Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
This felt like the kind of generic mash-up people associate with fantasy. It's clearly European, leaning a bit towards Celtic people for the politics (to amuse myself I decided that rightly or wrongly the Mount people looked Mongolian) but nothing is ever clearly delineated. Nothing about this book stands out, neither setting nor plot and the characters aren't so much interesting as there is a single interesting idea. Even though Finnikin is the point of view character for the story and in some ways the main character (he's the one with a prophecy about his future after all), to me it was clear early on that Evanjalin was the "true" main character. She is the one with a plan, motivations, and convictions, and yet she is not the viewpoint character. On the one hand I can understand why, Finn only works as a character as long as both he and the reader are in the dark about Evanajalin's many plans. But on the other hand, having a plotting female lead, conniving and cunning make her sound too dark and anti-heroic, is so rare in YA that I can't help but be unhappy that a self-assured, female viewpoint character was "replaced" with a rather unlikable and stubborn male one.
There are some sequels to this book and I believe that at least one has Evanjalin as the lead (although looking at the titles now I'm not so sure) but this story wrapped up rather neatly so I don't feel compelled to go read more of the books honestly. I feel like any continuation would feel more like a tacked on story than one that continues and elevates the ideas already here so I will pass and hope to read something more to my taste next time.