Sunday, October 25, 2015

Book Review: Finnikin of the Rock

So I had actually read part of this book before several years ago and returned it to the library since it just wasn't grabbing me. When I checked it back out I thought the cover and the premise sounded a bit familiar but, since I obviously never finished it, I couldn't remember enough details either way. And by the time I started reading it (while trapped in a three hour line for a last day museum exhibit) it was too late to grab something else and I ended up reading the whole thing anyway.

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Lumatere was once a small but peaceful, prosperous kingdom, something that changed in mere days when it was attacked from within and by outside forces, slaughtering the people, forcing hundreds to flee and then sealing off what remained of the kingdom in a barrier for years to come. Finnikin made it out and feels powerless everyday as he travels to foreign courts begging for a new homeland for his people. He is desperate enough to follow whispers that his old friend the prince is still alive but the girl who claims to know these things has far too many agendas of her own. 

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.