Around the time I was being implored to give Vampire Academy a second chance, Leigh Bardugo (she of the awesome Grisha series, have you entered the giveaway yet?) was kind enough to offer a few suggestions for her favorite YA high fantasy; a subgenre that seems to be fairly lacking from what I’ve read to date.
One of those suggestions was this, Finnikin of the Rock, and I have to say, it’s a good one.
The story itself is fairly basic: at the tender age of nine, Finnikin watches as his homeland is conquered by an imposter king and the land cursed by a witch burned at the stake, his father imprisoned and his mother killed. For ten years he wanders in exile with his mentor, Sir Topher, the true King’s First Man, trying to find their people and a way to return to his land. After a prophetic dream, he is lead to a mute novice by the name of Evanjalin who claims that the heir to throne of the kingdom he loves is alive.
What makes this story so wonderful is the character of Evanjalin. You feel like you never fully know her: what her motivations are or what ends she’s trying to accomplish. At the same time, you never doubt that her ends are for a good purpose. She’s spirited, and while no trained fighter, she is not one to roll over at the sign of trouble either. She’s absolutely fantastic and really the reason for reading this book.
Also wonderful, and a reason to recommend the book, is a complete and utter lack of a love triangle. Seriously. This made me cheer. You know that Finnikin and Evanjalin will get together before they do, but there is no third party and their are no grand declarations of love until the end when it feels very convincing. In fact, if anything, Finnikin is reluctant to acknowledge his feelings and the reason for doing so feel very real. It’s absolutely refreshing.
This book is definitely a buy it for fans of the genre.
There a couple of sequels, focused a boy-thief named Froi. I’m not sure I’ll pick those up – he didn’t much for me in this novel, and blessedly Finnikin of the Rock is pretty well self-contained so don’t feel like you have to get roped into another trilogy if you’re feeling a bit weary of them.