Well this was supposed to go on my next ‘Mid-Month Reading Round-Up’ but it turned into a bit of a rant. I present, for your reading pleasure, an irritated Holly:
FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK, by Melina Marchetta
URGH. I feel like I have to just admit to myself that I don’t like YA Fantasy. This, QUEEN OF THE TEARLING, GRACELING–all the big upper-YA/New Adult Fantasy books have made me go ‘meh’.
FINNIKIN bugged me on a bunch of different levels. Finn, our protagonist, is your typical over-powered man-child hero. He’s smart! He’s strong! He’s good at sex! Patrick Rothfuss can get away with this and I don’t hate it, since he’s such a good writer–but here the story and writing are sloppier and I just roll my eyes.
ALSO–this book wants to be dark and edgy, as has been the trend of late. That’s fine, but there are FEW THINGS that bug me more than when a book has no problems with sex, violence, and adult themes, but then gets SQUEAMISH talking about the menstrual cycle. COME ON. I’m so tired of this streaming pile of turds. And this one is even written by a female author! I concede that perhaps it was supposed to be pitched as ‘ha ha men can’t handle listening to talk about female bleeding.’ But when you only have one female character, and the dudes are like ‘you shouldn’t talk about it that’s inappropriate’ and SHE AGREES, then no. It’s not funny. This crap happens in real life and we don’t need to reinforce it. I’m sick of it.
It’s official. I have no more patience for reading about tired gender politics in fantasy novels. Can we please break out of the ‘quasi-medieval-feudalistic-patriarchal’ model that has existed forever? And no longer am I satisfied with one ‘strong female character’ among a sea of men as quote-un-quote good gender representation. ESPECIALLY not when every. single. other. women. in the background cast is presented in very traditional roles and characterization. That just doesn’t fly, people. There’s a bunch more nonsense that I can’t discuss without spoilers, but needless to say I’m frustrated.
It’s frustrating, because this book could have been a really interesting exploration of the struggles of refugees, on personal and cultural levels. The book was published in 2008, but, ya know, that topic is just a wee bit relevant today too. And there were glimmers of theme–refugee camps, loss of language, indecision of whether or not to assimilate into new countries–but they were monolithic and not well explored. I’m left unsure if the lack of complexity is due to the YA label or just a sub-par story, though on further reflection I’ve decided it’s not because of the label. Complexity is possible at any age level, and after all the ranting above I’m not cutting this book any slack.
To add insult to injury, the book was predictable, too. There is one character who’s identity is in question, and it was obvious what the outcome would be from the first page on which they appeared. Especially when the content of the prophecy comes up, and none of the characters across all the lands seem to think to interpret it differently than how the author wants us to before the reveal. That particularly bugs me, especially when it’s stated that there was translation involved, and you have to assume different people would have different opinions about context and connotation.
More than anything, it makes me sad when books, especially fantasy books, don’t live up to my hopes and dreams. Science Fiction has a long history of pushing boundaries and questioning norms, and I wish Fantasy could do the same.
(Side note: Despite my problems with the book, I love the cover design. It’s colorful and moody and stands out on a shelf.)