skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (determination)
[personal profile] skygiants
[personal profile] izilen has been doing an excellent job promoting things I told her to read recently, so it seems only fair that in exchange I finally take a chance to tell everyone here to read Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock, which she recommended to me this summer.

Finnikin of the Rock is a book that seems, at first glance, to be vaguely similar to a lot of fantasy novels -- tragedy in the kingdom! vanished royal family! hunt for the long-lost prince! -- when it is in fact really hard at work subverting ALL of these ideas.

To start off, while an Evil Scheme By Bad Guys is the spark that triggers the Bad Things at the heart of the book, the real tragedy is about the nation tearing itself apart -- a minority group becomes a scapegoat, and ordinary people perpetrate terrible violence. (Um, I guess this is a good place to put a trigger warning for terrible violence!)

The kingdom also exists in a wider political, cultural and linguistic landscape, and one of the biggest themes of the story is about life in a diaspora, when return to a homeland no longer seems possible. The title character, Finnikin, is not actually thinking about the royal family at all anymore; instead, he's at work trying to find a sympathetic political leader to set aside land for the refugees where they can find some kind of permanent home.

However his plans are interrupted when a mysterious girl pops up -- a novice nun called Evanjalin -- and starts indicating that she has had VISIONS of the LOST PRINCE!

Finnikin's face is pretty much just like this: >__<

Then, when it turns out that this (quiet! female! novice nun!) has in fact ALL the agency and is quite possibly calmly manipulating everyone for mysterious purposes of her own, his face becomes more like this: >:O

(with a small side order of >.> which here indicates 'uncomfortably turned on.')

This leads into the biggest subversion in the book, and by that I mean Melina Marchetta is a glorious troll. Because this is set up as a book about a heroic dude fulfilling his destiny on a search for another heroic dude, when in fact this heroic dude POV character is not the protagonist at all! Evanjalin is the protagonist TIMES TEN, in the same way Sherlock is the protagonist of Sherlock Holmes. By the time you reach the end of the book, it is pretty much just flat-out about Evanjalin And Other Ladies Being Awesome, and Finnikin and his father issues and his warrior dude friends are not one hundred percent sure how that happened, and Melina Marchetta is just sitting back chuckling to herself.

Even without that, this would have been a book that I respected -- it's not afraid to look a lot of painful and complicated things in the face, and deal with the consequences of them. But that last subversion made it a book that I loved.

Date: 2012-08-24 09:52 pm (UTC)
dharmavati: Balsa holding her spear ({snm} I'm the hero of the story)
From: [personal profile] dharmavati
Yes, I think you've summarized exactly why I really loved this book.

Date: 2012-08-24 10:15 pm (UTC)
dharmavati: Shang and Mulan in uniform as he claps her on the shoulder ({mulan} you fight good)
From: [personal profile] dharmavati
I'm in the process of reading it but I have to admit that I'm not as enthusiastic as I was reading Finnikin because 1) I dislike Froi a lot and 2) so far there's been a lot of use of sexual abuse as plot device and while parts of it are interesting (Lumateran women dealing with their violent history), others have been mostly disturbing (the main female character Quintana seems to be a constant victim of abuse and dubious consent situations so far and I'm not really sure where the narrative is going with her). I will say that the first bit has our protagonists from Finnikin on the Rock as HAPPILY MARRIEDS HAVING SEX BETWEEN DIPLOMATIC MEETINGS while driving all Mont cousins into hilarious outrage and it was perfect. If you're into that sort of thing.

Date: 2012-08-25 05:19 am (UTC)
allchildren: kay eiffel's face meets the typewriter (Default)
From: [personal profile] allchildren
I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO GET NERDS TO READ THIS BOOK FOR LITERALLY TWO YEARS AND I HOPE THEY NOW ALL WILL BECAUSE OF THIS POST

jeez nerds

jeeeeeez

Date: 2012-08-25 07:42 am (UTC)
viviolo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] viviolo
EVANJALIN. *____*

open a book thinking you're going to read about dude on a quest, finish with the ladies having taken over not only the country BUT THE ENTIRE NOVEL. is there a better kind of narrative surprise out there? I don't think so! :D

Date: 2012-08-28 08:57 pm (UTC)
onnari: (Default)
From: [personal profile] onnari
Yes the subversion at the end is just so great! My eyes were literally hearts when I turned the page and saw "All the Queen's Women" was the title for the last section of the novel. And what a fitting title it was.

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