An epic tale: a review of Finnikin of the Rock

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I’m not usually a big fan of fantasy novels (although I am admittedly a massive fan of the Phillip Pullman novels and Narnia, but that’s about my limit when it comes to fantasy), so I wasn’t sure what to think when I picked up the latest Melina Marchetta novel at a bookstore a few weeks back. I was drawn (as usual) by the cover – what a cover! But, as a firm Marchetta fan, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read the back of the book. It smelt of fantasy, but Marchetta’s earlier novels are all ‘coming of age’ stories, with a modern setting, where the main characters uncover secrets, both internal and external, and discover who they really are. So I was a bit confused – this was clearly a fantasy novel. Would it live up to my expectations of Marchetta? I guess I bought this latest offering from Marchetta based on the fact I love everything else she’s written, and cause I loved the cover.

Finnikin certainly lived up to the expectation created by its predecessors. Sure, this was fantasy, with its epic adventure, mythical countries and languages, and heroic characters. But in true Marchetta style, Finnikin is also a ‘coming of age’ story in which Finnikin learns what makes him the person he is.

I wasn’t far into the book when I stopped and thought: WOW. Like another blogger who has reviewed this book, I was torn between wanting to power through this novel to find out what happens, and wanting to savour every last word. I opted for a happy medium, and spent a few evenings reading about Finnikin’s journey.

The people of Lumatere have suffered for ten years as a result of the Five Days of the Unspeakable. With half the kingdom captive within the kingdom’s gates, and the other half locked out and forced to roam as refugees, the plight of the Lumaterans is dismal. Finnikin, apprenticed to the dead King’s First Man Sir Topher, has wandered Lumatere’s neighbouring lands for ten years, recording the names of his country’s dead and working towards his goal of securing a piece of land on which the exiled Lumaterans can settle.

One night, Finnikin is visited in his sleep and urged to journey to the cloister of Lagrami. There, he meets Evanjilin, who, through omissions of the truth, manages to convince Finnikin and Sir Topher that they are destined to lead their people home to Lumatere.

And so begins Finnikin’s journey.

Unlike some other reviewers, I really connected with the characters in this novel: with Finnikin, Evanjilin, and even the thief Froi. As reviewer Susan Whelan puts it:

Finnikin and Evanjalin, their developing relationship and their interactions with each other are the highlight of the story.

This novel is about the characters and the development of their relationships. It’s part romance, part coming-of-age story, part epic adventure. But it really is Marchetta’s skill at bringing characters to life that makes this novel shine. It has a massive cast of characters, but I felt invested in then and in the story and I really wanted the exiles to succeed in their quest to return home.

I also loved the language in this story and the style of the writing – something a bit different to Marchetta’s usual style, but it really clicked for me.

I loved this book. It’s made it to my top five for 2008 (more on that, soon!). If you’re putting together a must-read list for the summer holidays, put Finnikin right at the top of the list. The library has a bunch of copies – place a hold now!

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4 Responses to “An epic tale: a review of Finnikin of the Rock”

  1. sharon Says:

    I am an avid Melina Marchetta fan, having read all her books to date. Over Christmas I borrowed Froi of the exiles from the Library and to the usual annoyance of my spouse became lost in a fantasy world for two days, only to reappear grudgingly to prepare an evening meal. I didn’t realise that I was coming to the end of the book until I turned the last page and found that there was no more. I was left clinging to a proverbial cliff face, unable to believe that I had just walked over the edge, believing that the story would keep on going. when is the next book due out. Does anyone know?

  2. Eli Says:

    This is one of the best books I have ever read, I usually don’t go for fantasy books but the book was recommended to me by my school librarian, it has humour action fantasy romance horror, a bit of everything which suited me heaps. I thought it was dragged out alot but it probably needed to be long for you to feel more for the characters and understand the plot, overall I would rate it 8.5/10 I thoroughly enjoyed it, once I picked it up I didn’t put it down which lead to me finishing it in a day! I would recommend it to mature audiences (teens+).. READ IT and if you enjoy it read Sabriel By Garth Nix it is like finnikin of the rock but [I personally think] better, Sabriel was a fantastic,10/10 read.

    • Kate (library staff) Says:

      Hey Eli – I totally agree, the pace did slow down in the middle. But I think you’re right in that a lot of that detail was needed to help paint the characters. Thanks for the tip about Sabriel – I’ve been looking for my next read so I’ve just placed a hold on this one. Lookout for my review!

  3. Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Books for 2009 - list now available! « blurb it Says:

    […] Finikin of the Rock […]

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