Book Review: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

7 Jan

I got this book from the library on the “New Arrivals” shelf because it looked sweet and I like my action-fantasy-romance novels with a dash of politics.

Summary: Finnikin, son of the head of the King’s Guard, has been in exile for a decade, after the violent takeover of his birthplace, Lumatere, by a usurper, followed by a curse by a priestess that has effectively shut the kingdom off from the outside world. He meets a mysterious young woman, Evanjalin, who claims that Finnikin’s friend Balthazar, heir to the throne, is alive, and sets in motion a complex and stirring series of events that lead Finnikin to confront his destiny. Evanjalin uses her ability to “walk the sleep” of others, or share in their dreams, as well as her own boldness and sense of purpose, to push events to a climax so that Lumatere can be freed.

Sounds like a straightforward quest, right? WRONG. Instead of Finnikin and Evanjalin (is anyone else thrown off by this name? It’s kinda cool but at the same time I kept calling her Evan-jah-lin in my head) trying to find Balthasar and put him back on the throne, overcome the witch/priestess and make everything better. That’s simple enough, right? Wrong, wrong, WRONG.

There are several side quests and SO MANY complications and lies and secrets (although I had the entire plot figured out as soon as Evanjalin showed up so ‘secret’ isn’t really the best term). Some of them, I liked. But the farther into the book I got, the more I was hoping that all of that side stuff would start weaving itself into the main plot. It did. Mostly.

Melina Marchetta is a good writer, and anyone who argues needs to get smacked upside the head. This is her first fantasy book, although she’s written several teen-lit books placed in our universe. And she’s got a really good feel for the world us teenagers live in, just like she does for Finnikin’s world. Unfortunately, she takes that knowledge for granted and assumes that we understand what she’s talking about because she does. I prefer that to over-simplification, but it’s not a positive point either.

My main point here is that the ending falls flat. The character’s are well-fleshed out but don’t seem to change over the course of the story. There’s so many obstacles, but they’re overcome without a lot of effort. There’s romance where you wouldn’t expect it, and none where it would have been more appreciated. There’s random women-in-control! chapters that lead to the ending, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they seemed overdone and

Because of the (I’ll admit it: obscure) ending and confusing politics and apparently-pointless side trips and connections, a lot of reviewers are shooting this book down. I think they’re being a little too harsh. Yes, Melina Marchetta needs to step back and prioritize characters and points, but she’s stepped out of her comfort zone and hasn’t quite adapted yet. This is good writing, if carrying over too much from our world. As a fantasy writer, I can see where Marchetta went wrong. But I wish I had her talent.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars.

–Kristine

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One Response to “Book Review: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta”

  1. redheadheroines July 27, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    I agree with you on the weakness of the plot and story at times in Finnikin. However, you are definitely right about Marchetta being a great writer, except that I would say that she is a FANTASTIC writer.
    – Alyssa of Redhead Heroines
    Book Review of “Finnikin of the Rock” by Melina Marchetta

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