Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
The son of the Captain of the Guard, Finn is told at the age of nine that he will have to sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save his kingdom of Lumatere. He stands on the rock of three wonders and mixes his blood with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin Lucian to protect Lumatere. But shortly after, the peace of Lumatere is ruined during the five days of the unspeakable when the royal family is brutally murdered in the palace. An intruder seizes the throne and The Forest Dwellers are blamed and burnt at the stake. Their leader curses Lumatere by trapping all those that remain inside while Lumaterans outside the walls are forced to remain exiles that die in fever camps. The curser proclaims that the curse will not end until the rightful heir returns. Ten years later, outside Lumatere, Finn is told to go to another rock to meet the novice Evanjalin. She claims that Prince Balthazar, the rightful heir to the Lumatere throne, is still alive and that she can lead Finn and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. But Evanjalin carries secrets and Finn doesn't know if there's any hope for a united Lumatere. Yet he follows her, discovering there may be more to him and his destiny than he ever knew.
This book is definitely a worthwhile read. Marchetta is a wonderful storyteller, and I enjoyed hearing about the gods and the different kingdoms. The world she builds is exciting and rich with political intrigue, and the reader gets to explore this world as the main characters travel on their journey across several kingdoms. We learn so much about the alliances and relations between the different kingdoms and we also hear the sad story of the Lumateran exiles hanging on by a thread. Plus, the characters are pretty awesome. I especially loved Finn and Evanjalin. They are two strong leads for this story, and Marchetta smoothly shifts from one POV to another, allowing the reader into the thoughts of different characters. This is recommended for anyone who loves young adult, fantasy, or just a good read.