Marchetta, Melina Finnikin of the Rock
Candlewick Press 2010 399 18.99
978-0-7636-4361-4 hs/adult Fantasy VG-BN
Finnikin champions Evangelin when Sir Topher convinces him that she can lead them to the rightful heir of Lumatere.
Originally released in Australia, Melina Marchetta’s first fantasy effort has found its way to the United States. “Finnikin of the Rock” as is wide departure from Marchetta’s earlier teen novels. It has all the elements of a good fantasy story: a detailed world, a quest to save the kingdom, a love story, a cast of well-rounded, interesting characters with compelling back stories, and magic.
An imposter king’s brutality leads to a curse that makes Lumatere’s borders impenetrable and splits the nation’s people between refugees who escaped outside the kingdom, and citizens trapped inside the kingdom. No one is sure if any of the members of the royal family escaped the savage slaughter. Enter 19-year-old Finnikin -- who has scoured the land of Skuldenore for ten years, seeking to find a new homeland for the displaced people of Lumatere -- scattered across diverse nations. He is apprenticed to the former First Man to the kingdom, Sir Topher, who convinces Finnikin to carry out the schemes of Evangelin, a fey young woman with a murky past who claims she can lead them to the rightful heir of Lumatere.
“Finnikin of the Rock” is an adult novel with teen appeal (particularly when reading the vivid descriptions of inhumane actions conquerors inflict on the conquered or the cruelty inflicted on refugees; there are also several references to sex/scenes involving sex – which may make this novel unsuitable for younger teens). At 401 pages, the length of the novel may intimidate some teen readers; perhaps the novel should have been split into a series. But the book has heart and humor which more than offset the darker passages. Marchetta has a gift for creating three-dimensional characters that are authentic, memorable and complex. The initial pace is a bit slow, and may put off some readers, but the ending –clichéd and predictable as it is – will satisfy. There is no sugar-coating the themes of war, genocide, exile, and violence against women. But there is also loyalty, trust, love, and faith. These, and the brighter themes of an epic love and staying faithful to yourself and your dreams, shine through, and are sure to ring true with teen readers.
Melina Marchetta was the recipient of the ALA Printz award for the novel, “Jellicoe Road.” “Finnikin of the Rock” received the Aurealis Award (Australia) for Best Young Adult Novel, and the Australian Book Industry Award for Book of the Year for Older Children.
Despite war violence and some sexual situations, “Finnikin of the Rock,” even though it is a fantasy novel, is a fine springboard for discussion of the experiences of refugees in the aftermath of war. Welliver(3), Hilary