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Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles)
Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles)
by Melina Marchetta
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Parts are Greater than the Whole, July 27, 2010
Reviewed for [...]

I have previously enjoyed (and recommend) several of Melina Marchetta's contemporary novels including Looking for
Alibrandi, Jellicoe Road and Saving Francesca so I was interested to try her first foray into the lucrative fantasy young adult market.

Having read the novel I am not sure how to put my thoughts into words. Objectively, I admire this book - the characterization is interesting, the plot is unexpected (except for the main twist which I am sure everyone will see coming from the introduction of the main characters) and the writing is up to par; however I can't say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Firstly, this is perhaps the darkest young adult fantasy I have ever read. Marchetta pulls no punches in describing incidents of violence, rape, death, slavery and torture. She succeeds in conveying her themes of loss of identity, spirit, homeland and community. Yet in a way I felt that she succeeded a little too well for at the end of the story, I was left feeling a little cold and a little ill. I am not squeamish by any means, but I don't necessarily read YA fantasy for this level of gritty realism.

Characterization has always been a strong point in Marchetta's works and this novel is no exception. I will leave aside the titular character, Finnikin, to delve into the enigma that is Evanjalin - it is very rare that I read such an interesting female character in fantasy. Evanjalin is vaguely and understandably (considering the circumstances of her life) psychotic. She manipulates the people around her like chess pieces to accomplish a grand scheme that exists entirely in her mind. Finnikin is of more standard fantasy fare. He is brave and intelligent with a strong sense of justice yet he mistrusts his own motivations.

I wouldn't necessarily qualify the relationship between Finnikin and Evanjalin as romantic. She spends so much of the time manipulating Finnikin that I am not sure when he had the chance to fall in love with her. Though I felt there was a lack of chemistry between Finnikin and Evanjalin, their interaction and the imbalance of power (girl power! yay!) between the two was refreshing.

The secondary characters are equally well drawn with true depth and feeling yet I feel that in making her main characters as intelligent and complex as they are, Marchetta has sacrificed their likability. Sure, I empathized with the character's plights and hoped that they would accomplish their goals, but I felt that every character was so emotionally scarred that it was rather uncomfortable to continue reading their stories.

The plot itself has several sweeping and epic arcs as the characters travel hither and yon across various kingdoms to visit refugee camps, gather supporters and pick up key characters for the final scenes as they break the curse and take back their kingdom. I was rather confused at times; however I was too lazy to study the maps provided that would have, no doubt, clarified the geography in my mind.

This novel has so many factors in its favor that I definitely feel that my reaction to it won't be common. I admire the concept and execution, but emotionally, this book didn't quite reach me. Therefore, I would certainly recommend this novel for sheer interest value; however I don't guarantee that you will love it.

Mind Games (The Disillusionists Trilogy: Book 1)
Mind Games (The Disillusionists Trilogy: Book 1)
by Carolyn Crane
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
60 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mind Games, indeed, July 8, 2010
Reviewed for [...]

I can't say that I am a particular fan of Urban Fantasy, but I have to commend Carolyn Crane for the sheer ridiculousness of the premise. I doubt anyone reading the back cover of this book wouldn't be curious. In terms of setting, I truly appreciated the Gotham City-esque feel of Midcity. Apparently murdering psychopaths are a dime a dozen in this city.

The fantasy elements of the novel are particularly creative. Packard is a highcap, that is, a person with a mutation that leads to heightened mental powers. Packard's particular ability allows him to read people's psychological structures. He senses and enlists neurotics that dine at his Mongolian Restaurant and teaches them to unload their own neuroses on selected criminals, essentially pumping them so full of fear that they eventually break down and reform. WTF, I know.

I have read a few reviews that dismiss the heroine, Justine Jones, as yet another urban fantasy neurotic. I would add that she is a hilarious urban fantasy neurotic. Her narration is never self-pitying, she never broods and she is a bit of a wise-ass. I suppose for marketing purposes she is shown holding a knife on the cover, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Justine isn't a kick-ass fantasy heroine, but rather, she thinks on her feet, which is eminently more interesting. Though a few of her more gratuitous scenes near the end did skeeze me out, I appreciated that Justine contemplates her decisions and tries to do the right thing. At times she is rather deliberately clueless, but really aren't we all? Of the secondary characters, Packard is the most well drawn. He is manipulative yet charismatic and his particular situation is both sad and hilarious.

Now, I always loathe when someone warns me that a book has plot twists, as once I am warned of the fact I tend to predict all that twists. Nevertheless, I won't ruin any of the particulars, but be assured the plot is twisty and slippery although it does sag a bit in the middle. There are some very funny moments in the novel as well as some very tense sections towards the end. The ending itself is very well paced and oddly satisfying despite the fact that this is the first novel in a trilogy.

As far as the writing, Mind Games is written in first person and I am not sure how to class this, but it has a definite Urban Fantasy feel. It isn't gritty per se, but there is a definite graphic novel flair to the setting, descriptions and narration.

And of course the romance. Justine has several love interests and the ending leaves room for more developments, but Justine's interaction and chemistry with Packard is rather good. However, I can't say that I saw the attraction of her other love interest who is introduced through the latter half of the novel. I suppose further installments in the series will lead to the obligatory love triangle.

For me, as far as missteps go, I would have appreciated some of the more gratuitous erotic scenes near the end be cut, particularly as the situation was a tad disturbing. Further, I felt that Justine's idolization of the Police Chief was rather odd and unexplained. Lastly, I suppose the plot could have been tightened a bit further through the middle section of the novel, particularly as the ending advances at breakneck speed.

All this being said, Mind Games is definitely worth a read. Though this is a bit of a popcorn novel, there are no cut and dry characters or situations in this novel. It has been a long time since I was this thoroughly entertained by a novel.

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