Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 2.5/5 stars Series: Yes - second in trilogy *Includes spoilers for the first book, FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK*
Three years after the events of FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK, Froi is finally settling into his new life in Lumatere. He’s training with the Guard, working on the land and is enjoying life with Finnikin and Queen Isaboe.
However, neighbouring Charyn is stirring, and news comes of their curse – a land barren since the birth of Princess Quintana. Froi is dispatched to kill the Princess and her father, before Charyn descends into chaos and threatens Lumatere. But there, upon meeting the strange, wild Princess and two estranged brothers who seem to know more than they’ll tell about the events that sparked the curse, Froi realises there’s more to the situation than anyone knows. He must uncover secrets best left hidden if he’s to protect those he loves.
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Let’s start with the fact that this book is looong. 700 pages long. Sometimes I can get behind that, but they need a really compelling plot and even more gripping characters for me to stick with it.
I liked FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK, but that is a significantly shorter book (~500 pages) and, while there were things about Finnikin I didn’t like, overall I thought he was a good character. Plenty of flaws, and a driving ambition to do what’s right. Plus, I adored Evanjalin/Isaboe and the dynamic between her and Finnikin. However, I never really got behind Froi. He was just… meh, not to mention the cow-barn-attempted-rape made me hate him, so I was cautious approaching this book. It’s length helped it stay on the shelf for over a year before I finally picked it up.
This is quite clearly a book that was written because the first performed well. The previous book, FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK, reads like a standalone and Finnikin had completed his character arc. Obviously, he didn’t have another arc that a new story could be written around, so the sequel was written around a secondary character, Froi. The problem is, this book devotes chapters to the life of Finnikin, and other important characters from the first book, none of which felt necessary to the story. While some might argue that the discussions with the foreign ambassadors was important to the ending that sets up the next book, all the stuff about Trevanion and Beatriss just felt like fan service. All they did was bloat this book to 700 pages.
I realised, writing the summary, that I wasn’t quite sure about the internal logic of this book – about the mission. Assassinating a King and Princess to stop the country descending into chaos? There probably was a logic to it, but that was 700 pages ago, so I can’t remember it.
The characters are alright, Froi’s rage gives him the start of an arc, but he doesn’t seem to progress down it – not even as much as you’d expect for the first book in a duology. He’s just as angry and wild as at the start.
Quintana is the reason I was reading, in all reality. She’s a puzzle, presented as multiple people – at first I thought it was a representation of someone with split personality disorder (and if so, it’d be a bit of an iffy one as she’s mocked for her multiple personalities). But then there’s all these revelations about who Quintana is and who Froi is and the cause of the curse, which were a little predictable and didn’t seem to have a strong internal logic.
Also, this book doesn’t have a brilliant representation of women. Lucian is hard on and dismissive of Pheadra (a plot line that felt like it had no purpose). Quintana and Lirah are constantly referred to as whores and are wild, feral people. Isaboe and Beatriss are the only well-treated women, but they’re side characters. Women in this world, generally, are treated as possessions and there for men’s satisfaction, but the way it’s written doesn’t have a condemning tone. It felt very neutral. I feel like, if you’re going to have a problematic attitude to people in your world (be it sexism, racism, homophobia etc.), you have to portray it in such a way that the reader knows you see this as a problem in the world. This book didn’t do that, in my eyes.
I rather doubt I’ll read the final book – not least because it’s not widely available in the UK.