Most of Melina Marchetta’s books are not fantasy. Maybe that is why Finnikin of the Rock feels so accessible to any reader, even one who doesn’t generally read the genre. As an avid fantasy fan since childhood, I’m not a great judge of what is accessible fantasy. I do have on good authority that some not-usually-fantasy-fan friends of mine have enjoyed it, so there’s that. Plus, unlike some fantasy books, it did not take me long at all to feel sucked in to the story. You do not need to keep track of generations of wizards or a complicated magic system. And while there is a map on the inside cover, I didn’t need it to follow the action.
The kingdom of Lumatere was cursed ten years ago when assassins snuck and killed the royal family–all but the prince and heir. As the mysterious curse fell on the land, half of the population of Lumatere fled the destruction and half remained behind. An impenetrable mist has surrounded the country for a decade, and no one knows who or what still remains. The story follows Finnikin, son of the Captain of the Guard, who has been traveling with the King’s Man for the duration of the curse. His mother died when he was a baby. His father was thrown in prison by the Imposter King of Lumatere. Finnikin and the King’s Man spend their days collecting aid for the exiles of Lumatere and looking for a plot of land they could call home. Their usual efforts have been put aside temporarily, however, to find a novice of the goddess Lagrima who claims to know where Prince Balthazar is hiding.
The story is full of mystery and adventure, but what I love most are the characters. They have dreams and problems that are easy to relate to: longing for a place to belong; the uncertain back and forth between loved ones who have been apart; deciding whether or not you can trust someone; children who have to translate for their parents in a new land; those same children who grow up away from the homeland, not speaking the language or knowing the landscape their parents miss so much; balancing personal desires and what’s best for the greater whole.
This is the first of a three-book series, not including a companion short story. I love all three of the books, but this is my favorite. You do not read the rest of the books for this one to have resolution; it stands alone perfectly well. If you are like me, though, you will devour the other books just for any chance to revisit Lumatere.
All I have left to say is this: go and read Finnikin of the Rock. Then come over to my house so we can spend the evening debating who is the best character and what we think about the ending.
I would recommend this to: everyone (and I have).