Finnikin of the Rock: a book recommendation

5 out of 5 stars.

I will admit: it took me 3 tries to read this book. The prologue was just so…dull to me, and even the opening chapter. But I had heard so many great things about this book, that I forced myself on try #3 to just keep reading.

And I am so glad I did.

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. 

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 book contains your usual fantasy world: there’s some magic, the plot involves a prophecy, and there are some Evil Bad Guys. But ignore all that, because despite the somewhat lackluster world and premise, this book is amazing.

It broke my heart and then put it back together…only to break it again. And again. And what had my heart breaking–and my eyes pouring, truth be told–were the characters. Their interactions. Their emotions. Marchetta is a master of characterization, of tapping into those deep-seeded pains we ALL understand. I have read many, many epic fantasies in my life, but I’m not sure a book has ever managed to make my stomach twist, my eyes burn, or my arms chill in quite the way Finnikin of the Rock did.

Look, I’ll even admit that the middle chunk of the book was a bit confusing for me and not all that gripping. I am a NOTORIOUSLY impatient reader–especially when it comes to YA–but the emotional resonance in Finnikin was so profound, I kept turning pages despite my confusion.

Guys, the last 150 pages of this book are mind-blowing. Beautiful. Satisfying. Gut-wrenching. I am so, so, SO glad I read the whole thing–and I’ve heard the sequel, Froi of the Exiles, is even better. I intend to read it ASAP. Even though Finnikin ends on an upbeat, satisfying note, I NEED MORE. I need more of these characters, more of their interactions, and above all, more of this bittersweet heartache Marchetta is so deft at creating.

So yes, I had a few “issues” with the book, but I’m sharing those with you so–in case you’re as impatient as I am–you know to keep reading too. Those “issues” did not in anyway make this book less than 5 stars. And keep in mind, most people don’t get bored or confused with Finnikin (sometimes I think I must be the pickiest, snottiest reader ever).

If you like literary fiction, epic fantasy, and emotional depth, then I promise you, you will love Finnikin of the Rock.

You tell me: have you read Finnikin? Or Froi? What did you think?