Gr 8 Up-Finnikin, son of the head of the King's Guard, has been in exile for a decade, after the violent takeover of his birthplace, Lumatere, by a usurper, followed by a curse by a priestess that has effectively shut the kingdom off from the outside world. He meets a mysterious young woman, Evanjalin, who claims that Finnikin's friend Balthazar, heir to the throne, is alive, and sets in motion a complex and stirring series of events that lead Finnikin to confront his destiny. Evanjalin uses her ability to "walk the sleep" of others, or share in their dreams, as well as her own boldness and sense of purpose, to push events to a climax so that Lumatere can be freed. This novel begins at a slow burn: there are many details to absorb, and the well-drawn maps are a necessity. Then, suddenly, the action turns white-hot and the intricate plot plays out at a pace that keeps readers mesmerized. This is fantasy grounded in a kind of realism seldom seen in the genre. A large cast of unforgettable characters inhabits it, from Finnikin and Evanjalin with their absorbing and intensely emotional relationship, to Froi, a young thief, to the small girl who is Evanjalin's companion as she "walks the sleep." Readers will be rewarded by a shining story of romance, adventure in all of its gritty realism, and high ideals. Those who enjoyed Kristin Cashore's Graceling (Harcourt, 2008) will love this one.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
In her first fantasy work, Printz Award-winner Marchetta (Jellicoe Road) spins a sprawling yet intimate tale about a doomed kingdom and its struggle for reclamation. Years ago, Lumatere's royal family was brutally murdered, an imposter king placed on the throne, and a curse levied on the land, forever locking it away from the rest of the land of Skuldenore, with many of its inhabitants cast out to the winds. Finnikin has spent the decade after Lumatere's fall traveling, collecting stories of his scattered people and trying to ease their plight. Then he and his mentor are called to safeguard Evanjalin, an enigmatic young woman who claims to know the location of Lumatere's long-missing heir, who can break the curse and bring the exiles home. As Finnikin and Evanjalin seek to reunite Lumatere's far-flung people and restore their land, they face betrayals, horrors, and ethical crises. Magic, romance, intrigue, and adventure all play their parts as this dense, intricate epic unfolds, and flawed, memorable heroes fight for their kingdom's redemption. Ages 14-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.