I’m constantly in awe of Melina Marchetta’s writing every time I read one of her books. She has such a way with words, characters, and the human storyI’m constantly in awe of Melina Marchetta’s writing every time I read one of her books. She has such a way with words, characters, and the human story that resonates powerfully and stays with you.
In this regard, Froi of the Exiles is no exception, and may perhaps be her best book yet. I love all of Marchetta’s work, and she manages to make each one even more thought-provoking and exhilarating than those that came before – and this is no easy feat for an author to accomplish. This is a book that is in equal turns breathtaking, heartbreaking, and beautifully written.
The story starts off a little slowly, due to Marchetta’s world-building of new characters and locations. Initially, I was a bit disappointed by this, as Finnikin of the Rock was full of constant action and plot twists, and I had been expecting something of a similar level in its sequel. However, although things may seem a bit sluggish for about the first third of the book, they start to pick up soon enough and it is the last half of the book that is a real treat. In retrospect, now that I’ve finished reading the novel, I actually find that I appreciate Marchetta’s slow pacing of the first half of the book, as the backstory she set up really allowed me to enjoy the characters and overall story once the action picked up.
Froi of the Exiles takes place three years after Finnikin of the Rock, and it focuses mainly on the inner struggles of the titular character. I was really surprised when I found out that Marchetta would be writing a book focusing on Froi, as he was not a particularly likable character in the first book. Where we last left off, he had a bad past, a temper, was an attempted rapist, uneducated, violent, and overall was pretty rough around the edges. The journey and character growth that Froi made in this book was so deftly and beautifully done. At the beginning of the novel, Froi is evidently older and more mature. He is now trained, educated, and disciplined by the Guard. That is just the start of it, as Froi shows how much he has changed (and is still changing) as the book goes on. Although he still has a quick temper and can be vicious when the situation calls for it, he is also incredibly brave, selfless, and stubbornly loyal. I was surprised by how much I came to love him as a character, and it was written in such a natural and believable way that truly shows Marchetta’s care and attention for her characters. Froi’s actions in Finnikin of the Rock are not simply brushed off or excused; he is haunted by what he has done and has never forgotten it.
The neighboring kingdom of Charyn, which terrorized Lumatere during the five days of the unspeakable and the years that followed, has a curse set on it which has made its people barren for eighteen years. Quintana, the daughter of the king, is the lastborn, and is prophesied to bring an end to this – and as such, is subjected to a horrendous ordeal. Froi is sent to Charyn, where he poses as one of the lastborn, with the mission of assassinating the king and Quintana. Things don’t get as planned, however, as Froi begins to learn more about his own identity and the suffering of the Charynite people. Marchetta is able to show how easily war can make the oppressed turn into oppressor and vice versa. It’s easy for us to think that victims who have suffered through so much would never do terrible things, but this could not be more far from the truth.
To be honest, Quintana is a difficult heroine to like at first. I felt bad for her, but she seemed a bit deranged at times. As the book went on, she really grew on me, especially when I learned more of her backstory and what she had to go through. Her own people don’t respect her and she doesn’t have that high a viewpoint of herself, two things that make her story all the more heartwrenching. On the outside, Quintana seems like she’s broken, but the reality is that she is much stronger than those around her (and had to have been, in order to survive the way that she did).
I loved the contrast between the main relationships of Finnikin and the Rock and Froi of the Exiles. Admittedly, Finnikin of the Rock is a slightly dark book, but there is a sense of hope that permeates throughout and one of achieving impossible odds. Froi of the Exiles is very different, as it is constantly dark and there is very little hope. Finnikin and Evanjalin, working together to break a curse on Lumatere and once again enter their homeland, have been tinged with darkness in their lives. They are both lively individuals who rely on one another’s strength, which makes them quite a force to be reckoned with. Froi and Quintana’s relationship is similar in some aspects, but this is only to a certain extent. The world of Froi of the Exiles is much darker than any of Marchetta’s previous work, and what better way to present that than in the central love story? It’s a powerful novel that is ultimately about two lost, haunted individuals who somehow find that the other’s belief in them allows them to believe in themselves.
Froi of the Exiles chronicles not only Froi’s story, but that of recurring Lumateren characters from the first book who are still going through their own journeys and trials. Although Finnikin and Isaboe have reclaimed their kingdom, they must still deal with the troubles of their people and relations with other nations. Beatriss is struggling to find a place where she truly feels comfortable, and Trevanion doesn’t know where he fits into that. I was surprised that of all the substories going on, I most enjoyed Lucian’s. His growth as a character was wonderful to see, and the budding relationship he had with his estranged Charynite wife Phaedra was beautiful and heartbreaking.
I really enjoyed the bits on Lumatere that were interwoven between the story going on in Charyn, because they spoke so loudly about how life goes on, and us with it. There is strength in the human spirit through our seemingly simple day-to-day lives, and though we might not think we it, we continue to change and grow through acts such as raising our children or just seeing ourselves through to the next day.
I didn’t think it was possible for Froi of the Exiles to be more painstakingly intricate and complex than its predecessor, but it does just that, and is even better than Finnikin of the Rock in some ways (which is not something that I say lightly, as Finnikin of the Rock is a beautiful work of literature). The last half of the book is what really makes it a true prize, with its constant emotional conflicts, twists and turns, action, and need for the reader to keep on turning the page until the very end.
This book ends on a few cliffhangers that had me going “oh my god, oh my god” under my breath, and I can’t wait until late September and the release of Quintana of Charyn!
Not as good as I was expecting it to be, from the rave reviews and reccs that'd pointed me to it, and how much I liked the author's other work. The boNot as good as I was expecting it to be, from the rave reviews and reccs that'd pointed me to it, and how much I liked the author's other work. The book felt a bit all over the place, and the character development felt a bit stifled. ...more
There is no doubt that there's magic in the way that Melina Marchetta writes. She's one of the few masters of her craft who makes crossing literary geThere is no doubt that there's magic in the way that Melina Marchetta writes. She's one of the few masters of her craft who makes crossing literary genres seem as simple as a stroll down the lane; her stories are painstakingly grown and tended to like a beautiful garden. In Quintana of Charyn, the stunning conclusion to The Lumatere Chronicles, she weaves a powerful story that is equal parts adventure, fantasy, self-discovery, romance, and so rawly human. Not many series are able to uphold a strong story throughout their entirety; there's almost always a weak link somewhere in the books. But Marchetta once more surpasses all expectations, bringing the beloved story of Lumatere and its neighboring Charyn to a close with equal amounts of tears and laughter. (Thankfully, though, there's more of the latter.)
Quintana of Chayrn picks off right after the events of its predecessor, Froi of the Exiles. It's connected by six different narratives, some appearing more often than others, but all equally important and interconnected. There's Quintana, who is hiding from those who wish to steal her and her child, or worse. Froi, last seen pierced by eight arrows, is recovering with the help of Arjuro and determined to find his beloved. We have Lucian, who is still in mourning over the supposed death of his Charynite wife, Phaedra. In actuality, Phaedra, along with a small group of women that she can't seem to get along with, faked her death for a larger purpose. Meanwhile, Finnikin is sent by Isaboe (who is most vexed with him) on a mission for vengeance. The beauty of all these different points of view is not just that we get to see several sides of the same story, but the incredible depth the characters have and the harrowing paths they embark on.
Six narratives may seem like a bit much, but Marchetta pulls it off with her usual finesse, giving each of them a powerful voice that is distinctly their own. We're shown that even our most beloved characters have flaws and stubborn prejudices that they refuse to realize. One of the most beautiful things about this series is that characters are not boringly static, but constantly growing. For instance, queens are not merely kindhearted souls, they are filled with a need for revenge and retaliation for the wrongs committed against their family. When the characters' stories fuse together (and then apart), it's a beautiful thing to see. By the end of the book, the journeys that all of the characters have undertaken are simply incredible, and they come out stronger and even more beloved to us than they were before.
In Froi of the Exiles, Marchetta was able to pull off what so many authors nowadays are attempting to achieve: with the exception of a few, most characters are morally grey; there are rarely purely good or purely evil people. Most writers who try to make their characters seem morally ambiguous end up with pathetically ho-hum caricatures, but Marchetta masterfully proves her point character after character.
In Quintana of Charyn, there are a number of characters who may be irritable or incredibly frustrating to the protagonists, but gradually we come to see that they are their own people driven by their own ideologies and cultures. A wonderful example of this is Florik, who at first appearance seems to be nothing more than a brutish bully. For a while, he simply lives up to the stereotype, doing all sorts of nasty things that just paint him as an unpleasant person. Even though Froi understands some aspects of why Florik acts the way he does, such as his culture and upbringing, he is still frustrated by the other's exasperating behavior. Florik doesn't remain confined by his archetype, however, and not only does he undergo changes as a character, he becomes someone we root for later on. There's a message here: that we are all human, equal parts beloved and wretched in our own way, separated in our depiction only by who tells the tale.
This brings me to another point: that in most stories, minor characters are nothing more than that: a wisp in the background that we have trouble recollecting. In Quintana of Charyn, not only do previous minor characters such as Lucian and Phaedra become focal narrators, several of the side characters resound strongly in our minds as fully fleshed out and interesting in their own right. I know I keep on waxing on about Marchetta's uniqueness as an author and all of her incredible writing skills, but it's just so true. In all of her books, the background characters foster feelings that we typically might only give to the main ones. It's not just the characters that serve as the sidekick or best friend, it's the people in the back: we wonder about their motivations and yearn to know more of their story.
Some people may say that the closure and happy endings that occur at the end of the book don't fit with the dark tone of the series or are too Disneyfied. However, haven't the dear characters that we have watched go through numerous horrors and heartbreak been through enough? Do they not deserve happiness? Besides, it is not all just marigolds in one's hair or evenings of contentment in cottages. Even though the characters may be enjoying peace, there is still a lot of work to be done. We see them dealing with the daily problems in their lives that come from having to rebuild a kingdom and start a peace and understanding between two healing nations.
In Quintana of Charyn, Marchetta has crafted a thoroughly absorbing finale to The Lumatere Chronicles, which is a vastly under appreciated fantasy series that isn't afraid to show the ugliness of human nature. In turns savage, beautiful, cruel, and dismal, these books are not just about fantasy, but speak volumes about human relationships and realities. Many of the stories that occur could easily have happened in history, or even today. Marchetta shows us some of the worst atrocities that people can commit, but also demonstrates that there is kindness in the land of the tyrant and betrayal in the kingdom of the benevolent. Turning that last page of Quintana of Charyn is a bit (okay, a lot) bittersweet: you want to know what happens, but when it's over it's like saying farewell to a good friend. Of course, there's always rereads, but there's not quite anything like experiencing this series and its frequent twists and turns the first time 'round: equal parts heart-pounding, exhilarating, and incredibly moving.
This book gave me the worst of headaches, as it made absolutely no sense. Most of the time, Kleypas' stories flow so well, but this one bored me to teThis book gave me the worst of headaches, as it made absolutely no sense. Most of the time, Kleypas' stories flow so well, but this one bored me to tears. Cam and Amelia's foundation is really only based on physical attraction; there is no emotional buildup that's based upon other quirks that usually make Kleypas such a delight to read. As characters, they were not particularly interesting, either. There is really no strong basis for what motivates Amelia, other than that she's the one who holds her family together. However, all of her actions seemed really disjointed and random. Cam was a little bit better, but the potential that he had as a character from his appearance in Devil in Winter didn't pay off, as this is probably the boringest love story by Kleypas that I have ever read.
The only reason this is even getting a star at all are the appearances by Marcus, Sebastian, Evie, and Lillian from the Wallflowers series. If it weren't for them, this book would be even worse than it already is. It was great getting to see (a few of) the Wallflowers again, although reading this made me terribly nostalgic for those books and makes me want to pick them up and reread them for the umpteenth time.
If this had been a story about the side characters, Wallflowers and Hathaways both, it would have been infinitely more interesting. I was far more invested in the other Hathaways and their going-ons, especially Win and Kev's story in the upcoming book. I'm already attached to Leo, as I've read his (and Poppy and Beatrix's) book, but the thing is that all of the supporting cast were much more intriguing and well-developed people than Amelia and Cam.
This book was a disappointment, as Kleypas is one of my favorite authors, but I suppose after the beauty that is the Wallflowers series, there's bound to be work that doesn't match pace. ...more