February 8, 2013

Finnikin of the Rock: Week One


It's finally here - the Lumatere Chronicles Read-Along! I don't think I even have the words to convey how I excited I am about reading these books AND getting to do it with such awesome people. Every comment on the sign-up post just made me more and more excited about getting started! And if you didn't comment but want to join in, we'd obviously still love to have you.

I'm still working on exactly how I want to structure these Friday posts, but I think I have a plan. I've asked some questions and included my own responses to help direct the conversation, but you certainly don't have to answer the questions. They're just to help get your the discussion going!

Discussion starts after the jump so we don't spoil things for anyone not participating.


While I've always claimed not to be a big fantasy reader, I definitely think the tide has shifted over the last year or so. From Graceling to Finnikin, I think I'm going to fall hard for this genre.

The Prologue got us off to a good start, and I loved the way it's set up as a story being told "so they will never forget." I adore books that have that sort of recounting the past for future generations vibe. Plus, I was a total sucker for the pledge wound scene. I'd never want to actually make a pact with a pledge wound, but doesn't it really set the tone for the rest of the book?

It took me a little bit to really hit my stride with all the different names/locations, and it slowed down my reading a bit at first. Once I started to get into the action, I couldn't stop reading! I'm amazed at how real these characters feel to me after only 130 pages. There's so much that happened in these pages - meeting Evanjalin, Finnikin being imprisoned with his father, visiting the exile camp - and I can't wait to see what stood out the most to you!

Here are 10 questions to get us started:

1. Does anyone else LOVE having a map in the front of the book? 
Sometimes I find that maps aren't necessary, but I definitely appreciated having one in Finnikin! Was anyone else constantly flipping to the map in those first few chapters? I definitely needed to reference it to better understand the conversations in the beginning!

2. Who is your favorite character so far?
I wrote a big note about loving that Sir Topher has the courage and foresight to speak of the past, but I was also crazy in love with Evanjalin's fierceness. That girl seriously rocks! So, who were you digging in the first 130 pages and why?

3. Does standing by and allowing the murder and torture of innocent people make the Lumaterans complicit in their deaths? Or is the horror of them standing by silently, likely out a mixture of fear and self-preservation, somewhat lessened by those very reasons?
While I was reading, I just kept wondering what I would have done in that situation. I'd like to think that I wouldn't have silently stood by, but I also know that fear and the desire to stay alive can make you do things you'd never have thought possible. I wondered if anyone else was struck by the conflict between doing what's right and protecting yourself.

4. Did you fall in love with Evanjalin when she showed off her badass fighting skills?
I loved how she put Finnikin in his place, both with her ability to defend herself and when she spoke. She totally took control of that situation! That was the moment when I knew I was in for one crazy ride with this character.

5. Who loved the scene with Evanjalin and Finnikin shouting from the rocks? 
I adored when Evanjalin and Finnikin just spoke their identities aloud. They were so free at that moment, and I just fell in love with them! It was such a powerful scene, but I also found it kind of bittersweet. It almost felt like they needed to confirm who they were - to yell it with feeling - so that they wouldn't forget or lose it in everything that has happened or is to come.

6. What did you think about the scene with Froi trying to force himself on Evanjalin?
I felt sick inside - not only because of his terrible actions but also because he's obviously the focus of the next book. I will be very interested to see what happens with him. I can't imagine how Marchetta will redeem his character!

7. Were you struck by Evanjalin's comments to Finnikin about honoring the living (in reference to the Book of Lumatere)?
It's so awesome to see her challenging Finnikin and trying to challenge him on some of his actions! There were multiple examples of this in Part One, but this is one that really stood out to me.

8. Did you find it interesting that Marchetta included the information about Finnkin spending time with the prostitute?
I honestly can't think of many books where there's a scene like this involving the hero, so I definitely found it intriguing. I think it stood out to me even more because of Evanjalin's references to it later. Thoughts?

9. What do you think about Sir Topher and Finnikin's conversation about hope?
That really struck me as a pivotal moment - one where Finnikin is making a decision about who he wants to be and what he wants to do. Did you highlight that quote, too?

10. Did you feel a little weepy inside when Evanjalin told Captain Trevanion that Beatriss remembers what he whispered to her?
Reading about how Trevanion would tell Beatriss that she was more than just beautiful and beloved, but also brave and bold, was seriously one of my favorite things in Part One. You learn so much about his character in that moment - and I loved that we were getting to "see" that side of his relationship with Beatriss!

So Quotable
"Because without our language, we have lost ourselves. Who are we without our words?" - Page 65

"You list the dead. You tell the stories of the past. You write about the catastrophes and the massacres. What about the living, Finnikin? Who honors them?" - Page 101

"Then I choose to drown," Finnikin said. "In hope. Rather than float into nothing." - Page 124

"How can she be someone other than Beatriss the Beautiful or Beatriss the Beloved? But then, just when she's about to lose her hope, she remembers what you would whisper to her, Captain Trevanion. That she was Beatriss the Bold. Beatriss the Brave. To all others she was a fragile flower, but you would not let her be." - Page 127

19 comments:

  1. Yay! Totally devoured this entire section last night/this morning...it's going to be hard to stick with the pace. Wonderful starting questions though, Hannah, as you brought up most of what struck me and what I would like to talk about as well.

    I'm loving the story, which is classic fantasy political, but also so incredibly compelling--not only do we have a people who have been misplaced, but we have a land cut off from the outside, and I am truly frightened of what is going on inside its borders.

    MM's characters have such unbelievable depth. I love that they are all incredibly flawed, even those we want to be the heroes. I'm so nervous about how everything's going to turn out!

    I posted my responses here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/528365868

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    1. I'm so glad you liked the questions! And I definitely hope everyone veers off the questions if I ask something dumb or leave something important out. I know what strikes me as interesting definitely won't always be what everyone else finds notable. That's what I love about read-alongs!

      I love the political aspect of the book, too. It's not just like a quest or something - there is this deep motivation for getting people back to the land where they belong, returning them home, etc. I'm scared of inside the borders too! What is going on in there, Heidi?!

      Oh Melina. She is a character development rock star.

      Excited to check out your responses!

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  2. Whoops, apparently that's not the right link...here it is: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/236990944#comment_67367047

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  3. Hannah, I love how you're running this read along!

    1. Does anyone else LOVE having a map in the front of the book?
    I love maps of fantasy lands, and even having read this book before, I found myself referring back to its map almost every time a route or destination was mentioned. (I'm also now having a minor flash of inspiration re: possibly printing and framing some of my favorite fantasy land maps for a frame collage somewhere in my house. Too nerdy? I think not!)

    2. Who is your favorite character so far?
    I went into this remembering my fierce love for Evanjalin, but not how much I enjoyed Finnikin. And I do! I think Marchetta does a wonderful job of showing us his internal conflicts without ever framing them as judgmental, even when he's being obviously pigheaded or mopey or whatever. One of my favorite things about him is the way he struggles with Evanjalin's habit of taking the lead, literally and figuratively, without asking; he's allowed to chafe at it in a way that is understandable and doesn't make me want to slap him for being such a dude.

    3. Does standing by and allowing the murder and torture of innocent people make the Lumaterans complicit in their deaths? Or is the horror of them standing by silently, likely out a mixture of fear and self-preservation, somewhat lessened by those very reasons?
    I don't think it's a question of are they more or less complicit so much as how each character has taken on the burden of that inaction and moved forward (or not) with it. Do they channel that burden into action, or do they give in to the seemingly bleak fact that one can never change the past? And is either truly superior or more understandable than the other? And most of all, can you do the former without ignoring vs. overcoming the latter?

    One of my all-time favorite quotes, from James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, feels applicable:

    Perhaps everybody has a garden of Eden, I don't know; but they have scarcely seen their garden before they see the flaming sword. Then, perhaps, life only offers the choice of remembering the garden or forgetting it. Either, or: it takes strength to remember, it takes another kind of strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both. People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence; and the world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare.

    4. Did you fall in love with Evanjalin when she showed off her badass fighting skills?
    Yes. Of course. Evanjalin is smarter than you. And me. Don't fight it, just go with it.

    5. Who loved the scene with Evanjalin and Finnikin shouting from the rocks?
    I agree with Hannah: bittersweet is the best word for this scene. Proclaiming one's identity is both a powerful act, defiant, but it can also feel desperate, since power so frequently relies in being recognized without announcement. That said, swoon worthy is another word for this scene. Sorry I'm not sorry.

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    1. (Apparently I wrote too much for Blogger's comment system. Just call me Anna the Verbose.)

      6. What did you think about the scene with Froi trying to force himself on Evanjalin?
      I'm honestly not sure if I ever sorted out my feelings on this one the first time around, but maybe I'll get there this time. Though I'm not sure we're meant to judge either character—as Sir Topher sees them, they are both "wild animals with nothing but rage and hate," and that's hardly inaccurate—but I come down on the side of Evanjalin re: selling Froi for a horse. It's not that I don't think Froi can be redeemed, but that once he crossed that line and violated Evanjalin's safety, he lost the right to his.

      7. Were you struck by Evanjalin's comments to Finnikin about honoring the living (in reference to the Book of Lumatere)?
      Can I just again say that Evanjalin is smarter than you? And once again, I think this goes back to how the characters confront the days of the unspeakable. As much as Finnikin is working to recreate Lumatere, he feels immense guilt about what happened, so it makes sense that he can't stop thinking that he needs to honor those who died, regardless of when and how they did. He doesn't see that honoring the living can, in turn, honor the dead.

      8. Did you find it interesting that Marchetta included the information about Finnkin spending time with the prostitute?
      I think it's interesting mostly because it's done pretty casually (aside from Evanjalin's pretty ridiculous reaction), and because prostitution is something I would expect to see in more fantasy books, but don't. I like that it's used as a way to flesh out (no pun intended) Finnikin's weariness with his life at that point: the girl he's with wants "nothing of him but three copper coins," whereas everyone else, and especially Evanjalin, want and need so many things all the time.

      9. What do you think about Sir Topher and Finnikin's conversation about hope?
      Not only do I agree with Hannah that this is a pivotal moment for Finnikin, but I think his finally saying out loud that he is willing to hope, no matter the consequences, is what opens the door for Trevanion to accept the hope of Beatriss, alive in Lumatere and waiting for him, and for the Priestking to accept the hope of the exiles being led to safety. It's similar to the scene between Finnikin and Evanjalin on the rocks: saying something out loud, with at least one other person to witness, can be an incredibly powerful act.

      10. Did you feel a little weepy inside when Evanjalin told Captain Trevanion that Beatriss remembers what he whispered to her?
      This speaks to one of the most amazing things about this book that I didn't remember from my first reading: all of the characters, main and secondary, and even those mentioned only in passing, are given so much depth without a lot of...I don't know, exposition? Heavy lifting? Marchetta just makes it seem so easy! And Trevanion (aka Ray Stevenson, OF COURSE) and Beatriss are no exception. We're set up to appreciate their love for each other even before Trevanion is found, and that story is echoed by what Evanjalin tells Trevanion. It all works together, and we all swoon.

      I could gush about this book for days.

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    2. Um...I want a collage of my favorite fantasy maps on my wall--you have no idea how much that idea excites me!

      I love that Finnikin chafes against Evanjalin's leadership NOT because she's a girl, but more because he's so used to being in the lead of anyone besides Sir Topher.

      I think the prostitution was a great way to show Finnikin's weariness and need to just be a young man--he hasn't really gotten to since he was nine.

      I'm so glad that your'e finding new things/remembering ones you'd forgotten in this reread, Anna! I love seeing your thoughts as someone who's had experience with the story before.

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    3. I think I'm going to do the frame collage, especially after Young House Love posted this mind-blowing hack for getting the collage in place: http://www.younghouselove.com/2013/02/a-little-clara-cluster/

      I'm thinking Kristin Cashore's map(s), obviously, plus the most comprehensive Tortall map I can find, a Lumatere map...and I don't know, I need to think about this. But it's going to happen, eventually.

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    4. I'm still ready to strangle someone over the NON EXISTENCE of a map for the Queen's Thief series. I'd also totes have Valdemar on my wall. :P

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    5. Love the fantasy collage idea! Seriously. Not too nerdy at all - especially because you could do it in a really cool way that didn't seem dumb. And seriously love Young House Love. I'm in awe of how much stuff they DIY. I am not that talented with tools or paint!

      What a great point about the way Finnikin struggles with Evanjalin taking the lead in a way that doesn't make him really annoying as a character. His frustration seems understandable - and I never felt like he was annoyed that it was a woman taking the lead, just that it was someone other than him haha!

      SUCH a great follow-up on how each character has taken on the burden of that inaction. What a great way to frame it! This is seriously what I love about read-alongs. Different perspectives really helps me analyze and understand my own thoughts! And what a thought-provoking quote. I'm so glad you shared, Anna.

      Desperate + defiant is the PERFECT way to describe that scene!

      I agree that neither character acts admirably. And yes, Sir Topher's "wild animals" comment is spot-on. That's actually kind of why I tried to ask the question more neutrally. Because while I obviously disagree with his actions, I also found them desperate and sad. It certainly doesn't justify what he does, but it does still break your heart because he's just a broken boy too.

      "He doesn't see that honoring the living can, in turn, honor the dead." Yes, yes, yes. I think you and Evanjalin are smarter than me :)

      And I'm sorry, but I did laugh at your "flesh out" comment. Oh lady. And yes, I agree that it does seem like something that would be included more often in fantasy. I haven't read a ton of fantasy, and it's obviously not something included in most contemporary YA or adult type books, which is why I think it stood out to me. I wanted to see how everyone else reacted to it, especially because I knew I was reading with more fantasy lovers and see if that was common, notable, etc.

      Yeah, that totally opened the door to my hope that Beatriss is still alive and waiting for him and dying to be reunited with her true love foreverrrr and everrrrrrr.

      So glad everyone agrees that Melina is incredible! She makes it seem so easy, but I also wish she'd like coach some other authors on character development. She really is the queen of characters!

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  4. Oh dear! I didn't get to these questions this week. I will try to jump on next week. And I don't want to answer fully on memory, because I forget what we're supposed to know so far. I actually didn't realize that all of this happened in the first section of the book!

    But I will say that I was personally very upset by Finnikin and the prostitute. Interesting that so many people are sympathetic about it. I understand it conceptually, but it still made me angry. I was totally with Evanjalin! Actually I was upset with all the men! I was just disappointed in them. I get that they wanted a moment of peace when so much was demanded of them, but I think I really admired Evanjalin for realizing that now is not the time for peace, so it's not worth relying on something false like that.

    And Froi. I remember feeling disgusted by him. I didn't hate him, but he just seemed like a nasty little urchin. That I was sure would not amount to anything.

    I also loved Evanjalin. She's feisty, but a fantastic challenge to Finnikin. The thing is that you don't get her voice, so it's tough to see why she's doing certain things. She could definitely be frustrating, but she has this quiet forcefulness to her character that makes you want to pay attention to what she says.

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    1. SO MUCH HAPPENS IN THIS FIRST SECTION!! Hehe, made it really hard to put down, but it was also a great breaking point. I think your thoughts on Evanjalin are spot on, she may actually be my least favorite character, but that doesn't mean I don't find her interesting or pivotal, and I'm really excited to see where her part in the story goes.

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    2. I've had to actively restrain myself from reading ahead. I don't know how y'all first timers are doing it.

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    3. Hehe...for me it's so many other obligations to get to. Had to put this down to get to my book club book for the month. :P

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    4. No worries on the questions - they are just there to help us get talking! Although we're obviously full on chattiness on the Finnikin love fest. Or frustration fest, depending the scene/character.

      A lot really does happen in the first section! It's making more excited for all of the pages to come.

      The scene with Finnikin and the prostitute didn't really sit right with me, although I did try to word my question more neutrally so as not to ask too much of a leading question. I'm glad to hear you were bothered by that, too. But, like you, I'm also really intrigued by the sympathy for it. I felt more like you did about Evanjalin's comments about how now wasn't really the time to turn to that for peace. Love getting your opinion too!

      Yeah, you definitely sit up and take notice when Evanjalin starts doing something or talking. She's definitely a force of nature! Amy made a comment in her post about how Evanjalin in sort of the crucial cog in this whole and is influencing a lot of the action that has taken place so far.

      Loving your input!

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  5. I just posted my answers here: http://www.trippingoverbooks.com/2013/02/09/the-lumatere-chronicles-readalong-week-1/.

    I am really loving this book so far. It took some getting used to. I found myself sometimes confused about the places and things, but that's clearing up. I loved the characters basically right away, though, and I can't wait to read more!! Great questions Hannah. I am really intrigued by the magical aspect of this book, which we haven't gotten into very much yet. Like, what is going on with this creepy mist? And how is Lumatere closed off like that? Who is this impostor king, and what's his deal. I'm looking forward to learning more about that. I'm hoping, too, that Evanjalin isn't lying about Balthazar. She's an awesome character, but unreliable a lot of the time, I think.

    So excited to be reading these books!!

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    1. OMG I'M DYING TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON IN THAT COUNTRY.

      That is all. I'll respond to the rest on your blog. :P

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    2. Good point about the magical aspect! I kind of ignored that in my questions - my mind was obviously occupied with all the other things going on! Glad you mentioned that :) I'll definitely be paying attention to how that develops in future sections.

      And I just responded to some of your other points on your blog. Great feedback on everything in the first section!

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  6. I've been enjoying the read-along, and I want to thank you for being such an awesome host. Even if my response comes a bit late, here it is (finally!). I've been liking the relaxed pace at which we're reading this book. It allows me to savour the world, the characters and the plot even more than I normally would.

    I answered your questions (for week one and two) on this post! ..> http://www.alexalovesbooks.com/2013/02/finnikin-of-rock-weeks-1-2.html

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    1. No worries on the late response, especially since you've been traveling. So excited that you're reading along with us :) I agree on the pace - it's much slower than I'd normally read this book, but I'm actually thankful for it. It's forcing me to savor the books more and just enjoy getting to know the world and characters.

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