Finnikin of the Rock
Candlewick, 2010 (originally published 2008)
As you may have noticed, I have a slight penchant for fantasy. Even excluding fairy tales from the mix, I am happy to willingly suspend my disbelief and embark on a reading adventure into impossible worlds populated by impossible beings. One of my blogging buddies - the wonderful Jen of Jen Ryland YA Romantics - however, is not a fan of fantasy. At all. So when she starts telling me how good something was, I know I need to read it. Case in point: Finnikin of the Rock. Let me sum up this read in one, succinct word: Wow.
It's fantasy. So it's set in a strange world. But it's not too strange. And people are people, regardless of their world -- with thoughts and dreams and fears and passions. Finnikin grew up with Prince Balthazar and his cousin Lucian (as well as all the princesses of Lumatere), and their bond was a tight one. So tight that as young children they made a blood pact to protect the Kingdom. A pact that would haunt Finnikin in years to come as his beloved kingdom was rocked to its core - the entire royal family assassinated, and the kingdom cast into a darkness-shrouded captivity. The content of Finnikin of the Rock takes place years later, as Finnikin and his mentor - Sir Topher (the King's Man) - travel around the neighboring kingdoms, checking on their exiled countrymen and trying to make sense of things. When a young novice named Evanjalin claims the heir of the Lumatere throne is alive, and she alone can lead them, Finnikin and Sir Topher start a new journey. A journey home.
Their journey is fraught with misadventures and horrifying experiences for all parties. It also holds surprises of a happier nature, and challenges Finnikin to look past the way he's always seen things, forcing him to look not only deep inside himself, but also reexamine everything he's always known. It's a sweeping, forceful tale. Hard to read at times, because of the rawness of the events, but I couldn't put it down. I confess, I figured out the major plot twists pretty early on, but that didn't detract from my reading -- I wanted to find out how it'd all play out and prove my suspicions correct. Definitely an impressive fantasy read, and I'm intrigued to know how Marchetta will pick up and continue the story in Froi of the Exiles.
Book provided by my local library.