Saturday, August 18, 2012

Supreme Fantasy, Like No Other

Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles)
Melina Marchetta has a way of writing a story that doesn't appeal to some people, but it blows the rest of us out of the water. In her beautiful opening to the Lumatere Chronicles called Finnikin of the Rock, you will find yourself immersed into this foreign world where things aren't always as they seem.

Finnikin remembers the nights of horror after the king, queen, and their children were slaughtered by assassins. The cousin of the king stormed the castle and took over, closing the borders of Lumatere. Many Lumaterans escaped as he ravaged through the country, killing those who would dare question him, but many were trapped inside the country's walls. Of those trapped was the mystical priestess of the Forest Dwellers, but when they came to kill her after discovering she was covered in the blood of the youngest princess, Isaboe, she cursed the kingdom on her way out of this world from a burning stake. Now everyone suffers: the innocent people caught inside the walls and those thrust from the kingdom who live as exiles, claimed by no other kingdom and suffering the curse from afar.

When Finnikin and Sir Topher are compelled to seek out a novice (kind of a priestess in training), they locate a young woman who tells them Balthazar, the young prince heir, is still alive. Finnikin's father was the leader of the King's Guard, but he is imprisoned in an unknown location and unable to do anything for his people. So Finnikin and Topher take it upon themselves to find a place for their people to finally call home now that Lumatere is lost to them, but such a task is near impossible. Now, with the hope of the prince heir still being alive, they feel they might be able to help their people if they have a beloved leader to bring back to them. But the road with the novice, Evanjalin, is paved with lies, deceit, and danger. She is someone Finnikin is sure he can't trust, but she is also captivating. He can't stay away from her, but he is worried she will get them all killed if he doesn't. 

Oh, Melina Marchetta. When I read Jellicoe Road, I was blown away. It was beautiful, haunting, and amazing. But when I saw Finnikin of the Rock I wasn't sure what to think about a fantasy novel. I should have known you would create magic with anything you wrote. This novel was so beautifully told, I couldn't rush it. It actually took me significantly longer to read for a book this size because I wanted to cherish each and every word. It was the kind of story that rolls around in your mind long after you finished it. I am not sure how else to describe the magic you accomplish with your writing other than magical. Maybe that is cliche, but in this case, completely accurate. Just thinking about it makes me want to gush even more! Marchetta can take a simple scene, a scene other authors can tackle without difficulty, but she does so with an infinite grace that makes each page draw you into the fantasy world she created. In fact, the story reminded me a little of Kristin Cashore's Graceling where she created a story that just spoke for itself- no endorsements necessary!

This book, as beautiful as it is, might be too complex for a younger, less experienced reader. It is mature, not because of the content (although the content can be mature at times, dealing with rape, gruesome murders, and child slavery), but because of the way it is writing. The writing style is incredibly beautiful, but it may lose a reader who isn't comfortable in taking their time, digesting the story, and possibly even rereading in order to get the full effect of the story. I know my students are sometimes to anxious to finish the story, they can't take their time to enjoy it. This book would be lost on those students. It would also be lost on those who can only read a few pages at a clip. It really needs to be digested in larger hunks to get the full experience of the story. But if you know anyone, adult, or young adult, who loves fantasy and can take the time to enjoy a beautiful story, this is a perfect choice for you. 

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