Friday, December 19, 2014

Review: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Title: Finnikin of the Rock
Author: Melina Marchetta
Series: Lumatere Chronicles, Book 1
Genre: (Light) Fantasy
Release Date: 6 April 2010

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.

This was a hard book for me to rate, and I think my expectations had a lot to do with my disappointments. There were some aspects of it that were wonderful, and others that were much less so. I'll definitely read on in the series - no matter how averse I may be to the main character (in the next book), but this didn't Wow me as much as I was expecting. I'm going to try a bullet-point review because I just don't know how else to do this without going completely spoilery, or getting derailed by tangents.

Things Marchetta does Well:

1. Emotions. Good lord, the emotions that she pulled out of me in this book. Especially in regards to Trevanion and Beatriss' romance. Throughout the book she made me feel the despair, the hope, the worry, the anger, and the love. Every moment of it was real and filled with feeling.

2. Characters. Evanjalin, Finnikin, Trevanion, Sir Topher...all of them are fascinatingly real. They make mistakes, they have fears, and hopes, they try and keep pushing. Even when I wanted to shake some of them (okay, nearly all of them at some point or another), I still felt connected to them on a very visceral level. Except...for a particular character - whom I'm not sure can be redeemed in my eyes. I did ask while reading, in a status update, if Finnikin was really that thick....Answer: Yes. Yes, he is.

3. Interactions. Everything that happens between characters feel so utterly real. And this ties into the last point, but it's amazing to me that looking back I still feel so invested in these characters and their relationships with each other.

Things Marchetta does Okay:

4. So, the fantasy aspect of this is lacking for me. The "magic" is of the plot-device variety. It's there to do what it has to do, but never really feels like a vivid part of the world. Or most of it doesn't. The dream-walking was well integrated and interesting. I enjoyed that. But the curse? Meh. It was just there as a catalyst, quickly and (a bit too) easily removed in the end.

Things Marchetta Fumbles:

5. Plot. The entire plot rests on the premise of secrets and lies. One secret after another. And while it kept me turning pages, I was kind of irritated in the end that there were lies peppered in there as well. I was irritated that the truth just wasn't good enough. If a person can't make the right choice with the truth, then should their choice with a lie be trusted?

In the end, I enjoyed the story, but I have a few problems when looking back. But, first and foremost, I'm a character reader, and Marchetta does excel in all aspects of that. They're not cardboard cutouts, they're real, with all the positives and negatives that we, ourselves, hold within us. And that's something I can relate to and love.

I almost want to do a whole section with spoiler thoughts, but I think I'll refrain for now.

Grade: C+

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