The Holy Terror's Reviews > Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
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Feb 19, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: color-blue, color-red, young-adult, fantasy, borrowed, epic-fantasy, made-me-cry, australian-authors, forgot-to-drink-the-kool-aid, awful-worldbuilding, 2011
Read from October 10 to November 11, 2011

I think this is the point where Marchetta and I go our separate ways. I read Saving Francesca and didn't enjoy it, and thought maybe it was just my aversion to realistic/contemporary fiction that was keeping me from riding the Marchetta love-train. After this second attempt I think she's just not for me. There isn't one thing I can point out that makes me say "this" is why I don't like her books, but there are numerous problems I can draw attention to.

My biggest gripe is that the plot hinges on assumptions made by numerous characters. What I mean by this is: if Evanjalin had revealed her secret early on then a lot of the problems that cropped up wouldn't have manifested. Although, Marchetta does address this by having one of the characters point out to Finnikin that if he knew the truth then he wouldn’t have made the right choices. So we have assumptions on top of assumptions now. Evanjalin constantly keeps secrets from them: both big and small ones. She puts everyone on a need to know basis, and makes their journey harder by doing so. I can’t even count how many times I wanted to shake her and tell her just to be straight with them. It was beyond frustrating.

And THEN, when her secret is revealed, everyone treats Evanjalin like she’s a saint and did no wrong-doing; suddenly, she's up on this pedestal and can't be touched. This felt so manufactured and inorganic. Everyone acts differently and practically out-of-character from how they were just a few chapters ago. I can understand some of this to a point, but the complete 180 everyone did just didn't sit well with me. Surprisingly, Finnikin was the only one who still acted marginally the same.

Evanjalin manipulates everyone and everything around her, without any regret. She is largely of the mind that "the ends justify the means" and does whatever the hell she wants. Evanjalin knows best and everyone else can just suck it. I understand she went through more than any person should have to endure, but her actions and her attitude throughout the book did not endear me to her. I liked Finnikin until he decided that he was in love with Evanjalin; which was yet another thing that didn’t occur naturally. Evanjalin lies, manipulates, and somewhat betrays everyone in her traveling party, even Finnikin, and everyone just accepts this and falls in love with her. It's so mind-boggling.

Then we have Froi. I will never get over what he did, and I honestly don't understand why Marchetta had his character do what he did, because it didn't fit with the image she created of him for the rest of the book. You want me to like him? Well, don’t make him (view spoiler) I don’t care what sort of environment someone grows up in, I can't imagine anyone (view spoiler)

Then there are two nit-picky things that were always in the back of my head. Finnikin learns the Yut language within a few days. And, from what I gather, the Yut language is very different from any of the other languages, as it’s described as being guttural and full of grunts (166), so it’s not like it’s just a dialect of another language or even a close sister-language. Finnikin is also a wiz when it comes to learning new languages, and I understand that, but to be able to make complex proclamations in a language you’ve only been taught in a matter of days is incredibly implausible.

Also, we have the multiple races (different skin/eye/hair color combinations are constantly remarked on) all living on one tiny island. There is a reason that almost 99% of the people in Japan are Japanese (even taking into account their tendency towards xenophobia). You just won't find so many different ethnicities living on such a small land mass, and even if this did somehow exist, they would eventually interbreed to the point where everyone would be a mix of everyone else. And, considering the remark Trevanion makes about the Yuts being at war for the past 10,000 years (175), this makes the fact that there are so many races even more unbelievable. And why are the people who live in the hot tropical climates fair-skinned with pale eyes (171)? The closer you are to the sun, the darker you’ll be in order to survive. This is such a weird thing to overlook.

I also felt like the magic and religion of this world were thrown together rather haphazardly. Nothing is really explained all that much and you’re just supposed to accept things for what they are. I don't mind not having info dumps about everything, but at least eventually let me into the club so I know what the rules are. Evanjalin explains (view spoiler) And the religion seemed pointless as well, when it didn't even factor into anything other than having a place to sequester people. I didn’t understand placing so much emphasis on Sagrami and Lagrami worshippers, other than to have a convenient group of people to persecute.

Marchetta is a competent writer, but I don’t think she’s a good story-teller. There are too many things I can pick at and too many issues I have with her characters that I just find myself unable to enjoy her books as a whole. This is likely my last chance I'm giving her, because I normally like fantasy so much more than contemporary, and this one had almost as many issues for me as Francesca did. I know lots of people love Marchetta, but in this book lots of people love Evanjalin too, and I think in both instances I'm just not drinking the right Kool-aid.
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Reading Progress

10/10/2011 page 0
0.0% "Read-along with Mossy Moss Moss. Even though she smells like a hyena."
10/10/2011 page 15
4.0% "Ok, so obviously I know where Finnikin is, they don't know where Balthazar is, but the third friend, Lucian, has yet to even be mentioned. Where's he, huh?"
10/10/2011 page 25
6.0% "I'm really glad this has maps."
10/10/2011 page 57
14.0% "Argh. Who the heck is the priest king?"
10/10/2011 page 58
15.0% "Still filled with his own anger, Finnikin walked over and grabbed him by the hair.
"My mother, unlike yours, never exchanged sexual favors for a piece of silver," he said, addressing the first insult by banging the boy's head against the trunk of a tree. "And," he said with another resounding thump, "although I'm very familiar with that part of the female body, I take offense at being labeled one.""
10/10/2011 page 63
16.0% "He held her up and wiped her face with the hem of his shirt. Their eyes met, and he saw a bleakness there that made him choke. Suddenly he wanted the power to wipe such hopelessness away. That moment in front of the guards, he had allowed emotion to cloud his reason. Yet he felt no regret. He understood, with a clarity that confused him, that if anyone dared touch her again, his sword would not stay in it scabbard."
10/10/2011 page 65
16.0% "He could feel Evanjalin's eyes on him as the sun before them disappeared at a speed beyond reckoning. "Then I will demand that you speak Lumateran when we are alone," Evanjalin said, interrupting his thoughts.
"Will you?" he mocked. "And why is that?"
"Because without our language, we have lost ourselves. Who are we without our words?""
10/10/2011 page 65
16.0% ""In some kingdoms, they have removed all traces of Lumatere from the exiles. We are in their land now and will speak their tongue or none at all. Our punishment for the pathetic course of our lives."
"So men cease to speak," she sad softly."
10/10/2011 page 67
17.0% "Oh, man. Now that's a prophecy that will hang over your head."
10/10/2011 page 71
18.0% "Wtf, Evanjalin?"
10/11/2011 page 93
23.0% ""I will ask you this once and then I never want it spoken of again," his father said quietly.


10/11/2011 page 113
28.0% ""You are evil," he seethed.
"Oh, the way that word is thrown around!" she said. "Everything is evil that humans can't control or conquer.""
10/11/2011 page 118
30.0% "Now that I know who Froi is, I don't think I want to read the second book. Lucy, know what I mean?" 31 comments
10/18/2011 page 179
45.0% ""Have you forgotten your childhood in Lumatere?" Finnikin asked quietly when the guide signaled they were close to the fort.
"No," she said. "I remember every single moment and will until the day I die."

Good lord, Evanjalin. Do have to be so morose all the time?

10/18/2011 page 188
47.0% "Must be nice to be able to learn an entirely new language in just a few days." 9 comments
11/05/2011 page 256
64.0% "Alright, Evanjalin is pissing me off now."
11/05/2011 page 300
75.0% "Why lie when the one secret Evanjalin kept from them until now would have made them all listen to and believe her? I don't get the point of deceiving them for so long." 2 comments
11/08/2011 page 309
77.0% "So the reason they kept the secret from Finnikin was because they assumed if he knew the truth he wouldn't make the right choices. I love it when the whole plot hinges on assumptions."
11/08/2011 page 316
79.0% "Ha, it'd be funny if they all walked through the gate and died. Wah wah, end of story." 1 comment
11/11/2011 page 399
100.0% "I think I just have to accept the fact that Marchetta is not for me." 15 comments

Comments (showing 51-92 of 92) (92 new)

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The Holy Terror You know you're only making me want to read it more, for all the wrong reasons.

message 52: by Wendy Darling (new)

Wendy Darling April wrote: "But the problems that you point out with Finnikin are the VERY SAME PROBLEMS with Jellicoe Road. The whole plot is based upon some secrets kept from the MC. And I don't even understand why it was necessary to keep these secrets. It's so stupid. And these feelings of not being loved and nobody caring for her leads the MC into deeply disturbed territory and it turns out that none of it was true........"

YES YES YES. And "manipulation" is right. The few tears I shed were unwilling.

And I always want ice cream cake. And it makes me terribly cranky when I am denied it.

message 53: by [deleted user] (new)

The Holy Terror wrote: "No, Moss is just being silly. Froi is the only one who talks differently, because he's the only one who doesn't know the Lumeter..."

Hm no I wasn't. I was suggesting that she was modelling his speech on an East London cockney accent, probably partly to consolidate his character's more working class antecedents, and also possibly to confirm his overall position on the hierarchy of characters in the book. I don't believe he has a speech impediment, I believe it's a deliberate device the author is using. I can see what you're saying about it possibly being a reflection of his grasp of Lumateran, but I disagree that what we're talking about is an example of that.

The Holy Terror But the only words he screws up are ones with "th" in them. I don't consider that an accent. The "th" sound is hard for people to learn if it's not already in their language, so all I think she was doing was emphasizing that he really didn't grow up in Lumatere.

The Holy Terror AND, when he switches back to Sarnak, he speaks fine.

Regina April I loved Jellicoe, but you are right as to the secrets. I can't remember the names now, but it seemed ridiciuous (view spoiler) I thought that was incredibly selfish. I still think it is a marvelous books though, I can accept when characters do selfish things when it is consistent with their personality and that character was selfish. Additionaly, (view spoiler)

Wicked Incognito Now Regina--(view spoiler)

Regina Exactly, April. I feel the need to say I loved the book and couldnt put it down, but those two things were really just silly and in real life wouldn't happen. (view spoiler)

The Holy Terror ARGH.

You people.



Have to go to the liberry to return this one anyway, I'll grab Jellicoe while I'm there.


The Holy Terror Aaah, too bad. It's at another branch so I have to wait for it to get to my liberry.

message 61: by Flannery (last edited Nov 12, 2011 04:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Flannery I never wrote a review about this one but I really enjoyed it. After reading your review and agreeing the whole way through, I wonder what the hell I was thinking. Man oh man, though, I am one of the diehards Wendy is talking about. I am still drafting my review of Froi of the Exiles but if you didn't like Finnikin, I can't imagine that you'd even make it halfway in Froi. It's 600 pages long!(view spoiler)

The Holy Terror Hmm. I think I might just have to abandon this series then, and never read Froi. Unless the third book ends up being something magical.

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead hmmm.. this is going to be interesting since (as you already know), we either agree completely or disagree completely on books. I wonder which one this one will be? Regardlesss, I liked your review. :)

The Holy Terror I don't think you'd disagree too much with me, the technical problems are ones that are hard to overlook. It'll be interesting to see how you feel though ...

Melissa I like you review, I completely agree . I got this book because it was rated so well and I just did not like it, the main characters just don't seem worthy of my good opinion.

message 66: by Becky (new)

Becky Ugh. The last part of review just really sickens me--I hate when books belittle serious problems like cutting by telling us that all we really needs to solve them is a man. No addressing the cause of the cutting or what's going to happen when the relationship ends, it's just BOOM. Problem solved.

message 67: by rameau (last edited Mar 12, 2012 07:13AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

rameau You managed to articulate the main issues I had with this book, but the difference is that I didn't care. Apparently I'm one of her die hard fans, even if I don't consider myself one.

Froi, he gets over his speech impediment in his own book. But if you can't forgive him for (view spoiler) you probably should stay away. It gets worse, much worse.

There's a perfectly logical reason why you'd not like this if you didn't like Saving Francesca. From her blog (scroll down to 10 August 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).

EDA: Even without reading that quote, I would have started to notice Marchetta recycling her own material. So far it hasn't bothered me, but unless she creates something completely new after Quintana, I might have to stop reading her books. I don't want the repetition to spoil the ones I've loved.

The Holy Terror rameau wrote: "You managed to articulate the main issues I had with this book, but the difference is that I didn't care. Apparently I'm one of her die hard fans, even if I don't consider myself one."

Thanks for liking my review even though we don't agree. Why do you think it is that you can look over all of the faults so easily while I can't? And do you really think I should just give up on her because all of her books will really just be the same thing over and over again?

rameau The Holy Terror wrote: "Thanks for liking my review even though we don't agree. Why do you think it is that you can look over all of the faults so easily while I can't? And do you really think I should just give up on her because all of her books will really just be the same thing over and over again? "

There are so many things that can ruin a good book. Unrealistic expectations, bad mood on the day, the narrative voice, that little switch flips in your mind when one thing doesn't make sense, starts to bother you, and suddenly all you can see are the annoying bits. This has happened to me more often than I care to count.

I like how Marchetta writes, I like her focus on the characters, and the feel that although the world building isn't as detailed as some (I) would like she knows what it is like, that she's thought it through. I like that she tortures her characters and makes me connect with them emotionally. I know she's not the best storyteller and recycling her own characters doesn't really help, but she bewitches me with the how.

Does that make sense? Aren't there any authors whose writing just grabs you and won't let go until you've reached the last page?

It could be that her style, her emphasis on how the words sound isn't what matters to you and the things you connect to are simply not there.

I haven't read all her books, so I can't really say if all Marchetta does is to tell the same story over and over again. I also can't say she doesn't. I do think you've given her ample chance to win you over, and you should feel bad for passing her books over for new ones by new authors or your favourites.

message 70: by Leah (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leah Steele Thanks for this review. I gave the book 4 stars because I really did enjoy it but it just didn't light that spark in me I need a book to light to earn 5 stars. After reading some thoughtful 5-star reviews I found myself wondering why I couldn't seem to give this one the nudge up (I loved Jellicoe Road, btw), and now that I've read your review I know exactly why.

The points you bring up are so spot-on. The whole religious aspect seemed a bit slapdash and it seemed like it took a theological info dump toward the end of the book to even attempt to validate its own existence.

I also have a problem with the passage of time and travel in all the Marchetta books I've read (Francesca was horrible for this). It seems like the characters seem to bounce around from place to place and inexplicably end up where they need to be but I'm not always sure exactly where--or when--that is.

And I'm glad someone else mentioned the Froi debacle. I'm just not sure how a character who did what he did could ever be redeemed in my mind.
Evanjaline didn't bother me over much, but it is frustrating that all of these books pretty much hinge on keeping secrets from people to the detriment of their psychological well being. Like I said, I loved Jellicoe but it does occur to me that if they had just told this poor suffering girl what the sitch was, most of the heartbreak could have been avoided. Same here; if Evanjaline had just been straight with everyone, we could have avoided all this crap and her excuse for not doing so was just too convenient and implausible.

Anyway, thanks for helping me put my own thoughts in order and reminding me I'm not completely insane for liking a different flavor of kool-aid.

The Holy Terror rameau wrote: "Does that make sense? Aren't there any authors whose writing just grabs you and won't let go until you've reached the last page? "

Ah, I get it now. Richelle Mead would be my Marchetta then. I think you've finally deciphered things for me.

The Holy Terror Leah wrote: "Anyway, thanks for helping me put my own thoughts in order and reminding me I'm not completely insane for liking a different flavor of kool-aid."

Hey, you're welcome and thanks for not making ME feel like the crazy one. : )

rameau The Holy Terror wrote: "rameau wrote: "Does that make sense? Aren't there any authors whose writing just grabs you and won't let go until you've reached the last page? "

Ah, I get it now. Richelle Mead wo..."

I don't think I've read any of her books.

The Holy Terror rameau wrote: "I don't think I've read any of her books."


Hmm. I really can't recommend her. Every single one of her series takes a turn that someone could justifiably become furious at. I'll read everything she writes though. One of the most interesting things is one of my most favorite and my most hated male characters are both in one of her series. If you're curious, the first book is Storm Born, but that's NOT a recommendation, lol. Another good thing about her books is her series are not neverending, they're all finite, and some are even finished already.

message 75: by Leah (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leah Steele The VA series? I'm curious. Who's the favorite and who's the hated?

The Holy Terror Leah wrote: "The VA series? I'm curious. Who's the favorite and who's the hated?"

No, not the VA series, the one I linked. And it's the two male characters in that one.

message 77: by Dija (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dija I clearly got the wrong Kool-aid as well. It actually makes me sad because I was really looking forward to this, but the more I think back on it, the more I find things to be annoyed about. Especially regarding Finnikin and Evanjalin. I really wish someone would throttle the latter, and I was hoping it'd be Finnikin. :/

The Holy Terror I was looking forward to it too, and it seemed really, really promising. Some authors just aren't ever going to win me over, I guess.

message 79: by Dija (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dija Me either, if this book is anything to go by. But then again, people say her contemporaries are way better and different too, so I dunno. Maybe I'll end up giving one of them a chance, but only for a 100-page trial or something, LOL.

The Holy Terror I read Saving Francesca before this one, the world-building was better (probably because she didn't have to create anything) but the characters and their decisions were still awful.

message 81: by Dija (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dija Oh, shoot, there's stupid decisions? I can't stand it when characters mess up, on purpose, over and over. But I dunno, I'm still thinking the hype has to be at least partially well-deserved, right? I think I'll give SF a try, if nothing else than to completely be able to decide my verdict on Marchetta. Do you plan on continuing with this series?

message 82: by The Holy Terror (last edited Mar 25, 2012 11:30PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

The Holy Terror I have a review for SF.

Will I continue this series? Maybe? It's incredibly rare for me to drop a series but I'm in the middle of so many that it's more than likely that I'll never get around to the next book. A lot of fans didn't even like Froi of the Exiles, so that doesn't bode well for me.

message 83: by Dija (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dija Yeah, I think the same might happen with me. I plan on reading the next book, but it'll most probably get lost in the sea of other sequels I desperately need to read first.

Suzyq I have to agree completely with this review.

Nataliya Well, you and I seem to have the same lukewarm opinion of this book.

The Holy Terror Nataliya wrote: "Well, you and I seem to have the same lukewarm opinion of this book."


Sandra Z mhm. Evanjalin annoyed me... that was my main problem with the book...

message 88: by Lucy (new) - rated it 1 star

Lucy i think she just has connections in the publishing world or w/e. but her books just suck.

message 89: by Janvi (new) - added it

Janvi I suggest you should try her other book - Jellicoe Road. It's amazing. So give her another try !

message 90: by Lisa (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lisa I basically agree with everything you've written. I'm glad I wasn't the only one confused about the religion and other mythological aspects of the story. I was worried that it was explained but I somehow missed it because my mind kept wandering due to boredom.

I was also disappointed by the mishandling of the Froi incident. It was so unbelievable how quickly it was forgiven and forgotten. Also, I strongly disliked Evanjalin, which I think was the biggest reason this book didn't work for me. It's hard to like a book where you disagree with 99% of the characters.

Great review.

Holly Marchetta is a competent writer, but I don’t think she’s a good story-teller. There are too many things I can pick at and too many issues I have with her characters that I just find myself unable to enjoy her books as a whole.

Yes! This is a good way of putting it. Her ambition as a storyteller exceeds her ability. There's too much going on and she simply can't pull off the complexity she wants to create; she can't make the hot mess she threw onto the page into a coherent narrative.

Laurie Brumbaugh Good review. I hated Froi! I had to skim through the chapter written from his perspective. And I just never really connected with any of the other characters or the story. I really wanted to like it, but sadly, no.

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