For me, this book is the ultimate fantasy. Adventure, romance, magic- it's got it all in one gorgeously wrapped package. The way it gives you a line drawing of a story at the beginning and then fills it in and fleshes it out as the book goes on is very similar to On the Jellicoe Road.
Speaking of fleshing things out, this is what it's about. Finninkin lives a perfect life in Lumatere, with loyal friends, a respected father, and a clear destiny. Within five days, it's torn apart. In a mysterious turn of events, the entire royal family is slaughtered and an impostor becomes the king. Worse, a barrier around Lumatere forms, trapping some people inside to endure the brutality of the new king and leaving others exiled with no homes. Finnikin journeys with his mentor Sir Topher, trying to find land for the exiles. Their journey changes when they meet Evanjalin, who is determined to get back to Lumatere, no matter what the cost. As they follow her troubling dreams and search for allies, they begin to realize Evanjalin has many dark secrets. Then again, no one is who they seem to be in this intensely fast paced novel.
The plot is incredibly complex, with key information revealed at just the right time. The enigma surrounding the five days of unspeakable kept me flipping pages, frantic to find out what really happened. The characters are all multifaceted, with plenty to discover about each. As the author peels away the layers of mystery of the events, she also exposes the different characters' roles during that time and how it changed the way they lived the rest of their lives. The relationships are realistic, and in some cases heartwarming; the banter between stubborn Finninkin and strong-willed Evanjalin is entertaining and lightens the sometimes heavy mood. I like how strong Evanjalin is, and how she actually turned out to be the bravest of them all (no matter what the men thought). There are many lessons that the characters learn, such as how to deal with overwhelming tragedy and keep hope. Though this book is set in a fantasy world, the messages about protecting those who are weaker and not hating what we do not understand can be applied to many conflict situations in our own world. All in all, this was an extraordinary book- you'll enjoy collecting pieces of the puzzle until the final picture is so beautifully intricate you never want to let it go.
If you loved this book, you'll like:
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta Graceling by Kristin Cashore Fire by Kristin Cashore The Attolia series by Meghan Whalen Turner (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia) Mimus by Lili Thall