About the Book

Title: Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1)
Published: 2008

BFF Charm: Meh
Talky Talk: Straight Up Fantasia
Bonus Factors: Quest, Kickass Bald Girl, Period Power
Relationship Status: Tragic Love Triangle

The Deal:

Let’s just say that if I was a teen from Lumatere, I would’ve written a LOT of angsty emo poetry. A formerly prosperous nation, Lumatere was brutally invaded by outsiders and mysteriously sealed off by a dying woman’s curse, exiling most of the citizens to live as impoverished social outcasts in neighboring countries. In spite of their tragic circumstances, these nomads refuse to give up hope that one day, Balthazar, the son of the dead king, will return to lead them back to their homeland. Balthazar’s childhood bestie, Finnikin, clings to the same hope while helping his mentor, Sir Topher, keep track of the Lumaterean refugees, now spread throughout several countries. While visiting the equivalent of a nunnery, Finnikin and Sir Topher meet Evanjalin, an unnervingly silent but super tough girl (she has a shaved head!) who claims to communicate with the long lost son of the king. Led by Evanjalin’s visions, Finnikin and Sir Topher launch a quest to reassemble the king’s army, locate Balthazar and reclaim Lumatere for its people.

BFF Charm: Meh

BFF charm with a :-| face

I don’t know what it is about the fantasy genre, but I always have a hard time really connecting with the characters. Maybe it’s cos, like, their main problems usually involve STAYING ALIVE whereas mine are more on the level of picking a restaurant for dinner (it’s so hard, you guys!). While Marchetta definitely knows how to create a complex cast, I never truly related to Finnikin or Evanjalin. With that said, I definitely liked them, so if they offered me a bff charm, I would obvs take it, esp. cos Evanjalin kind of scares me. You do NOT want to to be on girlfriend’s bad side. She’s a fascinating heroine, maddening in her mysteries and lovable in her humanity, and her badassery knows no bounds. Finnikin, in my opinion, isn’t quite as interesting, mostly because he’s so obsessed with the past. But he’s brave and good-hearted, with a lingering teenage awkwardness that makes him pretty dang endearing sometimes.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

While this genre doesn’t necessarily lend itself to future cafeteria table-mates, it does provide the scale necessary for EPIC ROMANCE. The sweeping landscapes and death-defying adventures certainly amp up the sparks between Evanjalin and Finnikin, but after the burning ball of sexy flames known as Jonah and Taylor (from Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road), I found myself less than satisfied in the swoon department. The rocky beginning of Fin and Evanjalin’s relationship automatically made me want them to get together, but the slowly burning build-up never resulted in the bonfire of love I was expecting.

Oh yeah, I drove that analogy INTO THE GROUND.

Talky Talk: Straight Up Fantasia

Marchetta thankfully does NOT subscribe to the Tolkien school of thought on Pointless Longass Descriptions, and her trademark writing style (authentic and deeply compelling) shines through in both the relationships and the intricate storyline. I’ll admit, I really needed the maps at the front of the book, but while the maze of countries and people groups and gods kind of annoyed me, I also like using maps, so it worked out. To be honest, though, I think the fantasy genre (perhaps because it was new territory for Marchetta) inhibited her ability to craft characters as enduring as the heroines of her other novels.

Bonus Factor: Quest

Characters from Goonies studying a treasure map

Show me someone who doesn’t love a good quest, and I’ll show you someone who is LAME. Y’all quests are AWESOME! They always involve harsh, unforgiving landscapes and brutal battles and bizarre people/creatures and moments of heart-pounding danger and, most of all, inspiring courage in the face of all of that shizz cos if the heroes reach their goal, IT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD! The quest in this book leads to lots of hair-raising adventures, including a cave prison break (EEE!) and a stand-off with some Aboriginals, although I could’ve used a a few monsters and an ancient oracle or two.

Bonus Factor: Kickass Bald Girl

Charlize Theron as Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road holds a gun a stares fiercely just off camera

I’ve already raved about Evanjalin, but seriously, how often does a book feature a bald girl who kicks ass? NOT OFTEN. Therefore, we must savor this rare species when we can.

Bonus Factor: Period Power

Raised fists in different skin tones wearing nail polish

Not to give too much away, but Evanjalin has a special power that only comes into play when she’s, ahem, riding the crimson wave. Y’ALL I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING. How awesome is that?! It’s like, FINALLY, a period is GOOD for something instead of just being a major pain in the uterus.

Relationship Status: Tragic Love Triangle

You guys, this is a perfectly good book. It’s well written, it’s creative, it’s compelling. And yet… I CANNOT STOP THINKING ABOUT THIS BOOK’S BROTHER, JELLICOE ROAD. I know it’s not fair, but I can’t HELP IT. Like, when I was with this book, I enjoyed its company, but the minute I put it down, my thoughts returned to Jonah and Taylor. I found myself wondering, “Why can’t Finnikin of the Rock be more like Jellicoe Road?” And then I felt like a horrible person because they’re completely different types of books, and it’s wrong to compare them. I really tried to give Finnikin a chance, but our relationship was doomed from the start by my powerful attraction to Jellicoe. Am I proud of Marchetta for giving the fantasy genre a shot? Yes. Do I think she should return to realistic fiction? Definitely.

Sigh! Sorry Finnikin, but my heart has already been taken by another.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Finnikin of the Rock is available now.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.