Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Marchetta Month: Finnikin of the Rock

I started 2016 off with Jellicoe Road, and then I decided to finally finish the Lumatere Chronicles after I got the books. So it was basically Marchetta Month for me. :D They were the PERFECT choices to start a new year of reading, and I am now a forever fan of Melina Marchetta. She is a storytelling genius!

Title: Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1)
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Candlewick Press/others I'm not sure about
Release Date: original, September 29th, 2008

From Goodreads...
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere. 

But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.

Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock--to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and the startling truth will test Finnikin's faith not only in her but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.

In a bold departure from her acclaimed contemporary novels, Printz Medalist Melina Marchetta has crafted an epic fantasy of ancient magic, feudal intrigue, romance, and bloodshed that will rivet you from the first page.

My Review!
*I spoiled things. I couldn't not. So, yeah.

My word, I am so glad I reread this. I must have rushed through the book the last time, because I slowed down and actually PAID ATTENTION to stuff. And I became so, so deeply invested in these characters and in the journey to free Lumatere from the darkness and an impostor king on the throne. It was a harrowing journey, but one that was made so much more important for the people on it. Okay, so I once read a blog post from Melina* about Jonah and Evanjalin, two characters from two different stories, but there was a reason for it. And apparently she’d noticed that readers had been more forgiving of Jonah for the shit he did, and they despised Evanjalin for actions that were maybe sort of worse, but also like not? Anyway, while I was rereading, I kept thinking of this post. And it pisses me off now, because what the hell? Evanjalin is straight-up one of the best heroines I've read about. Seriously, if you really hated her for her choices, you might need to reevaluate your life and the way you view women.
*I could be really wrong about this, but I SWEAR I remember reading a post about this; maybe it wasn't from the author, but it was a thing, I know it.

Here’s the truth about Evanjalin: she does what needs to be done. Everything she did, all the choices she made, the half-truths she told, the secrets and silence, all of that was for one reason: to get her people back home and make Lumatere whole again. She is the fucking QUEEN. She is needed and important. I know she lied; I know she made people feel like they couldn’t trust her. I know her throwing Finnikin into prison was horrible and could have ended SO badly, but it didn't. She did NOT deserve all the shit that got thrown her way, especially from the people who were supposed to love and support her. She did what she had to do for Lumatere, for her kingdom, for her people. And she went through a lot, but she survived it all. I don’t know how she did, because I definitely don’t have the strength to do some of what she did in the book. She’s so fucking tough, so strong, so POWERFUL. She is a leader, a warrior, a girl who grew up too fast and who never had a childhood. She’s a girl who set into motion a plan to break the curse and save her people. Evanjalin walked their sleep and felt EVERYTHING they were going through, had to be inside the head of someone who witnessed the hideous acts committed against her parents and sisters. She lost her brother through his sacrifice to save her life. She lost her home and her immediate family all in 5 days. And she could have easily given up. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she did. But Evanjalin is not the kind of heroine who would sit back and wait for others to take action. Perhaps she was a bit reckless at times, a bit manipulative. But ugh, no. She was a cunning, stubborn, loyal, and compassionate person who only deserved peace and happiness.

tbh, I kinda think she deserved better than Finnikin, but well… I adore this guy, I do. But what once I had ignored now pissed me off so much. He was so bitter, so despairing, and so fucking PRIDEFUL. And stubborn, which was pretty hilarious when he and Evanjalin butted heads. Which was to say, a lot of the time. He doesn’t know she’s Isaboe, his childhood friend and nemesis as only kids can be to each other. But that should not have mattered; I get that she was a suspicious character, but he could have been a lot nicer to her, a lot more understanding and compassionate. He’s seen a lot on his travels, has heard tales that would make even the toughest of men cry. He’s had to watch his people suffer, knowing that no matter what he does to help them, it wouldn’t be enough to overshadow the fact that they don’t have Lumatere anymore. But he tried his hardest, his best. No, he wasn’t always the most easily likable character for his words and actions, but he had a lot to work through. He had a lot to LEARN, about himself and about his future. And I can see why they didn’t want to tell him about Evanjalin being Isaboe. They wanted him to CHOOSE the path leading them back to Lumatere, instead of the plan he’d been working at for ten years. I still think he could have been more understanding, more tolerant where Evanjalin is concerned, but it’s not so simple because he’s also had a hard life. And what he’s seen and heard had been more than enough to drown his heart in darkness and pain and despair so he no longer believed in the light. But you know, Evanjalin had been through a lot too, and she was stronger than he was BECAUSE she still let herself hope for better.

Evanjalin, er, Isaboe’s hope was infectious. Her compassion and willingness to help others was inspiring. Her quick to temper, but quicker to forgive attitude made her such a strong character. And I wish Finnikin had recognized that earlier, had seen that she didn’t need to be protected or sheltered. That she didn’t need anyone else to save her, that she had been saving herself for a lot longer than they’d met again. Ten years she spent wandering the world, both in light and in darkness. Ten years trying to get her people back home. Finnikin couldn't quite get it through his head that what Isaboe didn’t need was a protector, but an EQUAL. Someone who wouldn’t stand in front of her, but by. her. side. It just took Finnikin a long time to finally understand that, and to finally accept that he’d rather be with her in a position that he hadn’t thought he’d want, than watch her marry someone else. Their romance was quiet, subtle, so very little there, but so BELIEVABLE. I don’t totally ship them, because I stand by what I said about her maybe deserving someone else who wouldn’t hold her back. But I could see the connection between them, the shared history and I loved that both of them found solace and happiness with each other when they never thought they would again.

Let’s just say, though I have mixed feelings on the romance, I think everyone deserved love after all they’d been through, deserved to find happiness. Even young Froi, who had attempted to rape Isaboe when he didn’t know her at all. I do NOT forgive him, will never forgive him, and I know Isaboe will never forget (or forgive) that night. But I also remember Sir Topher’s words and wisdom: “he doesn’t know anything but ugliness.” It’s not an apology, not a way to explain it away, brush it under the rug. But it IS something that makes you think, that makes you remember that not everyone grew up in a good home, with good people. It’s something that reminds you that the world is so ugly, and that some people have only ever known that. It doesn’t excuse him, nothing will for me. I love Isaboe so much, and I hate that he did that. But I also know that she is an almost forcefully compassionate person, and even when she sold him to a trader, she stole him back because she couldn’t leave him there. I cannot wait to see what Melina does with Froi’s character arc, and I’m glad that, through his time with these people, he has become more than what he was. He would give his life for Isaboe and Finnikin, and he’ll never forget their kindness.

They are not the only ones who bring Froi under their wing, who back Isaboe and Finnikin as they prepare to lead their people home. There are many characters; most of them Lumateran who were displaced. Sir Topher, Finnikin’s mentor, a wise, humble, keen old man who basically groomed his protege to become King. Trevanion, the King’s Guard and Finnikin’s father whom he breaks out of jail. Their relationship was so wonderful, and so full of so much feeling and emotions. Actually, all of the relationships were powerfully intense in their connection. I became so invested in, not just Finnikin’s and Isaboe’s characters, but in ALL of them. Even the ones who didn’t have many cameos. And ahhhh LUCIAN, MY BABY. I may or may not have squealed when he showed up on the pages again. I hope most of these characters are in the sequels a good deal, or else I will miss them dearly.

This book was so heavy and dark and gritty, so full of despair and pain and grief. So many people had lost their humanity, or perhaps had never had it in the first place. And the acts they committed were despicable and awful and gross and made me cry so hard, so many times. This novel was intense, and it was a journey that will put your heart through the wringer. I feel so battered, but also so healed. There was a lot of darkness, but there was also light. And hope. And the amazing way people can work together and rebuild their lives, the way they support and care for their neighbors. It was hard to hear the stories, but they deserved to be voiced. They deserved to not be forgotten, and I know the people of Lumatere will never, ever forget the last ten years. But together, with each other, they will finally be able to build a future for themselves and their children.

Finnikin of the Rock may have been slow at times, but it was super impactful. So many points that hit me straight in the heart, that made me cry as if *I* was the one in pain, and not the characters. I don’t know how you can become so connected to a book like this, but Melina Marchetta has magic. Her storytelling is amazing, just the right and careful way in which to bring you to the end. I was so sad when it was over, but the ending was happy and hopeful and the people were FINALLY celebrating. So it was worth all of the hardships and pain, all the grief and the tears, and it will not be an easily forgotten book.

Favorite Quotes!
He understood, with a clarity that confused him, that if anyone dared touch her again, his sword would not stay in its scabbard.

“It’s against the rules of humanity to believe there is nothing we can do, Finnikin.” -Evanjalin

“Then I choose to drown. In hope. Rather than float into nothing.” -Finnikin

“Does she belong to you, Finnikin?”
“No. But she belongs to my heart.”


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