Flannery's Reviews > Froi of the Exiles

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
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I’ve been a fan of every other Melina Marchetta book I’ve read, which is all of them, so it sort of pains me to say that Froi of the Exiles was frustrating and unsatisfying for me. I’m still going to give it three stars because even when Marchetta is (subjectively to me) not on her game, she still has a way with words that blows nearly every other YA author out of the water. Originally, I tried to keep my review entirely spoiler-free but it just wasn’t happening. There will be a few spoilers but they are ones that are not likely to surprise you while reading the book. Oh, and there will be Finnikin spoilers, just so you know. *sigh* And we’re off…

The number one reason why this book couldn’t work for me was the relationship between Froi and Quintana. It is not a spoiler to reveal something you find out in the first few pages—Quintana has basically been systematically raped for years. While it is happening, she goes off into another place in her mind à la Precious (based on the novel Push by Sapphire) and her daydreams. She has been maltreated for years and everyone thinks she is more or less insane. Also, she is described as having weird teeth, bird’s nest hair, dirty clothes, and several personalities. Okay, so…

(view spoiler)

How could anyone NOT be attracted to that? All jokes aside, I couldn’t get behind a relationship that disgusted me from the onset. To sleep with a girl who has never had a healthy relationship with anyone, especially if you are doing it under even quasi-false pretenses is a bit scary. I don’t want to call it sexual abuse but it kind of felt that way to me. I know many other readers feel that Quintana is an intriguing character and love her down to the ground. To me, she felt like a confused, somewhat simple-minded girl with lots of strength and motivation but who was absolutely vulnerable nonetheless. I don’t require a strong heroine all the time, that isn’t the issue. The issue is a balanced relationship and here, I just never saw it. Near the end of the novel, Quintana shows immense growth as a character and if I read the third book in the series, I think I will enjoy her more. Froi’s decision to sleep with Quintana was morally questionable. It reminded me of United States of Tara where a woman with multiple personalities and her husband have an agreement that his sleeping with any of her alters is cheating. While her body might be there, her mind isn’t and that isn’t fair to her. Even later in the book, Quintana is randomly growling at points.

I read a lot of fantasy and romance. In romance novel series, a significant number of authors have a tendency to bring past couples from other books in as characters. Look! See how happy they are! They were happy then but they are even happier now—look at the babies! While I find it annoying, I don’t always mind when this happens in romance books. I do mind when it comes up repeatedly in fantasy and Froi is the only book I can think of as an example. Look at Finnikin and Isaboe! They are so unbelievably well-suited to each other. They are so attracted to each other that they do it up against walls and in closets, tra-la-la! If it were just once or twice, I wouldn’t even note it but it made up a large portion of the novel. On a similar note, I now know another thing that I don’t ever want to read about in another fantasy novel: breastfeeding. How long should someone breastfeed a child? I don’t know nor do I care to think about it while I’m reading a fantasy novel. (unless a woman is breastfeeding dragons or something) Froi of the Exiles was something like 620 pages long. Finnikin and Isaboe had their moment in the limelight in the first book of the series. We certainly could’ve gotten a taste of how sublimely perfect they are together and how they can communicate by looks and how they can’t keep their paws off of each other in a few less pages.

The tone of this novel is about 400% darker than any of the author’s other work. That’s fine, I don’t mind dark, nor do I mind sex. (in fact, I enjoy these two things in books) A friend told me that Froi seemed more realistic because there was so much emphasis put on the seedier elements of the atmosphere during wartime. Everybody seemed to be either having sex or talking about having sex or if not that, murdering other people. I have no experience living in an active warzone but every character seemed to have sex on the mind, even when they weren’t near any actual fighting. Before you go into this one, you should just know that everyone has slept with everyone else or if they haven’t, they’ve certainly thought about it or are going to in the near future. It got to the point where I just rolled my eyes and skimmed over sections of the book and I never, EVER do that with Marchetta books. (by sections I mean a paragraph here or there, not any significant amount of text)

I’ve been putting off this review for ages because I just have a bad taste in my mouth about it. I read it with a friend and our google document has over 20,000 words. I am rereading it and laughing because in Chapter 6 my friend wrote, “In general, I am getting more into it. Not a huge fan of travelling around, but looks like they are almost there.” Hahaha, yeah right. There is just so much movement in this book. Everyone is always going somewhere. Just GET THERE already—collect what you came for and go back, or stay. Whatever. I’d understand it if it was like a quest to Mordor to destroy the ring that binds them all but that isn’t the case here. (side note: Turns out I also guessed Froi’s father in Chapter 6 as well) Froi basically spends the entire book moving from one place to the next but I was more interested in his story than the other two storylines that appear in the book. When Finnikin and Isaboe aren’t doing it, they are having political meetings with otherzzzzzzzzz, oh sorry, I just fell asleep while I was typing. The other storyline is about Lucian of the Monts, whom I adored in Finnikin but who has turned into a huge douche in Froi. Let’s say it all together now, COMMUNICATION. Learn it, live it, love it.

You know what I was thinking about while I was reading? Every one of Melina Marchetta’s books deals with a child with a missing parent. In Looking for Alibrandi, Josie’s dad is gone but comes back. In Jellicoe Road, Taylor’s parents are gone and also the guy in the tree side story. In Saving Francesca, her mother is lost to depression. In The Piper’s Son, Tom’s dad was gone to him, and in Finnikin of the Rock, he grew up with no mother and was missing his father for years. Now we can add Froi, Quintana, and Lucian to the list. Finding family is a huge theme for her--It’s all about who you are and where you came from. I think this is really interesting but I really enjoy stories about people who don’t know where they are from, DON’T find out, but come to terms with it and become their own person. It is always hard to define yourself when people are pointing out the similarities between you and your parents. I’m not going to spoiler who Froi’s parents are but I saw that one coming down the pipeline pretty early.

This review is getting too long. I always start to space out after a few paragraphs of a review so I’m assuming I’m not alone in this. I did not truly enjoy the process of reading this book but on the upside, it seems as if almost everyone else did. If you want to know anything else about what I thought of this book, let’s talk about it in the comments. For now, I’m just going to share some more comment highlights I found in our google document (read them at your own risk):

(view spoiler)
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Reading Progress

August 20, 2011 – Shelved
November 3, 2011 – Started Reading
November 3, 2011 –
page 3
0.51% "Readalong with the lovely Nomes. Thanks Catie for lending me your copy!! :)"
November 3, 2011 –
page 51
November 5, 2011 –
page 120
November 5, 2011 –
page 225
November 6, 2011 –
page 305
November 7, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 94 (94 new)

message 1: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo 3....3....3?!
Your version WAS by Double M, right?
Looking forward to your review!

*looks at own copy sceptically*

Flannery Everyone else loved it. You'll probably love it as well! Seriously, all of my friend reviews are 5 stars.

message 3: by Wendy Darling (new)

Wendy Darling You're gonna get kicked out of the club...

Flannery Well does your side have punch and pie?

message 5: by Vinaya (new)


message 6: by papalbina (new) - added it

papalbina oh, oh, what went wrong, dear??

Flannery A lot of things happened. I was so, so looking forward to this and it just didn't come through for me. I'll review it tomorrow:-/ Hopefully it was just me...but I have no idea how it could be!

~Tina~ Aww, I'm sorry you didn't love this as much. Me sad =(

Limonessa GASP! Is this a punishment for me giving 3 to The Piper? :D

message 10: by Shannon (new)

Shannon Wendy Darling wrote: "You're gonna get kicked out of the club..."

I'm probably going to get kicked out of the club once I finish Finnikin ...

Arlene I'm... err.... but...I mean... it's Froi! What happened?!?!


message 12: by Flannery (last edited Jan 06, 2012 05:40PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Flannery I have a goal to finish this review and the one for A Monster Calls tonight.

message 13: by Penny (new) - added it

Penny I can't wait to read your review. (you are going to review it, yes?)

Flannery Yeah. I have a picture drawn. I've been avoiding it for ages--it is nothing but a lovefest on here:-/

message 15: by Penny (new) - added it

Penny You realize that you must post the review, regardless of the lovefest. I bet you have some really good reasons for not totally loving this book. And sure, it's a Marchetta, but you know what? The woman is not infallible. *whispers* It's not like Finnikin of the Rock was all that great either. I've got a feeling Marchetta's fantasy is never going to be my 'cuppa'. I love her contemporary stuff though.


Catie I agree with Penny.

(Except not about the MM fantasy thing...I'm totally in the cool kids' fan's group on that.)


I really look forward to seeing what you have to say Flannery!

message 17: by Chachic (new) - added it

Chachic I'm so glad you decided to post your review! Now I won't feel bad when I post a not-so-positive review of this book. I still love Melina Marchetta's contemporary novels but I'm not a big fan of her fantasy ones.

This made me laugh: "I now know another thing that I don’t ever want to read about in another fantasy novel: breastfeeding."

And I agree with this:

"The tone of this novel is about 400% darker than any of the author’s other work."

and this:

"“Everyone’s life sucks. Everything is more convoluted than it should ever be."

Flannery I laughed a lot while I was rereading our chat document. One of the comments was something like, "every character mentioned in PASSING has a story." It is just such a sprawling cast and so many were only mentioned for short periods of time...I really don't have the mindspace to remember their backstories.

Rachel Hartman I love your pictures. This one, in particular, makes me think of Daniel Pinkwater. His illustrations, I mean. I believe he has no hair for birds to nest in.

message 20: by Chachic (new) - added it

Chachic I actually don't mind the length of the novel or that there are so many characters in it, it's just that I felt like there was so much despair and not enough hope and love to balance everything out. While reading it, I kept thinking that I would probably never reread this one. Or maybe even Finnikin.

message 21: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Sounds like if the film "The Marriage of Maria Braun" had been written by David Eddings. And had the awful big sister from South Park playing Quintana.

message 22: by Bonnie (last edited Dec 07, 2011 10:03PM) (new)

Bonnie Your Google doc comments were absolutely hilarious. Thanks for the laugh. :D

message 23: by Lyndsey (new)

Lyndsey Oh. My. God. I love that drawing of Billy Ray Cyrus. Only real men wear pink shirts and bluebirds in their hair.

message 24: by Holly (new)

Holly Lol, this review is hilarious and confirms my decision to DNF Finnikin. Thanks Flannery! After reading every word I'm surprised frankly that you gave it three stars. It definitely sounds like a 1 to 2 star read and if a book left such a bad taste in my mouth there's no way I could've rated it above a 2.

P.S. *nodding* All the Finnikin Isaboe we-have-a-perfect-relationship-stuff would have killed me.

message 25: by Penny (last edited Dec 07, 2011 10:58PM) (new) - added it

Penny The description of Quintana an your drawing makes me think of this:

[image error]

And this:

[image error]

And now I don't know if I can read this book and not laugh at inappropriate moments. I mean, girlfriend growls at random. One one hand I think she's just really damaged and i should feel for her, on the other...


Crazy Cat Lady
...I'll have these images in my mind (and I won't be able to stop laughing).

message 26: by Wendy Darling (new)

Wendy Darling New favorite review, Flann. You've outdone yourself.

(view spoiler)

message 27: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr Wow. Loved the honesty, loved the extracts from the google document and loved the inclusion of one of your drawings (in the classic Flannery fashion).

message 28: by Vinaya (new)

Vinaya A story with breastfeeding dragons? Hmmm, I was going to say that would be awesome, but then I remembered that George R R Martin actually has that storyline and it was NOT PRETTY. ugugug.

Flannery Rachel, I definitely don't even deserve a comparison to an actual artist but thanks:)

Miriam, I've never read any Eddings or seen that movie. *cowers in shame* But the comparison to the funny-looking older sister is apt!

Bonnie, thanks!

Holly, I probably would've put it down unfinished if I hadn't been reading it with a friend and also because I borrowed a friend's copy. (Thanks, Catie!!) It was a 2 for enjoyment but she is truly a masterful writer.

Penny, OMG, thanks for the laugh.

Wen, I guess I am moved a little lower on the love scale with this one...

Shirley, I thought about it for quite a while. Her contemporaries are among my favorite books and I really enjoyed Finnikin. I know bits of the review are harsh but I hope my overall love of her writing comes through a bit.

Lynds, I cracked up at the Billy Ray comment.

message 30: by Vinaya (new)

Vinaya Oh and I love this review. I am going to put it up there on my list of Best-thought-out negative reviews, along with Wendy's Mara Dyer review, which is also made of win.

Flannery Vinaya wrote: "A story with breastfeeding dragons? Hmmm, I was going to say that would be awesome, but then I remembered that George R R Martin actually has that storyline and it was NOT PRETTY. ugugug."

Hahaha, I remembered that as I was writing the review. I haven't read any of SofIandF yet but I saw that scene in the HBO show. CREEP SHOW.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) You'll have to do better than this for a divorce, Flann. I don't think even a hateful review of one of Maggie's books would do the trick, hahah.

Catie You're stuck with us!

message 34: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! I heart Flannery!! Hahahah!

I didn't enjoy the first book and I'm sorry the 2nd one seems to be more intensely in the same vein. I'm going to go hug my contemporary-YA MM books now.

message 35: by Miriam (new)

Miriam It's not a well-known film in the US, don't feel bad. Your description of the damaged character reminded me of it -- it's about a German woman who loses her husband in WWII, has an affair with an American officer, gets pregnant and loses the baby, various other traumatic stuff. But it is pretty sensitive. David Eddings writes stock-character epic fantasy with very little emotional range. When he tries to deal with "issues" they come out pretty fucked up. Like, there is one uptight religious bigot and one woman who was a slave in a breeding pen and had children through rapes, and the children were sacrificed to the evil god, but then the two characters get married and have lots of babies and Lo! all is well.

message 36: by Chachic (new) - added it

Chachic Flannery wrote: "I probably would've put it down unfinished if I hadn't been reading it with a friend and also because I borrowed a friend's copy."

I probably wouldn't have finished either Finnikin or Froi if I didn't pick up both on a read along! It helped that I could discuss my thoughts with someone else and that we agreed that we weren't loving the books.

message 37: by Beth (new)

Beth Would you say that this was a standalone, Flann? Just got approved from NetGalley but haven't read Finnikin...so is it still worthwhile?

message 38: by Mariel (new)

Mariel The Sevenwaters books by Juliet Marillier also trots out the past couples for waaaay too long. I don't want to read Froi now. I read a Finnikin review that more or less made it sound like a soulless copy of Tigana. I love Marchetta but perhaps her fantasy series is not for me.

Flannery Beth wrote: "Would you say that this was a standalone, Flann? Just got approved from NetGalley but haven't read Finnikin...so is it still worthwhile?"

Not at all:-/ There is a huge cast and nearly all of them are holdovers from Finnikin with backstory. It would be like watching Empire Strikes Back without seeing Star Wars. (or New Hope, if you're into being accurate:))

@Mariel--I don't want to be the one that puts people off it. Basically every other review on here is 5 stars. I don't get it and I really enjoyed Finnikin. Now you have me more excited to read Tigana:)

message 40: by Beth (new)

Beth @Flann - thanks! Better go get Finnikin. :)

Catie OMG FLANNERY. Let's read Tigana together. I've had it on my to-read forever.

Flannery Sorry I didn't see this until today, Catie. LET'S! What do you think about sometime in the next two weeks?

Catie Anytime...I've got it on my shelf all ready to go.

message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

DUDE dude I think MM just referenced your review in a Q&A *blows whistle* whoa.

Flannery Thanks for that, Trinity. If it is about me, I'd hardly call this review 'scathing.' I gave it 3/5 which means "I liked it" on here and talked about how she is a masterful writer.

message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

That's true...oh well

message 47: by Missie (new)

Missie I'm surprised by the amount of S-E-X going on here in a YA fantasy novel by Marchetta! Not that I've read any of her fantasy novels, but it's not something that she really ever focuses on in her Contemporary novels.

Seems like maybe fantasy isn't her forte. I mean, I get the whole "we might die tomorrow so let's go out with a bang thing" but that whole situation with Quintana sounds a bit repulsive. :/

message 48: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Gasp!! Someone is being mean on the internet?!

This is a tiny drop of opinion in a giant bucket of MM lovin'. I thought Flannery's review explained her viewpoint very well, with excellent use of sarcasm and not meanness. Check out all the review of Stephanie Meyer's books for example of the real thing.

message 49: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Gasp!! Someone is being mean on the internet?!

But-- but-- the internet is made of rainbows pooed by kittens and stuck together with gumdrops! How is it even conceivable that negativity could exist in such a medium?

message 50: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! An internet without mockery is no internet at all!! That's my opinion.

Aww, let's not be sore! We do like joking around with friends and friends-to-be. I happen to like Flannery's sense of humor and trust her opinion. Sorry it's not the same for you, too. But with such a big site, you're sure to find those with the same outlook and similar feelings on things. Happy reading!

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