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.Basically, WHY didn’t I read this book a long time ago?!? I should’ve gone with my gut and the fact that it’s by Melina freakin’ Marchetta instead of listening to my friend who said it wasn’t that good. Because . . . um . . . it’s ridiculously fantastic.
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.
It’s high fantasy, which is a genre that tends to be hit or miss for me. I mean, there are books that I absolutely adore that are high fantasy, but I don’t usually read the genre in general. But this one was fairly perfect in my opinion--it had just the right blend of fantasy, adventure, and romance. And what I loved most was that it was a Melina Marchetta approach to those elements, which means everything feels so real and gut-wrenching. So many fantasy books have the characters traveling, but Marchetta makes you feel the grime and exhaustion of the characters. And oh my gosh, don’t even get me started on how she deals with the brutality and atrocities that have happened to the characters--it’s understated, but you feel like it’s stabbing you in the heart or something.
The characters are completely wonderful. All of them. I don’t think there were any that I didn’t absolutely love. Even Froi--the theif--who I despised at the beginning, had won me over by the end. Finninkin himself is pretty awesome. I wouldn’t say he made me swoon or anything, but I admired him and the way he learns from his mistakes and is able to swallow his pride so many times. But Evanjalin is the star of the show. That girl is so freakin’ strong. She’s been through more crap than anyone should ever have to, but she’s resilient and never loses sight of her goal--even when she has to sacrifice so much to achieve it.
Overall, I adored this book. Really. I LOVED it. It’s so different from Marchetta’s other books, but it’s still of the same caliber as her contemporary books. I can’t even tell you how excited I am for “Froi of the Exiles” to come out--and I only have to wait two months!