Finnikin of the Rock
By: Melina Marchetta
Finnikin of the Rock was born to Trevanion, captain of the King’s Guard. For the first nine years of his life he played with his best friend, Prince Balthazar, and dreamed of a day when Balthazar was king and Finnikin his captain. Along with Balthazar’s cousin, the three boys swore a blood oath to their kingdom; Finnikin promised to protect the royal house of Lumatere.
Then Finnikin turned nine and assassins infiltrated Lumatere and every member of the royal family was murdered. In the days of the unspeakable, Lumaterans turned on each other and an imposter was placed on the throne. The imposter set fire to the homes of the Forest Dwellers and their fellow Lumaterans did nothing to intervene. As the matriarch of the Forest Dwellers burned at the stake, she cursed the land and everyone in it. Captain Trevanion refused to swear allegiance to the imposter and for his treason was beaten and thrown in prison.
And then the curse settled and no one could cross the border in or out of Lumatere. Half the kingdom was trapped inside with the imposter and his forces, the other half trapped outside, unable to return home.
For ten years, Finnikin has traveled the land with Sir Topher, the King’s First Man. They visit the pockets of refugee camps that have formed across the land and beg foreign kings to provide aid to their exiles. The Lumaterans refuse to acclimate to new kingdoms, convinced they will one day return. But Finnikin has other plans. He searches for a place where the refugees can come together and start a new home.
Until one night, when Finnikin is woken by a messenger. He meets the novice Evanjalin, who has more secrets than Finnikin can fathom. But he’s only interested in one. She knows a way to break the curse, to bring down the barrier separating Lumatere from the rest of the world. The prophecy spoken during the days of the unspeakable can be fulfilled because of Evanjalin’s news: Balthazar lives.
The time has come for Finnikin to fulfill his blood oath and protect the royal house of Lumatere. But first, he must learn to trust the elusive Evanjalin, who doesn’t share her secrets easily. She wants to break into the most secure and deadly prison in existence to rescue his father and find the missing priest-king who hasn’t been spotted in years. But for the first time in a decade, Finnikin finally dares to hope.
This book was recommended to me by one of the Horsemen (we’ll call her C) who has an impeccable track record with book recommendations. When I first started the book, I texted C and asked if Finnikin would get more likeable (she said yes) and I said “K thanks. I like that there’s this element of practicality to him but sometimes I also wouldn’t mind if Evanjaline punched him” and C said “TOTALLY agree.” And I feel like that really summarizes how I feel about the beginning of the book.
I was concerned right out of the gate because Finnikin had some opinions that were a bit problematic and that seemed to be acceptable within the story. I don’t want to get too spoiler-y here, but suffice it to say that Melina Marchetta is a genius and if you read this book don’t be concerned about that.
The book had kind of a slow build. There were a lot of names and lands and ideas mentioned very early and to prevent myself from being overwhelmed I stopped paying too much attention to those details, and that was totally fine. I didn’t find any of the characters to be particularly likeable at first, and those of you familiar with M’s Magical Meter will know that’s pretty important to me. I want to WANT the characters to succeed.
So there I was, chugging along and being full of judgment, when a big moment presented itself and I nearly caused Dom to wreck the car because I shouted with glee. And that’s when I realized that, completely unbeknownst to me, I had been drawn into this world and was extremely attached to the characters and invested in the retaking of Lumatere.
Ask me to name my top five characters and I can’t because I love so many of them.
Marchetta does a FABULOUS job giving you just enough information to keep you hooked without overwhelming you. Reading Finnikin of the Rock made me feel like I was assembling a puzzle. I could see the edges form and sections coming together, but I didn’t see the full picture and recognize the masterpiece until the very end.
Ultimately, this is a story about learning to rebuild. Figuring out how to remember the past without impeding progress, how to move forward without erasing history. Learning to pair experience with youth to forge the way home. It’s about faith, and trust, and hope. And empathy.
It’s about refugees who are ready to fight to reclaim their home.
And I can say with absolute certainty that I have never cared so much about the promise made at the top of a rock.
This was a tough one. I’m giving Finnikin of the Rock a 4 out of 5 on the Normal Person Rating System. The only reason it doesn’t get a 5 is because it takes a bit of time to get into (I checked, Chapter 7 is when I started getting invested and the end of Chapter 10 is when I almost made Dom wreck the car). It gets a 10 out of 10 on M’s Magical Meter. Like I said, I loved so many of the characters, I was constantly surprised by people and events, and I felt like this book constantly challenged me to also be a better person.
I’m ordering book two as I type (just kidding, that would be impossible, I ordered it already).
Brb while I go find a rock.
Psst! Questions about the rating systems? See here!
Bonus: this is the minion who proofread this review.
If you see errors, take it up with her.