After a attending a delightful Memorial Day party yesterday, followed by a nap, I picked up Melina Marchetta's riveting new fantasy, Finnikin of the Rock. Marchetta is the Printz award winning author of last year's Jellicoe Road. Five hours later I turned the last page of a very compelling and satisfying read.
The story begins ten years after assassins attack the kingdom of Lumatere and murder the royal family. A curse now creates a magical barrier around the kingdom to prevent those who fled from ever returning. Finnikin, exiled son of a former royal guard, is serving as an apprentice to Sir Topher, the murdered king’s First Man. While wandering in neighboring kingdoms and aiding refugees, they receive a message that leads them to Evanjalin, a novice who says Finnikin has been chosen to take his people home. Evanjalin is able to walk in other people's dreams, and she insists that Balthazar, heir to the throne, is alive and will breach the barrier, once Finnikin leads the refugees back to Lumatere. Along the way Finnikin is reunited with his father who has been imprisoned for a decade. He agrees to reassemble the royal guards to aid in the quest.
Although Evanjalin frequently aggravates Finnikin, he is also strangely drawn to her and becomes more and more worried about her safety. She tells him that their destinies are intertwined and that he will become king through the flow of her blood. He assumes this means her death and is bound and determined to avoid this eventuality.
Filled with mysticism and violent battles, the story is an allegory about the atrocities of war; especially violence toward women. Marchetta creates a believable fantasy world and characters that we care about deeply. The violence and allusions to sexual situations make this a novel for the more mature reader.