Sunday, July 21, 2013

Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock
by: Melina Marchetta
Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1)
Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive. Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin's faith in her . . . but in himself.

WOW. wowwowwowwowwowwow. But really, wow. I don't think I will ever be able to put into words how COMPLETELY FREAKING BRILLIANT this book is. This is fantasy at its finest, my friends. Its absolute, complete, and utter finest. Everything about this book was perfect, down to the tiniest details. The world completely sucks you in and you feel like you are living in it with all of these characters that you now care about so much it hurts.
Strong and Compassionate Heroine: CHECK
Evanjalin: YESYESYESYES annnnd YES. I wish all authors could read this book and see that this is the kind of strong females that deserve more stories told about them. She mourned, she felt, she loved deeply. She wasn't a robot or invincible, but she was still strong. Strong in a way that you rarely see in books. Strong in the way that everyone should strive to be. She was passionate and compassionate and strong and brave and scared and a leader and occasionally sarcastic. I loved the hope that she stood for in everything. She inspired her people and nearly everyone who saw her. Even when she was the novice. Even when she wasn't supposed to be anything special or vital, she made herself special and vital by her endless hope. Then you learn that she has felt the anguish of every single person in the ten horrible years that Lumatere is separated and she is still alive. She is still hopeful. She is still strong.
Evanjalin is one of the characters who will stay with you. Who will even inspire you, the reader, to be stronger and more hopeful. Who will inspire you to have the strength to do what needs to be done.
Courageous and Kind Hero: CHECK
Finnikin: Oh Finnikin. He reminded me a bit of Eragon from the Inheritance Cycle. Honor bound and respectable but someone you would not want to cross. Finnikin is a whole lot darker than Eragon and easier to anger. I fell in love with Finnikin's character and with his love for Evanjalin. I loved his relationship with his dad and with Froi and the soldiers in the guard and particularly with Sir Topher. That isn't to say that Finnikin wasn't frustrating sometimes, but he always had a great reason. I can't wait to see even more development from him in the next books.
Extraordinary Supporting Characters: CHECK
I think the place where this book shone was in its relationships and in the community it built in the people of Lumatere. They all interact with each other and the world in wonderful and unique ways. These are the characters that you hurt with and feel for as horrible thing after horrible thing happens to them and you watch them try to piece together any kind of life in their ravaged land.
Trevanion: Even the characters who easily could have been left as two-dimensional stock characters were completely fleshed out and given complexity to add depth. Trevanion is an example of this. He wasn't the typical guard-type of character. He was strong and risky, but he loved deeply and nearly openly. He was so proud of Finnikin for who he had become and his relationship with Lady Beatriss was truly heart-warming. He did what he had to in battle and didn't regret it, but he knew enough to want to sustain Finnikin's innocence when it came to battle.
Froi: I'm so interested in seeing how his story is the focus of the next book, mostly because Froi is a character that I still haven't quite figured out. I know that he is much more than he appeared to be at first and that he has a good heart somewhere. The world has made him hard, but that doesn't mean he'll stay that way.
Lady Beatriss: Yeah, as if there was any doubt after meeting Evanjalin, Beatriss just affirms that the women in this book run the show. They constantly shock the men with their bravery and risk-taking and wisdom, but it was brilliant to watch. If anyone in this book had strength to rival Evanjalin's it would be Beatriss.
Tresadora: And the most frightening character was definitely Tresadora. Yet I want to see more of her and I want to learn more from her about Seranonna and the other Forest Dwellers. Although I loved the scene where Topher put her in her place about Trevanion's efforts to get Beatriss out of Lumatere.

Brilliant Dialogue: CHECK
I mean, there were just full pages of wonderful dialogue. I've come to the conclusion that Melina Marchetta is a DIALOGUE GENIUS. The way she used it to let the reader in on things without directly telling them. I loved that sometimes it took a few lines to figure out where the conversation was headed and even then there was no way to be sure. Also the times when the conversations were just so breathtakingly beautiful that I had to take a breather and just think about what had just been said and everything that it meant.

Here are examples of my favorite passages:

“This hand says you spend the rest of your life with me," he said, holding out his left hand, "and this one says I spend the rest of my life with you. Choose."
She bit her lip, tears welling in her eyes. She took both of his hands in hers and he shuddered. "I will die protecting you," he says.

There was a look of dismay on her face. "Just like a man of this kingdom, Finnikin. Talking of death, yours or mine, is not a good way to begin a-"
Isaboe gave a small gasp when he leaned forward, his lips an inch away from hers. "I will die for you," he whispered.

She cupped his face in her hands. "But promise me you'll live first. Because nothing we are about to do is going to be easy and I need you by my side.”  

“All right, silent dark bear with angry frown, tell me more about your land.”
He settled back down, picturing it. “I would tend to our land from the moment the sun rose to when it set and then you ...she would tend to me.” He laughed at her expression again. The world of exile camps and the Valley felt very far away, and he wanted to lie there forever.

“Let me tell you about your bride,” she said, propping herself up on her elbows.“Both of you would cultivate the land. You would hold the plow, and she would walk alongside you with the ox, coaxing and singing it forward. A stick in her hand, of course, for she would need to keep both the ox and you in line.”
“What would we...that is, my bride and I, grow?”

“Wheat and barley.”“And marigolds.”
Her nose crinkled questioningly.
“I would pick them when they bloomed,” he said. “And when she called me home for supper, I’d place them in her hair and the contrast would take my breath away.”

“How would she call you? From your cottage? Would she bellow, ‘Finnikin!’?”
“I’d teach her the whistle. One for day and one for night.”

“Ah, the whistle, of course. I’d forgotten the whistle.”  

Fantastic World-Building and Great Plot: CHECK
What a beautiful, terrible, wonderful, and heart-breaking world. From the prologue the wonderful mood and tone of the world pulls you in. You feel the urgency of it all and it sends shivers up your spine. You realize that this bleak world is where these characters have to live and that for a time you are going to be witness to it.
I thought the plot was great because, while you didn't know where exactly you were headed, you always felt that you were headed somewhere important. You felt just as relieved to come home to Lumatere as all the characters were. 

This is the section where I apologize because my words didn't and couldn't give this book the review it deserves. I wish I could do it justice, but just know that this is one of the best books I have ever experienced and very possibly ever will experience. All this to say, whoever and wherever and whatever you are, you need this book in your life.

"Because without our language, we have lost ourselves. Who are we without our words?"

"You list the dead. You tell the stories of the past. You write about the catastrophes and the massacres. What about the living, Finnikin? Who honors them?"

"Oh, the way that word is thrown around...Everything is evil that humans can't control or conquer."

"It's against the rules of humanity to believe there is nothing we can do..."

"Then I choose to drown...In hope. Rather than float into nothing."

"There are worse things than a lie and there are better things than the truth."

"He could not believe anyone who heard such stories of wickedness would allow it to happen again."

"It should humble you to have anyone serve you..."

"Be prepared for the worst, my love, for it lives next door to the best."

"But at such times, gentlemen, you grab at any sign of hope. You grab it with both hands and breathe life into it, day after day. You do anything to keep it alive."

"That somehow, even in the worst of times, the tiniest fragments of good survive. It was the grip in which one held those fragments that counted."

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