Finnikin of the Rock by Melinda Marchetta (2010)

Finnikin of the RockFinnikin of the Rock, son of the King’s Guard, Trevanion, was playmate the royal children and best friends with Prince Balthazar and Lucian of the Mont. The three boys were such great friends, they swear an oath – Balthazar to protect the royal family, Finnikin to be their Guide and Lucian to be a Beacon – when Finnikin has a dream in which the gods demand a sacrifice of blood.

Then the five days of the unspeakable happen. The kingdom is invaded and the royal family murdered. The Forest Dwellers are slaughtered and a witch woman, Seranonna, falsely persecuted. On the fifth day, as Seranonna burns at the stake, a curse flows from the witch’s lips creating a barrier around Lumatere. Those who fled the kingdom are unable to reenter. Those inside are trapped.

This fantasy is slow out the gate but really gathers speed once we join up with Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher tens years after their forced exile from Lumatere.

Finnikin receives a message calling him to a cloister where a novice awaits. This novice, Evanjalin, has the ability to walk the sleep of those inside Lumatere and in the sleep of their lost heir, Balthazar, whom she claims is alive.

Evanjalin leads Finnikin and Sir Topher to the hostile country of Sorel, where the King’s Guard has been banished. It is a first step in assembling the persons necessary to break the curse that has rendered Lumataire impenetrable and to succeed in overthrowing the false king.

In Finnikin and the Rock, Marchetta has created an intense fantasy with tangible characters and a plot that will keep you on your toes. Since reading Fire by Cashore and since the delay of her next book, Bitterblue, I have longed for a compelling fantasy that I would want to read again and again.

Marchetta has delivered it. Her Printz winner, Jellicoe Road,  was also a slow starter with excellent prose that captivated me a third of the way through. So it was with Finnikin. I was rewarded greatly for getting through the rather abrasive exposition and immersing myself in this world. This is definitely one to consider for your mock Printz Award list.

Read other reviews at Persnickety Snark and BCCLS.

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