Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Sudeshna Barman
White Station High School
If you’re a fan of tasteful medieval fantasy à la Lord of the Rings, you know there are limited options.
There are books like White’s The Once and Future King, Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, Marillier’s Sevenwaters, Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Everything by Garth Nix, Robert Jordan, C. S. Lewis, Tamora Pierce, and Robin McKinley are good bets. And if you’re willing to go beyond what’s age-appropriate, there’s always Game of Thrones.
But what do these books have in common?
The vast majority of them were written decades ago.
If you’re like most teens, you might be looking for something from this century. If so, you could try Kristin Cashore, Christopher Paolini, or Brandon Sanderson.
Or you could pick up Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles, a stunning, intricate narrative of epic proportions. The first book in the series is Finnikin of the Rock (2008); the trilogy continues with Froi of the Exiles (2011) and ends with Quintana of Charyn (2012).
Finnikin combines standard elements of the fantasy genre—conquest, war, a long-lost heir, a curse that must be broken—to create a fresh, original, thoroughly satisfying plot.
Ten years ago, the small kingdom of Lumatere was invaded and its royal family murdered. The kingdom was cursed so that none could enter or exit. Thousands were separated, and those trapped outside became known as ‘exiles.’ The exiles were forced to settle in ramshackle, disease-ridden camps that popped up in neighboring countries.
In the present day, 18-year-old Finnikin is still looking for answers about the day his land fell into ruin. The young man travels with his mentor Sir Topher, attempting to improve the exiles’ conditions and eventually break the curse. They come across a mysterious young woman, Evanjalin, who claims that heir to the throne of Lumatere is alive. Finnikin, Sir Topher, and Evanjalin embark on a quest to find Prince Balthazar and reunite the Lumateran people.
The characters might as well have been living, breathing people for all the care Marchetta took in crafting them. Finnikin is often surly, temperamental, and argumentative; on the other hand, he’s willing to stand up for his ideals and the people he cares for. He has all the flaws of an ordinary teenager boy, but also has redeeming qualities that will have you cheering for him.
Evanjalin is mysterious, high-strung, and occasionally bratty. Then again, she’s a determined heroine who makes the tough decisions and sacrifices that are necessary to save Lumatere. Her quiet strength inspires not only Finnikin and the exiles, but also the reader. The romance between the two sparks very slowly, but once it does, it’s electrifying —breath-taking—and you wonder why you didn’t see it from the beginning.
Marchetta’s writing is flawless. She has a talent for characterization. She shows an individual’s thoughts and emotions to be both realistic and relatable. The people of Lumatere are flesh and blood—real, raw, full of a thrumming vitality and purpose. Her simple prose and sparse but witty dialogue keeps her writing fresh and approachable.
Finnkin of the Rock combines engaging characters, an exciting plot, and first class writing with romance, intrigue, drama, action, adventure—anything and everything a modern reader could ask for. If you’re ready to commit to a book that will have you smiling, laughing, crying, screaming in equal parts torment and delight—pick up a copy of Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles.