Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book Review: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

The kingdom of Lumatere has been shrouded in darkness since the five days of the unspeakable. When the royal family was murdered in the palace as they slept. When only the prince and heir, Balthazar, and youngest princess, Isaboe, escaped, only to be slaughtered in the forest - Balthazar's bloody handprints found on the kingdom walls, Isaboe's hair and clothes on the forest floor.

The witch Seranonna, matriarch of the Forest Dwellers, was blamed. Arrested and burned at the stake with blood on her hands, her last act was to curse Lumatere with destruction and darkness. A few of the people escaped, the kingdom collapsing behind them, only to find themselves exhiled and unwanted by the other kingdoms, many dying in fever camps. The rest were trapped inside, their fate unknown, the gates to the kingdom hidden behind a wall of darkness.

Finnikin, son of the Captain of the king's Guard and Balthazar and Isaboe's childhood friend, was nine years old when he escaped Lumatere. Ten years later, he roams the land with his mentor, Sir Topher, seeking a new home for his suffering people. One night, he is wakened by a messenger who whispers a name in his ear - Balthazar. Finnikin sees only that the messenger wears the robes of the cloister of the goddess Lagrami before he vanishes into the night, but he does not hesitate to set out after him. At the cloister, Finnikin does not find the lost prince, but instead a beautiful young novice, Evanjalin, who has taken a vow of silence. The High Priestess of Lagrami knows only that Evanjalin is a survivor of a vicious camp massacre, and that she speaks the name of the heir, Balthazar, in her sleep.

Despite Finnikin's reluctance to believe, he and Sir Topher take Evanjalin with them, driven by the hope that Balthazar is alive and that Evanjalin can lead them to him. They follow her cryptic clues, Finnikin knowing only that he is bound to his childhood friend to restore Lumatere to his people. But even as Finnikin finds himself falling in love with the novice Evanjalin, a girl who he is quickly finding is much more than she seems to be, she betrays him. Will Finnikin be able to fulfill what he believes to be his destiny? Or is his destiny much greater than even he could have imagined?

From the author of last year's Printz award-winning Jellicoe Road comes this complex fantasy that is, at its core, a tale of what lies in the human heart. Full of adventure, mystery, dark magic, friendship, romance, plenty of sword fights, and one heck of quest, you'll find yourself completely absorbed in Finnikin's journey to find his home and his future.

(now reading By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Ann Peters - after the amazingness of Finnikin, no other fantasy will do, so it's time to genre swap!)

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