Finnikin of the Rock Malina Marchetta
So... I loved Jellicoe Road and this was getting a lot of great buzz, but I wasn't going to read it. I'm kinda picky about my fantasy. I'm all over fairy tales. And fantasy that takes place in our world. But made up worlds and ancient prophecies usually aren't my thing. And if it has any sort of talking animal (dragons get a pass) then forget about it. Not that Finnikin of the Rock has talking animals, but if we're getting into my issues on fantasy... BUT this keeps showing up on people's best of the year lists so I thought I'd give it a chance.
Ten years ago, there were the 5 days of the Unspeakable. The royal family was murdered. The people people of Lumatere turned on their Forest Dweller neighbors, who worship a different goddess. They burned them out of their homes and burned their leader at the stake. Before they killed her, Seranonna cursed Lumatere. The ground cracked and swallowed people. People ran for the gates. Many were trapped. A malevolent mist surrounded the country, no one could get in or out. No one's had any news of Lumatere since then. People who left before Seranonna was killed and those who got out before the gate shut for good now live in exile camps, at the mercy of other kingdoms, ravaged by fever and often despised.
Finnikin is the son of the head of the Lumaterean guard. His father's been imprisoned since the Unspeakable. He's spent the last decade traveling throughout the kingdoms with Sir Topher, the former king's first man. He records the history and of the exiled Lumatereans and tries to advocate for them with their host governments. Then, a messenger comes whispering the name of the prince who might have survived, of Finnikin's best friend. Finnikin and Sir Topher travel to the ends of the land to a convent where they don't find the prince, but instead a novice who drives Finnikin insane, but just might lead them all home.
So, when I finished it, my first thought was "eh. I see why everyone loves it, but it's not for me." But over the next few days, I kept returning to favorite scenes and parts and I think I managed to reread the entire book multiple times so... I obviously liked it a lot more than I initially thought!
Something I noticed (and loved) in the first reading and just picked up more and more of in later readings was how relevant it is to current events. Yes, it's a fantasy, but it's a story of an exiled people.
"Then I will demand that you speak Lumateran when we are alone," Evanjalin said, interuppting his thoughts.
"Will you?" he mocked. "Any why is that?"
"Because without our language, we have lost ourselves. Who are we without our words?"
"Scum of the earth," he said bitterly. "In some kingdoms, they have removed all traces of Lumatere from the exiles. We are in their land now and will speak their tongue or none at all. Our punishment of the pathetic course of our lives."
"So men cease to speak," she said softly.
Men who in Lumatere had voices loud and passionate, who provided for their families and were respected in their villages. Now they sat in silence and relied on their children to translate for them as if they were helpless babes. Finnikin wondered what it did to a man who once stood proud. How could he pass on his stories without a language?
"And how Lumaterans loved to speak..." page 65
Overall it's beautifully done. And there is so much in here about a lost people searching for a home, racked by guilt over what happened during the Unspeakable that clearly resonates today in our world, but hope and love and heartbreak all so wonderfully done. It grew on me to where it's now one of my favorites, too.
Book Provided by... my local library
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