Select one of the keywords
Finnikin of the Rock    by Melina Marchetta order for
Finnikin of the Rock
by Melina Marchetta
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2010 (2010)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Melina Marchetta, award winning author of Jellicoe Road, Saving Francesca and Looking for Alibrandi, now brings readers Finnikin of the Rock, a brilliant, thrilling fantasy with heroic young leads of both sexes.

Finnikin, son of Trevanion, the captain of Lumatere's King's Guard, grows up close friends with crown prince Balthazar and the latter's cousin, Lucian of the Monts - small princess Isaboe usually tags along with them. At age nine, Finnikin dreams he must 'sacrifice a pound of flesh to save the royal house of Lumatere.' The three friends make the sacrifice - Balthazar pledges 'to die defending the royal house'; Finnikin to always 'be their protector and guide'; Lucian to be their light in times of need.

Then come 'the five days of the unspeakable' when Lumatere's royal family is slaughtered by a usurper, who also orders the burning of the Forest Dwellers in their homes. Trevanion is arrested and his wife Beatriss and their newborn child die. After the matriarch of the Forest Dwellers cries a blood curse as she dies at the stake, half the realm's people flee, becoming refugeees 'in a diaspora of misery' in neighboring kingdoms, while the others are walled in by the curse, forced to endure the brutal abuse of their new ruler and his henchmen.

Finnikin is spirited out among those who leave Lumatere and grows up apprenticed to the king's First Man, Sir Topher. They focus their efforts towards helping the refugees and seeking to find land where all their lost people can gather and settle. Then a High Priestess of Lagrami contacts them, with news from a novice, Evanjalin, the sole survivor of a massacre of exiles in Sarnak. She has a gift of walking through the sleep of others, and claims that Balthazar still lives. Evanjalin accompanies them to the dangerous kingdom of Sorel.

The questors soon include in their company another refugee from their homeland, an amoral young thief and orphan, Froi. There are many betrayals and rescues along the way, and it soon becomes clear that there is much more to Evanjalin than appears on the surface - for one thing, she can use a sword. After they rescue Finnikin's father Trevanion from the mines, they seek out his men. Lumatere's priest-king joins them and other leaders. The exiles plan their return, but all the time Finnikin is haunted by the words of an old prophecy and what they might mean to those close to him.

Melina Marchetta's portrayal of a dispossessed people, the lifelong guilt felt by those complicit in atrocity, the horrors of refugee camp life, and the sacrifices her young heroes are ready to make to bring their people home, all have echoes in our own history. I highly recommend Finnikin of the Rock to you as a remarkable and riveting read for all ages.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews