This book had been on my to read list for ages, but a friend told me it was one of her favourite books which served as the kick up the bum I needed to actually buy it. And I really enjoyed it!
This is the first in a YA fantasy trilogy and I definitely want to read the rest of the series now. There's something about Melina Marchetta's writing that I just really like and I enjoyed learning about the world that she has created.
I really liked Evanjalin because she's just so strong and fierce and determined. Saying that, I kind of want to wrap her in a blanket and take care of her but there's no way she would let me because she'd be too busy GETTING SHIT DONE. Seriously, this girl does not let up. I also really love the relationship that developed between Evanjalin and Finnikin. As has been previously established on this blog, I do like me a bit of relationship angst in my books and there were moments with these two that absolutely tore at my heart. At times when they were busy being mad at each other I just wanted to smush their faces together and be like "stop being mad at each other and kiss and make up please" but when things are good between them it makes me melt a little bit.
I had a couple of moments of confusion when the narrative switched perspective and it took me while to figure out who was now the focus, but I liked getting the glimpses into other characters, especially Froi. The next book focuses on him so I'm quite looking forward to reading that. In regards to the world that was created, I found it really interesting, and I'm looking forward to exploring more of it in the rest of the series. I also enjoyed the prose style, I felt it flowed well, and there were some really lovely moments.
In addition, I really liked this bit a lot:
"Because without our language, we have lost ourselves. Who are we without our words?"
Throughout the book the exiles struggle with their sense of identity, especially Finnikin, and the idea of language is tied up with it. When your home has been taken away from you, language becomes a way of clinging on and asserting your identity. One of the things that marks Froi as different is the fact that he doesn't speak the language, he doesn't even remember what Lumatere looks like, and as he learns the language of his people he also begins to forge friendships and feel connected to other people. Also, Evanjalin's understanding of the importance of language saves them from a pretty hopeless situation: "never underestimate the importance of knowing another's language. It can be far more powerful than swords and arrows". Essentially, I just find language really interesting. I love the way language evolves, it's not a fixed thing, it grows and changes and words can morph into entirely new meanings. I find the way language is tied up with identity really interesting and although I often found it super confusing, I really enjoyed reading critical theory that was based around language when I was at university. So I enjoyed the way that the importance of language ran through this book and all of the little thought processes it sparked off in my mind.
I think I'm going to leave it here because I don't want this review to become too spoilery, although I will leave you with this little moment because I can't resist:
"'Then I choose to drown,' Finnikin said. 'In hope. Rather than float into nothing'"And we all know that by 'drown in hope' you mean ACCEPT THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE YES FINNIKIN I SEE THROUGH YOU.
(I ship it so hard)