When Finnikin was nine years old, he and Balthazar and Lucian completed a ritual sacrifice that would change their lives. Having been warned in their dreams that the royal family of Lumatere was in danger, the three boys cut a pound of flesh from their thighs as a sacrifice to protect the kingdom. Just a few days later, assassins invaded Lumatere and slaughtered Balthazar’s parents, the King and Queen, and his sisters. The body of the youngest princess, Isaboe, was found torn to shreds by a wolf where she had tried to escape into the forest. Only Balthazar’s body failed to appear. Despite the best efforts of Finnikin’s father and the rest of the King’s Guard, a false king usurped the throne and began a reign of violence and oppression, beginning with the massacre of the forest dwellers, scapegoats in the royal family’s assassination. But as the leader of the forest dwellers was being burned at the stake, she set a curse upon the land of Lumatere. Until the rightful heir to the throne returned, a magical barrier would separate Lumatere from the surrounding lands–no one could get either out or in.
And so for ten years, Finnikin and countless other exiles found themselves wandering the countries beyond Lumatere, searching for their loved ones and some sense of a home or identity. Finnikin was separated from his father and traveled instead with Sir Topher, a former palace tutor and the King’s First Man. They managed to avoid persecution, although news always reached them when other exiles were discriminated against or even massacred in their refugee camps. What keeps them going is the hope that they can find the lost Prince Balthazar and return home. When a novice at a convent summons them, claiming to have walked through the sleep of the living Prince Balthazar and other Lumaterans, Topher and Finnikin join her on a quest for the heir. With Evanjalin’s help, they locate Finnikin’s father and begin to round up the Lumateran exiles to prepare for the return home.
This book is very dark, definitely aimed at a high school age audience and older. There is plenty of action, but the focus of the novel is on the search for identity and homeland in diaspora.
If you liked Finnikin of the Rock, you might also be interested in The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.