Nataliya's Reviews > Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
3672777
's review
Dec 04, 13

bookshelves: 2012-reads, first-in-a-series
Recommended to Nataliya by: Many, many, oh so many overwhelmingly positive GR reviews
Read from September 28 to October 06, 2012

Dear Finnikin of the Rock, what happened? You and I were supposed to be enjoying the beginning of a beautiful friendship, walking into the sunset together.



Alas, no walking into the sunset was meant for us. Instead, our date ended with me awkwardly fumbling for keys and muttering, "Well, I'll call you sometime, I guess", knowing very well that you also acutely felt the absence of that proverbial chemistry, that necessary spark, and that none of us would be reaching for the phone any time soon.

Dear Finnikin of the Rock, you *do* understand why I thought it was going to work out, right? You seemed to have the whole package, after all.

(1) A medieval-ish fantasy setting with strong emphasis on the modern-day values of tolerance and political correctness (judge me all you want, but I believe in getting rid of any 'authenticity' when it comes to misogyny and other forms of intolerance in my pleasure reads).
(2) A strong-willed female protagonist who is NEVER in any need of rescuing.
(3) Melina Marchetta's prose which I have praised before on several occasions.

What's not to like, right? Right?? Right???



But just like in the aforementioned "Friends" episode, the delicious-seeming ingredients just did not produce a mind-blowing final product - to my utmost disappointment and sadness. Sadness, you hear that? Because I *wanted* it to work out between me and this book! (I mean, Catie liked it, and she's my go-to person for good books - so what's *wrong* with me???)

I think my first stumbling point was the puzzling childishness of this story - including the 'epic' bits and all the 'dangers' the characters faced. Never ever, not even for a moment, was there any sense of danger to our characters. Never ever was there a feeling that they are about to embark on a journey that could be painful and lead to losses. No, nothing like that - even if we are faced with prison mines, a battlefield, a refugee camp plagued by deathly illness. No, everything was presented in a bright and happy light simply as another adventure at the end of which Finnikin and friends would - of course! - come out victorious, with no lasting consequences, physically and mentally, with Finnikin perpetually acting like a lovable brat and inevitably earning some appreciation from one or more father figures. Yeah.

My second stumbling block was the characterization of Evanjalin. I think there is a difference between a strong female character who is able to be a tough leader - and a bratty liar who is worshiped, for no apparent reason, by everyone she comes in contact with. So many things would have been much easier (and much less frustrating) had Evanjalin at any time decided to just talk to her companions instead of manipulating them into doing what works for her.


And what does everyone do after learning about the aforementioned manipulation and lies? If you guessed that they treat her like gold, you're right. Because clearly she knows what's better for everyone, and is qualified to make choices for others.

Thirdly, a question - how exactly does the nation of slightly over 6000 people develop several ethnic subgroups that are very distinct and apparently almost never intermix, all while living in close proximity? In a nation where it appears everyone knows each other and each other's business - and yet they manage to not intermix and lose their very distinct physical characteristics? It just does not appear possible, and felt quite grating throughout the story.

Fourthly, so many storylines and ideas seemed to be introduced just to be dismissed a few pages later. (view spoiler)

Fifthly, there seemed to be more posturing between our male characters (namely, Finnikin and any other male he meets along the way) than I have seen since middle school.

It was getting a bit ridiculous. The number of times Finnikin charges someone, has a fight (without any physical consequences EVER!) - just to become their BFF afterwards was getting too much to count.

Anyway, I was more than willing to overlook the flaws - I do that all the time, in the countless books that I love. But with this one, I just could not.
In 11/22/63 (a perfect example of a book I loved enough to forgive all kinds of flaws), Stephen King quotes a Japanese proverb that apparently goes, "If there is love, smallpox scars are as pretty as dimples." Well, with no love all I see is smallpox scars. 2.5 stars.
----------------------
Sorry, book, I will be walking into the sunset alone. Without you by my side. It was not meant to be, Finnikin.

163 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Finnikin of the Rock.
sign in »

Reading Progress

10/01/2012 page 29
9.0%
10/01/2012 page 76
25.0% "Hang on - is this young thief who just tried to rape a girl THE Froi that I've heard everyone raving about on Goodreads? I must be wrong." 4 comments
10/01/2012 page 111
37.0% "Did a young woman just really freak out 4 men simply by referring to women's menses? Puh-lease. Really?"
10/01/2012 page 140
46.0% "Finnikin is supposed to be 19, right? Why do most of his actions make me think he is at most 14-15?" 3 comments
10/04/2012 page 158
52.0% "Dear Finnikin, why exactly is Evanjalin supposed to *belong* to the heir of the kingdom? Huh? I do not like your attitude towards women, my friend." 8 comments
10/06/2012 page 212
70.0% "Okay, dear Finnikin. The identity of Evanjalin is quite obvious, I think. Now I may be wrong, but how thick is your skull to not even consider that?"

Comments (showing 1-50 of 74) (74 new)


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Uccchhh. Sounds ghastly.


Nataliya It's not THAT bad - but it is just quite 'meh' with enough frustrations to tip it over into the two-star category.
I think I would have liked it more had I been a decade and a half younger.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Nataliya wrote: "It's not THAT bad - but it is just quite 'meh' with enough frustrations to tip it over into the two-star category.
I think I would have liked it more had I been a decade and a half younger."


Or had ~50 fewer IQ points.


Nataliya Hehe.
I even liked Miéville's Kraken (that blemish on CM's otherwise spectacular writing record!) more than this one. Maybe I've simply been spoiled by some excellent fantasy that I've read before. In any case, I join a very small club of people who did not want to have grandbabies with this book.


message 5: by Jonathan (new) - added it

Jonathan Richard wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "It's not THAT bad - but it is just quite 'meh' with enough frustrations to tip it over into the two-star category.
I think I would have liked it more had I been a decade and a hal..."


*Gasps* *coughs* Literary elitism eh, what's wrong with those little kids enjoying um posturing and mediocrity...

That 'posturing' sounds exactly like some of the immature schoolkids I know.


Nataliya Jonathan wrote: "*Gasps* *coughs* Literary elitism eh, what's wrong with those little kids enjoying um posturing and mediocrity...

That 'posturing' sounds exactly like some of the immature schoolkids I know. "


Oh Jonathan, you can't even imagine how many times I rolled my eyes and sighed when that awful posturing surfaced. Seeing it coming from a supposedly adult character (the titular Finnikin is 19) who is lauded for being a born leader - and not from a hormonal teen! - made it even worse.


Emily May I'm sorry this was such a disappointment for you :( But really great review, Nataliya.


Catie This is a fantastic review anyway - even though this is one of the few times we've disagreed. Reading this review makes me think that you'd really love Tigana though. Maybe I'll send that one next! It's soooo good and it has all the things you wanted from this book and doesn't have all the things you disliked. Don't worry, I'm sure we'll start agreeing again very soon and everything can go back to normal. ;)


Nataliya Emily wrote: "I'm sorry this was such a disappointment for you :( But really great review, Nataliya."

Thanks, Emily! I think I was expecting so much more from it after seeing the overwhelming love for this book and its sequels here lately. It always strange realizing that somehow you ended up being among the small group of people who did not like the universally loved book. And now I finally know how the people who were surprised at my unabashed love for Harry Dresden must have felt ;)


Nataliya Catie wrote: "This is a fantastic review anyway - even though this is one of the few times we've disagreed. Reading this review makes me think that you'd really love Tigana though. Maybe I'll send that one nex..."

Oh, I'd love that! Tigana has been on my TBR list for a very long time.
By the way, I finally have my package for you all set to go with the books that I'm sure you will love (well, two I'm sure you'll love, and one I hope that you will!). I just need to finish Bacigalupi's book before I send it off.

And yes, I'm looking forward to us agreeing on books again. I don't like the world where we don't share our book tastes ;)


Catie Exciting! I'm looking forward to seeing what you've chosen!


Nataliya Catie wrote: "Exciting! I'm looking forward to seeing what you've chosen!"

Well, I can tell you - unless you want to be surprised, that is.


message 13: by Trudi (new) - added it

Trudi Tigana is marvelous. Hope you enjoy that one much more Nataliya. Hopefully you and Catie disagreeing on a book isn't one of the Mayan signs of the world ending in December! ;)


Arielle Walker I've just begun this book and so far I'm completely agreeing with you, which is hugely upsetting because I love fantasy, and I adore Melina Marchetta and it just isn't living up to either of these loves! I'm glad to know I'm not alone in this feeling.


Catie I want to be surprised!!


message 16: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill I just finished this book a few days ago and had the same problems with it! That said, I found enough redeeming qualities to begin the sequel, Froi of the Exiles, and I am finding it to be MUCH improved (mostly because 1. the aggravating and manipulative Evanjalin is a secondary character and 2. the action takes place in mysterious Charyn rather than Lumatere, the unrealistic nation of only 6,000 people).


Nataliya Trudi wrote: "Tigana is marvelous. Hope you enjoy that one much more Nataliya. Hopefully you and Catie disagreeing on a book isn't one of the Mayan signs of the world ending in December! ;)"

I've heard so many good things about Tigana! I hope it does live up to the expectations that I've built up :) And now you got me all worried about possibly contributing to the end of the world. It cannot end yet! There are way too many good books to read! I haven't even read all the works by Miéville yet, not to mention Pratchett or Le Guin! At least I will have a vacation before the Apocalypse - and I should probably reread "Good Omens" in preparation for the last days ;)

Arielle wrote: "I've just begun this book and so far I'm completely agreeing with you, which is hugely upsetting because I love fantasy, and I adore Melina Marchetta and it just isn't living up to either of these ..."

Welcome to the club, Arielle :D


message 18: by Dakota (new)

Dakota I started to read this book because everybody was raving about it. I put it down when I realized that I was bored and that I thought Evanjalin was an unlikeable manipulative character.I like manipulative bastards and guile heroes, but she wasn't doing it for me.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Jonathan wrote: "*Gasps* *coughs* Literary elitism eh, what's wrong with those little kids enjoying um posturing and mediocrity...

That 'posturing' sounds exactly like some of the immature schoolkids I know."


Funny how that works, eh?


Nataliya Jill wrote: "I just finished this book a few days ago and had the same problems with it! That said, I found enough redeeming qualities to begin the sequel, Froi of the Exiles, and I am finding it to be MUCH imp..."

I heard that the sequel was much better, and I can see how not having much Evanjalin in the book would certainly be quite an improvement. Maybe I'll pick it up one of these days, who knows? I did like Froi's more realistic approach to life consisting of valuing his own survival over everything else (even though he does not always follow through on it, as we all have learned). I was not a big fan of the 'not worthy' part that made me cringe, however.

Dakota wrote: "I started to read this book because everybody was raving about it. I put it down when I realized that I was bored and that I thought Evanjalin was an unlikeable manipulative character.I like manipu..."

I know! I think the problem here is that while in other books the lying and manipulative characters are presented as anti-heroes, Evanjalin is portrayed as a true heroine, and I have a problem with such characterization.


The Holy Terror "I think there is a difference between a strong female character who is able to be a tough leader - and a bratty liar who is worshiped, for no apparent reason, by everyone she comes in contact with."

"Thirdly, a question - how exactly does the nation of slightly over 6000 people develop several ethnic subgroups that are very distinct and apparently almost never intermix, all while living in close proximity?"


Yes. Yes.

*fist bump*


The Holy Terror Nataliya wrote: "And now I finally know how the people who were surprised at my unabashed love for Harry Dresden must have felt ;)"

Ah, and now things makes sense. I adore Dresden too.


message 23: by Dakota (new)

Dakota The Holy Terror wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "And now I finally know how the people who were surprised at my unabashed love for Harry Dresden must have felt ;)"

Ah, and now things makes sense. I adore Dresden too."


Hey, I like Dresden and disliked this book as well. I'm not a super fan, but I do enjoy the books. I was mad when I found out the new one was coming out in November. I thought it was coming out this month.


The Holy Terror Dakota wrote: "Hey, I like Dresden and disliked this book as well."

We should start a club!

It's an interesting correlation, that's for sure.


Nataliya @ THT - I see your fist bump and I raise you a high-five! Loved your review of this book, by the way!

@ THT and Dakota - any friend of Harry Dresden is my friend :D Book 14 has been preordered.


Nataliya The Holy Terror wrote: "Dakota wrote: "Hey, I like Dresden and disliked this book as well."

We should start a club!

It's an interesting correlation, that's for sure."


n=3 is a decent sample size, right?


message 27: by Dakota (new)

Dakota Nataliya wrote: "@ THT - I see your fist bump and I raise you a high-five! Loved your review of this book, by the way!

@ THT and Dakota - any friend of Harry Dresden is my friend :D Book 14 has been preordered."


This is an interesting coincidence. I think I'm probably not as big as a fan as you two, though. I just like Dresden better than Finikkin.


message 28: by sanshow (new) - added it

sanshow Is it like a Disney story? But isn't Disney goood?


Nataliya sanshow wrote: "Is it like a Disney story? But isn't Disney goood?"

It's a bit like Disney story trying to be edgy, I guess ;)


Amy (Turn the Page) Sorry you didn't like this one good review though. I understand your feelings about Evanjalin though - I came to dislike her very quickly. All the characters think the sun shines out her arse but I found her pretty unlikeable. Even if I rather admire her skills with a sword ;)

My favourite character were Tesadora (think remember name right - its been a while) and actually Froi, who I surprising fell in love with by the end of the book.


Bonnie I was so upset that I didn't like this more too. For a while there I kept telling myself that I was going to try to read it again, that I must have read it at the wrong time and it was me not the book. But... the more I think about it, the more I think it just wasn't meant to be. Great review!


Kristen As someone who liked this, I can understand your feelings. My boyfriend, who loves fantasy, absolutely hated it and when we talked about it he brought up good points, as does this review. And I have to say, for as much as I liked the book on first reading, I've never really been tempted to pick up the second and keep reading, which says a lot.


Nataliya Bonnie wrote: "I was so upset that I didn't like this more too. For a while there I kept telling myself that I was going to try to read it again, that I must have read it at the wrong time and it was me not the b..."

Hey, our club of people who were not enchanted by this story is growing!

Amy (Turn the Page) wrote: "Sorry you didn't like this one good review though. I understand your feelings about Evanjalin though - I came to dislike her very quickly. All the characters think the sun shines out her arse but I..."

Evanjalin seems to have irritated quite a few readers, I see! I'm glad I was not the only one puzzled by the special treatment she gets from everyone. But speaking of her skills with a sword - is it just me, or does it seem from this book that a sword weighs 5-6 pounds tops, judging from an incredible ease with which everyone uses it?

Kristen wrote: "As someone who liked this, I can understand your feelings. My boyfriend, who loves fantasy, absolutely hated it and when we talked about it he brought up good points, as does this review. And I hav..."

I have to guess and assume here, for all that's worth, that this book may work best for the readers who may not be that well-versed in adult fantasy genre. It seems that most readers who loved it have come to it through Marchetta's contemporary YA books.


Nataliya Stargirl1234 wrote: "I don't know whether it's fantasy or that I didn't like Jellicoe Road, but I can't seem to get into this!!! Is something wrong with me?"

Clearly not. We have a growing club of those who did not care for this book - you're welcome to join ;)


The Holy Terror Nataliya wrote: "@ THT - I see your fist bump and I raise you a high-five! Loved your review of this book, by the way!

@ THT and Dakota - any friend of Harry Dresden is my friend :D Book 14 has been preordered."


Thanks, dear, your review is quite awesome as well. I'm really glad you pointed out how implausible the different ethnicities were, I feel like nobody ever notices this, or they just think, "well, it's fantasy so it's ok." And Evanjalin is a jerk.

I'll admit I fell behind on Dresden a long time ago, though I still preorder every hardcover. I re-bought the entire series in hardcover so they'd all match.

Have you read his fantasy series? I've heard good things about it but never had the urge to start it.


The Holy Terror Nataliya wrote: "It seems that most readers who loved it have come to it through Marchetta's contemporary YA books."

I think her contemporary is worse because it doesn't have the fantasy world to fall back on.

Thanks to rameau, I learned that Marchetta's characters are all the same, so if you don't like Finnikin and Evanjalin you probably won't like her characters in Jellicoe or Francesca. (Scroll down to August 10th, 2011)
8.Finnikin and Evanjalin are the medieval fantasy versions of Francesca and Will (the pragmatist versus the dreamer) and Froi and Quintana are the medieval fantasy versions of Jonah and Taylor (broken people who find each other despite the distrust and heartbreak between them). Lucian of the Monts is the medieval fantasy version of Tom Mackee and Chaz Santangelo (strong relationships with their fathers and constantly saying and doing the wrong thing, but their hearts are in the right places).
If you read one book by her and try another you'll quickly see how she's recycled her own material.


Nataliya The Holy Terror wrote: "I'll admit I fell behind on Dresden a long time ago, though I still preorder every hardcover. I re-bought the entire series in hardcover so they'd all match.

Have you read his fantasy series? I've heard good things about it but never had the urge to start it."


What I love about the Dresden series is that it gets better as the series develops, as opposed to so many series out there that just seem to lose steam once they get past the first few installments.
I've read the first 11 Dresden books in less than 2 weeks on the tiny iPhone screen, actually. So I'm completing my collection all in Kindle editions (with the exception of Changes which for some reason I bought in hardcover).
If you ever decide to catch up on the series and want a buddy read, let me know :)

I read the fantasy series as well, but I did not love it nearly as much as the Dresden books. It was just okay, nothing spectacular, with many frustrating bits, actually. I still liked it better than Finnikin, but that's nto saying that much. I'd never even consider rereading any of it, really. They were easy to get through and equally easy to forget.


Nataliya The Holy Terror wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "It seems that most readers who loved it have come to it through Marchetta's contemporary YA books."

I think her contemporary is worse because it doesn't have the fantasy world to ..."


I've read her Jellicoe Road (which I mostly liked) and Piper's Son (which I thought was okay). She does seem to love to write tortured young characters that suffer because of separation from their family (literally or figuratively speaking). It worked fine for me in those contemporary stories, but maybe you're right and the novelty is wearing off at this point making me more critical.

I still plan on reading other books by her because there's something in her writing style that appeals to me - but I'm now curious whether I will end up coming to the same conclusion.


message 39: by mark (new)

mark monday 2 stars, wow! i have read so many good things about this one. nice to see a contrasting perspective.


Nataliya mark wrote: "2 stars, wow! i have read so many good things about this one. nice to see a contrasting perspective."

I know. After all the glowing reviews I kept waiting for the amazingness to start happening and for this book to become my new best friend. Well, that never happened, sadly.


Regina Nataliya, I wasn't a fan of this book either. But I loved #2, #2 is a completley different ball game and may be worth reading since you have already put the time into tackling this one.


message 42: by Maya (last edited Oct 10, 2012 04:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maya Very nice review :) I enjoyed this book, but actually completely agree on your second and third points. Evanjalin was o_O and the setting made me go "huh?" more than once. The rest of the book managed to make up for them in my case, so I was lucky.


Nataliya Regina wrote: "Nataliya, I wasn't a fan of this book either. But I loved #2, #2 is a completley different ball game and may be worth reading since you have already put the time into tackling this one."

Hmmmm, so given all the issues I had with this one you think I'd still be able to enjoy the sequel? Is Evanjalin (hopefully) only a secondary character in it?

Maya wrote: "Very nice review :) I enjoyed this book, but actually completely agree on your second and third points. Evanjalin was o_O and the setting made me go "huh?" more than once. The rest of the book mana..."

Thanks, Maya! Unfortunately I was not able to move past the points that annoyed me. I wish I could - so many people seemed to love this one, after all!


Regina Yes! :) I had the same issue with the Froi situation (particularly as he is the lead character in #2). I actually refused to read it for the longest time, I could not wrap my mind around how he would be rehabilitated. Well it is never forgotten or forgiven.

And Evanjalin is a secondary character. ;)

Interesting point about the ethnic groups, but the other nation is explored more in #2. And I love how Marchetta allows the issue of who is wrong and who is right to become blurred.


Nataliya Regina wrote: "Yes! :) I had the same issue with the Froi situation (particularly as he is the lead character in #2). I actually refused to read it for the longest time, I could not wrap my mind around how he ..."

Hmmmm, that sounds interesting. Maybe I'll give it a shot sometime down the road. People do seem to love the second book more than this one, so maybe it's a good sign.


message 46: by Kay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kay Oh no! 2 stars? You and I usually tend to have similar ratings! I loved the book, but I can see where you're coming from, especially your points about Evanjelin and Froi. I was definitely turned off by (view spoiler) and was hesitant to pick up the second book because of it. This definitely isn't a perfect book, but for me, the emotional impact was strong enough for a higher rating.


Nataliya Kay wrote: "Oh no! 2 stars? You and I usually tend to have similar ratings! I loved the book, but I can see where you're coming from, especially your points about Evanjelin and Froi. I was definitely turned o..."

Maybe it was just not the right time for me to read this book. I do have a feeling that I would have liked it mire had I read it 6-7 years ago when I was less familiar with a fantasy genre and was closer in age to the characters. But I have read so many brilliant books over the past few years that this one just fails to live up to the expectations that I have.
I'm becoming more curious about the sequel, however. Everyone keeps saying how it's much better than its predecessor, and that tempts me.


message 48: by Kay (last edited Oct 26, 2012 07:16AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kay Looking back, I think I was much more affected by Finnikin simply because I hadn't read a lot of good fantasy on the YA level at the time. I wonder if my rating would have been closer to 4 stars than 5 if I had more basis for comparison, though I am loathe to change anything now because my opinion changes all the time and re-rating books months later based on my mood would open the gate to chaos and madness!

About the sequel, I loved it more than Finnikin. I personally think it's much better, but I'm hesitant to recommend it to you because (1) there is much more going on in Froi than Finnikin, (2) Isaboe is much brattier in the second because she's stressed from being queen and then gets preggos (uh oh), and (3) I'm not sure what you'd think about Quintana. Basically, take the first book, multiply it a few times in terms of intensity and content, add in darkness and sex and abuse, and you will have an idea of what the second book is like. I personally loved it, but I can definitely see people having mixed feelings.


Nataliya Kay wrote: "Basically, take the first book, multiply it a few times in terms of intensity and content, add in darkness and sex and abuse, and you will have an idea of what the second book is like."

Now that sounds more like what I would enjoy, and what was lacking in the adorably bratty adventures of Finnikin and crew.


message 50: by Kay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kay Nataliya wrote: "Now that sounds more like what I would enjoy, and what was lacking in the adorably bratty adventures of Finnikin and crew."

Have I inadvertently convinced you to read the next book? If so, yay! I was trying my best to give a balanced assessment of the book, though inwardly I wanted to shove this book in the hands of any and all.


« previous 1
back to top