Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

What You Need To Know:  This is a beautifully written epic fantasy with an interesting take on gender roles that suffers slightly from being overcomplicated and a bit too long.

Summary:  Years ago, the Kingdom of Lumatere was placed under a curse.  Now, half of its population lives as exiles in other kingdoms, while the other half is trapped inside the dark realm.  Finnikin, who was close to the royal family of Lumatere as a child, now travels the world seeking assistance for the exiles.  When a mysterious young woman claims to have the key to lifting the curse and reclaiming their home, Finnikin must assume a role he has both coveted and feared. 

What worked:  Marchetta is an amazing writer, with a gift for creating compelling characters.  Finnikin, the girl Evanjalin, the adults who surround them -- all are clearly drawn and interesting.  Marchetta also juggles the various elements of a complex plot well.  My favorite aspect of this book was its use of femininity, and the benefits and perils therein.  Femaleness (for lack of a better word) is a key issue in this book, and Marchetta trades on her characters and readers expectations of women and their roles to good effect. 

What didn't:  As interesting as the various characters are, there are a LOT of them, and not all of them are neccessary to the plot.  The plot itself is a bit over designed, and a casual reader might lose track of the all of the comings and goings, backstory and foreshadowing.  Also, the last 50 pages of the book are a letdown, as the climatic event has taken place, and its all over but the shouting.

However:  My tolerance for the conventions of "high fantasy" is notoriously low.  I don't need to know about everybody's ancestors and homelands, but some readers enjoy that type of worldbuilding.

Who would I give this book to?  Teen readers who are ready to move on from the strong female characters of Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce.  Guys with a taste for epic fantasy a la LOTR. 

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