Hi friends! If you remember, I started a new “challenge” where I start from the oldest books on my Goodreads TBR, and listen to the audiobook of it! So I started with Finnikin of the Rock* and, well, here are my thoughts.
*which has been on my TBR since october 2017…
TW/CW: mentions of rape/attempted rape, murder, sexist comments, labor camps
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.
This came out in 2010, which wasn’t actually that long ago, but it feels longer. Anyways, it’s been a surprisingly long time since I’ve read a proper YA high fantasy novel. I was actually shocked at how much I enjoyed it! Hugh Fraser is a really excellent audiobook narrator. In fact, just the other day, I randomly remembered a quote from the book and thought it was from a TV show, but really it was due to Fraser’s rich narration and my imagination.
okay. the first 100 pages?
Actually, the prologue is brutal. But it’s an excellent hook, to set up for the rest of the story. After the prologue, it gets a little…um…boring. Slow. An occasional splash of action, and then it’s all ruined by the characters talking, traveling, arguing, and whining for forever.
but after that???
The worldbuilding was really surprising? We’re thrown straight into a politically charged world, with little explanation. Literally me for most of the book:
narrator: these characters are named serra nona and balthazar and sir topher
me, nodding sagely: ah yes, strega nona and bazzaro and sir gopher
I think we could have used less info-dumping, and more gradual explanation. Funnily enough, while there is a dash of magic and prophecy and the like, this is actually more of a politically centered universe. There aren’t any fantastical creatures, nor dramatic quests. It has a fantasy vibe to it don;t get me wrong, but at the same time it could almost be an alternate version of our world.
Finnikin was…complex. His relationship with a certain figure from the past was just ASDFGHJKL ALL THE FEELS. However, he would lowkey think sexist thoughts at first? They eased as time went on, but other men began making them. Perhaps it was to signify a certain spoilery contrast, however. Anyways, I did like Finnikin! But he was very cut-and-dry warrior hero.
Evanjalin was a great character. Do I think she could have been fleshed out a little more at the end? Yes. But her character arc was done really well.
Um...the plot. Sometimes, it drags for no reason. Also, I would have liked more excitement at the end? Like, I despise build-up that disappears into the great void of nothing. But there was one plot twist that I literally gasped at, and for that, I give extra brownie points!
Honestly, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this. It felt strangely unique, slightly mellow, yet ringing with emotion. I want to continue on and read the companion novels now! Tell me:
What’s an underrated book in your opinion?
Have you ever read a fantasy novel that wasn’t very focused on magic?