Finnikin of the Rock Book Review

Nearly three weeks after I read the book, here we are. For the record, I really like Marchetta’s other works. See what I think of this one and enjoy.

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta


Before we delve into this review, I must say that this book is rated PG-13 for language, violence and some rather scandalous behavior. If you have questions, feel free to comment.


This is the story of Finnikin. Eh. I don’t even know how to do a summary for it. So, I’ll steal one:

“Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put undera terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikan is affected by her arrogance… and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikan’s faith in her… but in himself.”

Taken from Wikipedia


So, I started out this book with raised eyebrows because Melina Marchetta usually works her tales out of the fabric of this world, not another. And frankly, I was not surprised when she not only fumbled the ball in terms of plot, but missed every other pass fantasy threw at her: the names of the countries were awkward and garish, the characters layers of grime piled higher and higher and completely unlikable, and the writing average at best, and the world was nothing special or new.

This sounds harsh, but it comes from my knowing the Marchetta is a good writer. I wasn’t expecting too much, because let’s face it, not everyone can write fantasy and very few people can do it well, but I at least expected something average. Not this.

So, let’s talk about my criticisms one at a time. First, plot. Oh, plot. So incredibly important and so often chopped up and left to rot for the sake of humor or random whims. So, from the little summary of the book, you can tell that this is average fantasy plot: rebellion, survival against all odds, special people, countries at war, kings, princes, magic. I’m fine with that. I don’t really expect that kind of stuff to be exceptional, it’s kind of a classic fantasy prerequisite. I do, however, expect the story and the journey woven around that plot to be good. That’s where good writing, good ideas and good concept come into play.

Now, this book had good concept. There were some things in there that I thought were interesting. But those things were mashed up and mixed in with such blah elements that only a smack to the keyboard can describe it:


That’s what the plot ended up being. Xerxrgse.  

It was confusing and downright boring at times. I got about 300 pages into the book, decided I couldn’t take the endless traveling and constant indecision anymore and skipped to the end, where everything made perfect sense despite my not having read a large chunk of the book. When that happens, either the reader is very astute, or the story just didn’t need all the steroids you were feeding it to bulk it up. I’m not in any way  (to quote a late teacher or mine) the brightest rock in the rock pool, so I tend to lean towards the latter: the plot just had too much extra side dishes of bleh.

Now let’s move onto characters. Finnikin is our main man here. And I hated him. God, he slept with a whore for absolutely no reason. He bit off a piece of a guy’s ear. Gross! These things may have been put in for “character development” but honestly, they didn’t add to Finnikin at all. He is a bit of a brute and doesn’t manage to change that throughout the story. The female lead is a chick named Evanjalin and she’s alright. Probably my favorite character in the story. She’s got compassion and wits. The only problem was, like the other characters in the book, she had a problem with indecision.

I might have just been imagining it, but it felt like the characters would spend endless amounts of time going somewhere and then change their minds once they reached their destination. Along the way, they would often interact with each other in violent, cruel, or freakish ways. At one point, a young man they rescue tries to rape Evanjalin. It was just awkward on so many levels. Like Finnikin’s random acts of violence (he beats the same kid up rather brutally for little things), I feel like this event had no purpose. It certainly didn’t develop the character at all, expect to show that cruelty breeds cruelty and that Marchetta’s world was full of randomly violent and depraved people. Honestly, I didn’t understand why every single character (with the exception of old men) was like that.

This might’ve meant something in the end if the characters had grown or changed at all, but they didn’t. They were the same old farts the entire way through. The only reason I like Evajalin was because she was civil. I don’t mind uncivilized characters, but the cast of this story was just horribly bland and horribly mean.

Hmm. What else did I have to say about this book? It was dull plot-wise. I didn’t like, or even love to hate, any of the characters save one…was there something else? Well, the ending, I suppose. It was a little predictable but satisfying. Not like, “Wow, that was great” satisfying. More like, “Finally, it’s over and at least she didn’t leave me wondering” satisfying.

I’ll wrap this review up by saying that the romance between, you guessed it, Evanjalin and Finnikin didn’t redeem this book. Marchetta put in some seriously awkward lines between them that weren’t romantic, but like health-class-for-the-first-time gross. It was like, eww, why did she have to mention that? I’m feelin’ icky just remembering. They had one or two sweet moments, but their part of the story followed your average she loves me she loves me not thing and Finnikin tended to range from being all over (sorta) Evanjalin to calling her a liar. Never in the middle, never “aww” inducing, never clever or sweet. Just, bleh. In fact, most of this book was bleh.

My final thoughts are such:Fantasy is like meat.

You’ve got your master chef cooking up the prime roast, perfectly flavored (Tolkien).

You’ve got your street-corner hotdogs, cheap and yummy and addictive (Twilight).

You’ve even got your 99 cent burgers that are okay in moderation (Eragon).  

But then you’ve got your meat knockoffs: tofu.

And that’s where Finnikin falls. It wants to be meat, and as you mush it around in your mouth, you can imagine that it is.

But, at the end of the day, it’s still just tofu, white and alien looking, and it’s just not the real thing.


Amazon link

Ri’s Rating: 


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.  

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  1. Why didn’t you give it a1? seems perfect….

    • Ri

       /  March 25, 2010

      because the writing wasn’t crappy enough for a one, it was just boring. although a 1.5…..hmmm

  2. Abbie

     /  March 26, 2011

    I think I mostly agree with you on this review, though I gave it four stars (I’m not sure why… maybe I’m too lenient). It’s too bad as well, because all of her other books (well, minus Alibrandi) are among my favorites… ever. Including Piper’s Son, which just came out (in America at least).

    My problems with it were mostly that it was too long for what it was and (for me at least) didn’t start improving until about 150 pages from the end. Then I really started liking it though, and I think that’s what saved it for me. Also, it was one of those books where, even though I didn’t exactly *love* it, the characters and the story stuck with me for months after. Dunno why that was.

    A personal pet peeve about it… I didn’t like the bits about all the languages, mostly because, since we couldn’t hear what they sounded like, it really didn’t matter. Plus I thought it added an unnecessary amount of confusion.

    I did end up liking it though, sort of, especially the friendship between Finnikin and Lucian (and the bits we heard about Balthazar). I’m a little bit excited that it’s going to be a trilogy, especially since she said the next two books will be centered on Lucian. Maybe they’ll be improvements?

    I met Melina Marchetta last week at an event, and she is SO SWEET. My friends told her (I was too shy) how I was a huge fan of hers, and how Jellicoe Road is my favorite book of all-time, and she was very nice to me. Haha, I hate that meeting an author changes my perceptions of a book, but it totally does – now I want to reread it, even though at the time I had no desire to ever touch it again.

    • Ri

       /  March 26, 2011

      YEAH! I totally agree with you. It just didn’t hold up to my expectations. But I didn’t know it was becoming a trilogy and now that you’ve said so I too am curious to see if it gets better. I mean, she’s an excellent writer and definitely has the capacity to pull it off.

      I loved her other books, except for Alibrandi also. And I have been waiting for the Piper’s Son for so long… I had no idea it had come out here! Oh, that so just made my day.

      Your are so incredibly lucky to have met her. Saving Francesca is my favorite of her novels and I’ve read it a million times– at least once a year. Each time I check it out I wait until the last day to return it…I don’t know why I haven’t bought it yet. I love Franky and Will so much.

  3. Tally

     /  August 31, 2011

    Wow, finally someone who doesn’t like this book! I’m a huge fan of Graceling and Fire, but Kristin Cashore, so I figured I’d love this.


    So boring, after a hundred pages I put it down and refused to even look at it again!

    • Call me Ems

       /  December 6, 2012

      Oooohhhhh, Graceling and Fire by Kristen Cashore, I love those. Isn’t there another one, called Bitterblue?

      • Ri

         /  December 6, 2012

        I think so…but I hated those books lol. I just couldn’t get over the writing, plot, and the fact that a character was named Po which just made me think of Kung Fu Panda.

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