by Melina Marchetta
Second Marchetta review, I was so surprised when I received this (I wasn't expecting it) I even squealed. It's a huge departure from her usual contemporary novels...
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere.
And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.
Until the 'five days of the unspeakable', when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne. And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.
But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light...
My Expectations: Really high. Although I knew this was Melina’s first go at a fantasy novel, I expected nothing less than the brilliance I’ve come to expect from her
Delivery: reasonably good. Didn’t make me fall out of my chair, but I it was still awesome.
Put-down-ability: 2/10. I read this in school! Like all school day, that’s how engrossing it was.
Melina Marchetta’s first fantasy novel transported me into the land of Skuldenore and didn’t let me go. The writing was vivid with descriptions, action, and dialogue that flawlessly drew me in. It reminded me why she is such a smart author, and is another example of a third person narrative working seamlessly.
My two small nitpicks with the novel (I know, amazing because usually her novels are perfect!) were probably related back to the whole fantasy thing. I thought the names and places at the beginning were confusing at times, and I expected a bit more from the plot. I wish the mystery was more complex, the physical journey less predictable, and the general story a bit more unique. However, the rounding up of exiles and other scenes could have gotten repetitive, but I was glad that it didn’t.
And I have to add, I’m a big fan of those ‘quest’ books, so I definitely liked Finnikin’s path to fulfilling the prophecy, self-discovery, and finding his place in the world alongside Evanjalin. There was enough mystery and intrigue to retain my undivided attention as well, and I’ll admit I didn’t guess the ‘twist’. The whole set-up, or premise of the novel with the idea with the Five Days of Unspeakable was awesome.
Finnikin is such a wonderful protagonist, he is brave, smart, and loyal to those he loves. I felt Evanjalin was portrayed a bit too smart, nothing caught her off guard (yeah, I know she is guided by the gods…), and I neve really connected with her character. The supporting cast didn’t let me down either, especially Trevanion and Froi; they had their own brutal histories but when the time mattered, they came through.
The father and son theme was explored fantastically, from the moment in the Sorel prison on, I knew it would be just breathtaking. Reading about how the two bond after 10 years, about their regrets and fears and everything in between was a complete joy. I felt Finnikin and Evanjalin’s relationship went a bit fast though, I wish there would have been more development in that category.
Lastly, Finnikin’s search for his identity and his land was absolutely beautifully depicted, I thought that self-discovery was a huge theme in the novel. Finnikin’s love for his homeland Lumatere, along with his blood oath with Balthazar and Lucian were executed perfectly.
Parting Thoughts: I wish it could compare to Jellicoe Road... I wish everything was as good as Jellicoe Road.
Book in HP terms (from the OWLs): Exceeds Expectations
8.9/10 – a wonderful fantasy novel that will be a hit with people interested in the genre. Character development, plot, pacing, and writing were all evident in the novel, and were precious and abundant. I loved almost everything and thought the fantasy world created by Melina was a gem, I really hope she will write a companion novel. 8.9/10 is an A (I’ve been reading some awesome books lately which make me super happy!)
If you are at all interested in the fantasy genre, pick this one up! It will not disappoint, it’s reminiscent of Tamora Pierce’s and Kristin Cashore’s best works, you should understand that that is high praise indeed.
Not convinced? Read reviews from Persnickety Snark, Alex & Lauren (a flight of minds)
Also, see my Kiss and Tell about this.
Source: review copy from Candlewick Publishing