I am really glad one of my favourite authors ventured into a completely new genre. I love fantasy, and I am very happy to say that Marchetta excels in it – did I really expect anything else?
I would consider Finnikin of the Rock light fantasy – it is not as complex in world building as other epic fantasy I've read, but it is definitely unique and fascinating. Most of all, it lives off its engaging cast of characters – characters that became very dear to me during their long journey to reclaim a homeland believed forever damned. But I also loved the tales from the Book of Lumatere, told in whispers and with tears in the eyes, of lost family and lost friends, of a country wiped of the map, plunged into darkness, of a people suffering – under the gruesome reign of an impostor king or in fever-plagued exile camps, in a world where no one wants to be responsible for them.
As Marchetta herself writes, this is a story about a world "where loss of faith, loss of homeland and identity, displacement of spirit, and breakdown of community are common", a world where death and illness, violence and apathy reign. But it is also a novel about hope and a new beginning – a hope slowly building up as the story progresses, a hope delivered by a novice and the apprentice of the king's First Man. Evanjalin and Finnikin. Oh, how I loved the two of them together! Evanjalin is proud and not an easy character to love. I sometimes found myself questioning her motives, unsure of her decisions. Still, I respected her. I think it takes a lot to do what she did, to live with the pain she has suffered and continues to suffer and not break under it. But Finnikin, I loved right from the start. Not in a I-have-a-crush-on-you, but more in a I-want-to-be-friends-with-you kind of way. Finnikin is as lost as all the other characters in this book, desperately looking for a new piece of land, for a way to reunite the people of Lumatere. At the beginning, he banishes all hopes of a return home in fear of disappointment. He tries to be rational, to be hard, but you can see that he wants nothing more than to tell the tales of his land, speak its language and be together with his people. He is not a saint, and he can be a little bit of an arrogant prick, but in a really cute way. I adored his relationship with Trevanion and with Sir Topher, and I am with Evanjalin when she says that Finnikin is lucky to have two fathers who love him so much.
I can't tell you how many times I found myself tearing up reading about the loss and pain so many of the characters had to endure and found it remarkable that they fought on nevertheless, that they never gave up hope.
This book needs a few pages to build momentum – on my first read, the first few chapters really had me confused – but develops into a story full of twists and turns, dark and light, fine humour and love. The ending could be considered a bit anticlimactic, but I loved it! It really shows that the epic fight is in fact not the end of a story. Most of the work has to be done afterwards. I have to admit, though, I could have done without the last two or three pages. They were a bit too sappy for my taste.
Needless to say, I vehemently recommend this book.