* This post contains spoilers for Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock. *
If I had to describe Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock to someone who's never read it before, I think I'd sum it up like this: Must. Read. Why? It's a beautifully crafted, superbly written fantasy that will win your heart as well as break it. It will make you shed more than a tear or two on behalf of these unforgettable characters, both when they're in pain and when they find happiness. The emotions this book conjures—I just can't even . . . .
I first read Finnikin last year, and 1) I can't believe I missed so many things the first time around, and 2) the review I wrote back then doesn't even begin to do the book a semblance of justice. In fact, I could probably never come up with a review that properly captures the gem that is this novel. I finished reading the series about two months ago, and revisiting it from the beginning gave me chills. I knew very early on the first time that I picked up Finnikin of the Rock that I held a very special book in my hands, and knowing what happens in the rest of the series has done nothing to diminish the impact of the Prologue, which includes that pivotal scene in which Finnikin, Balthazar, and Lucian pledge to protect Lumatere and seal their pact in blood. If anything, having read all three books in The Lumatere Chronicles has given me an even greater appreciation for them.
Once again, I've been blown away by the path Finnikin takes across its pages, from its bleak opening about a people who've basically lost everything and are barely clinging to their identity, to its hopeful ending. Picking a favorite moment or favorite aspect of the novel is next to impossible. I want to say, "everything!" but I'll try to narrow down my choices here. I love Evanjalin's strength and determination to lead the Lumaterans home, and how she's not at all the meek novice she appears to be at the novel's start. I love Finnikin's reunion with his father, Trevanion. I love the reunion of the King's Guard (Perri the Savage—you are awesome!). I absolutely love the story of Lady Beatriss saving a young Finnikin, Balthazar, and Isaboe from an angry bull and her priceless line to Trevanion: "Was that functional enough for you, Captain?" Now that I've mentioned them, can I just say how much I love Beatriss and Trevanion? Theirs is truly a story that cuts to the soul. The scene in which the two are at the graveside of their baby daughter who died and Beatriss's daughter, Vestie, helps Trevanion plant one of the seeds she'd been sprinkling around the grave utterly guts me. It's one of the most moving scenes I've ever read in a novel; simply thinking about it makes me misty-eyed.
A lot of us probably have a list of favorite books that we feel everyone needs to read. This one is on mine (along with its sequels, Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn). Seriously, go locate a copy of Finnikin of the Rock ASAP if you haven't read it yet. It's the type of book that you find your mind returning to time and time again because it leaves that much of an impression on you. Once you step into this world that Melina Marchetta has so ingeniously created, you'll never want to leave it.