully not her last. The standard elements of fantasy are in this book--the quest, the magic, the battle between good and evil. But Marchetta brings so much more to the genre with "Finnikin of the Rock." The characters are three dimensional and dynamic. The story is good, but the characters kept me reading. There have been quite a few strong heroine books lately (which is GOOD) but I really liked how Evanjalin and Finnikin needed each other to survive and to save their people. As strong and capable as Evanjalin is, she could not do it alone and neither could Finnikin.

There's some romance in the book, but just enough to satisfy girls and not too much to turn off boys. I wouldn't call this a "girl book."

I couldn't put this book down, except when I had to chase my newly walking baby-toddler in the library. Marchetta writes interesting quality books, whether they be realistic or fantasy, and I look forward to her future releases.
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3 comments:

  1. I just read Jellicoe Road, and even though I wanted to love it, it was such a "meh" book for me unfortch...

    I probably wouldn't take to this one either since fantasy is not really my thing.

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  2. I've heard that about Jellicoe Road. I really loved that book, but I've read others who didn't.

    Finnikin is a fantasy, but even if you're lukewarm about fantasy I think you should still try it... It's so much more than a fantasy. It's not magic and unicorns. Read Liz B's review at http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/teacozy/2010/08/27/finniki/ before you decide not to read it. :-)

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