Nineteen-year-old Finnikin has been in exile for ten years, ever since his best friend, the heir to the throne, and his family were viciously murdered. His country, Lumatere, is controlled by a cruel imposter king. Finnikin spends ten years going from country to country, visiting his other exiled countrymen in run-down fever camps. As he’s traveling, he hears about a young woman named Evanjalin who claims that the heir to the throne is actually alive. Although this gives him hope, he soon realizes that Evanjalin isn’t someone he can trust. As Finnikin scrambles to figure out who are his friends and who are his enemies, he deals with the larger, more pressing question: Will he ever find his home again?
Finnikin of the Rock is marketed as fantasy, but unlike other novels in its genre, it’s not overwhelmed by obnoxious magical details or insane action moments. It’s overflowing with good characters, nuanced world-building, and fantastic relationships.
This novel doesn’t just have a strong female character—it has a strong, manipulative female character that is neither demonized nor worshipped. Many times when an author creates a strong female character, she’s valiant and noble. While Evanjalin is courageous, she’s also cunning. She’s not afraid to withhold information and sneak around in order to get things done. Like a normal human being, she has her flaws and her redeeming points. Even though Finnikin is the title character, Evanjalin manages to steal the spotlight every time.
The cast of supporting characters is also just as unique. One thing that’s not very prevalent in young adult literature is the influence of adults. However, that’s not the case in this book. Refreshingly, adults have a significant role in this novel. Additionally, each character feels like a person that could potentially exist in real life because the characters are well-rounded, and each has his or her own flaws and strengths.
Furthermore, the plot is intricate and intriguing. While many novels make the mistake plot as a backdrop for world-building and magical powers, the plot of Finnikin was actually compelling. In fact, the plot was very applicable to real-life. Instead of being about defeating dragons, it was about the politics of ruling a country. And although it includes princesses and kings, it doesn’t glorify the job of a ruler. Part of what make Finnikin of the Rock such a remarkable novel is because it explores areas that are often neglected by the other books of the same genre. However, the world-building could be hard to take in all at once. There are several countries with bizarre names to keep track of, but that’s one of the things that make this novel amazing.
The one downfall of this book is that it’s extremely difficult to get into. It’s one of the books where nothing gets explained in the beginning. All these names, situations, and characters are thrown at you, and you have to drown and grapple for a while until your head’s finally above the water.
This book is absolutely wonderful, and I wish Melina Marchetta would be able to have more mainstream success with her novels. I recommend it for people who love fantasy, or for those who enjoyed Kristin Cashore’s Graceling or Tamora Pierce’s books or for people who love reading in general.