Is Realistic Fantasy an Oxymoron?

Not in Finnikin of the Rock by award-winning author Melina Marchetta, which is set to be released this month (February 2010).

When he is nine years old, Finnikin joins in a pledge with his best friends, Prince Balthazar and the Prince’s cousin, to protect their homeland Lumatere.  Soon afterward, the royal family is slaughtered by a usurper to the throne, and a curse is laid upon Lumatere so that no one can enter or leave the kingdom.

Trapped outside for ten years, Finnikin’s destiny begins when he meets Evanjalin, a young Lumateran who claims to enter the dreams of those inside the kingdom, including Balthazar’s. She calls on Finnikin to fulfill his destiny to gather their people and lead them home.

Why It’s Good:  Although slow at first, the writing gains purpose and momentum along with Finnikin, and I was totally sucked in by the end. Marchetta also does an admirable job presenting a strong female character who is not only realistic in herself, but also in her relationships with others. Unlike many “girl power” fantasies, Finnikin actually addresses the tensions that arise for the men who are raised to lead but then asked to follow.

The stark, moody style of this book is a breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre, where overwriting and flowery language is king. The realities of refugee camps, prisons, hard travel, and war are presented without apology, but also without so much detail that it become a “shock and gore” novel.

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