A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Despite the horrific nature of the treason and ensuing wars, the power and redemption of hope is a strong theme. Compassion and forgiveness are also powerful themes. Compassion is shown to those wounded by violence and some royalty even forgive those raised to hate according to nationalism or religion. The spiritual damage done by war and hate are discussed in ethical ways that do not disregard human nature but also do not diminish it or excuse it.
Positive Role Models
Set against a bleak, war-weary dystopia, the leading characters awaken from a decade of despair with a resilient power that inspires. Finnikin and his childhood friends honor their friendships, their people and those around them as equals, whether the same religion or culture or not. Loving marriages are also depicted, with soldiers being faithful to spouses that have been kept from them for a decade.
Violence & Scariness
The king's wife and daughters are raped and slaughtered; soldiers control the people by raping women and children (descriptions are somewhat graphic without being explicit); religious persecution includes burning at the stake; and graphic battle scenes. The effects of this violence are also well depicted, both long-term and short-term.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Finnikin spends the night with a prostitute; references to a king and his queen making love and being overheard; Finnikin an Evanjalin kiss.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some references to drinking mead and drunkeness.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this epic fantasy has mature themes and depictions of violence in a war-torn dystopia that make it better for more mature teen fantasy readers. And the complexity of the fantastic story -- multiple kingdoms, politics, a large cast of characters -- will turn away less experienced readers, as well. Despite the undercurrent of darkness, with killings, wartime rapes (somewhat graphic without being explicit), burnings at the stake, and graphic battle scenes, the compassion and strength of the young main characters shine through, as do themes of hope, redemption, and forgiveness.
Is It Any Good?
Political intrigue, epic adventures, and characters who sometimes struggle to do the right thing but who long to live up to their ideals and those of their families are brilliantly realised. Marchetta eloquently articulates the damage caused by violence to those who experience it, and the necessity of recognizing and repairing that damage with compassion and hope. Mystery, young love, great family relationships, unusual cultures, and compelling characters combine to create an epic that will be read repeatedly by fantasy lovers and will hook other readers with its interplay of darkness and light. Rich and complicated, with humor, wisdom, and surprising plot turns, this story also raises provocative moral issues, just as the best epic fantasies have always done.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.