Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home . . . or so he believes. Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been taken roughly and lovingly in hand by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper with a warrior’s discipline. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds in its surreal royal court. Soon he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess in this barren and mysterious place. It is in Charyn that he will discover there is a song sleeping in his blood . . . and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.
Oh, Melina Marchetta how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
The first Marchetta book I read was Saving Francesca. That was years ago. I remember being very surprised at how much I ended up loving a book with a seemingly simple plot. I was touched by it. I liked Francesca’s voice and I liked how it was a book that focused on interactions with family and friends in a way that made sense to me. It was very real.
It was about two years ago that I read Finnikin of the Rock. It made me cry. Okay, I’ll be honest, it made me sob like a little baby. The book takes place in a world where a lot of bad things happen. There’s a lot of rape and people losing their homes and families being torn apart. But the thing that really got to me was the writing. The writing was so good, it made me cry over stupid little things that weren’t even all that sad. They were just so damn insightful. I just cared so much about what was happening that I couldn’t help but get crazy emotional about everything that happened by the end of that book.
After describing that level of emotional upheaval, does it sound strange to say that I was really looking forward to reading Froi of the Exiles? I guess I’m just that kind of reader. I read so many books, and a lot of them are really good. But after a while, you start to want something more than just good. I start to wonder, “When will I find the next one?” The “next one” being one of those books that is simply unforgettable. The kind of book that goes instantly to my favorites list. Froi of the Exiles did not disappoint.
After two years, my memories of Finnikin of the Rock had gotten a bit hazy, at least when it came to details. Fortunately this book picks up long enough after the events of the first one that it didn’t really matter. I was drawn back into the world right away, completely caught up in the intricate plotlines and relationships.
Marchetta writes about journeys. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading one of her contemporary books or one of her fantasies. Her stories are made up of characters that are on journeys both literally and emotionally. It’s about discovery and messed up people peeling away layers until you’re left with the heart of the matter. That’s what her books have in common, no matter what genre. Froi is a great example of this.
The book begins as he is sent on a mission into Charyn, the same kingdom whose soldiers invaded Lumatere years ago and caused so much death and heartache. His mission starts out fairly straightforward, but once Froi actually gets there, things become anything but. He discovers that Charyn is a land with just as complicated a past as Lumatere, full of people who are suffering from a years old curse. And at the heart of all this is a princess named Quintana who is by turns insane and insightful.
That’s just the tip of the iceburg.
There’s so much to say about a book like this. I mean, this thing is LONG! As I was reading I would stop every now and then to see where I was at in the book, delighted each time to find myself only in the middle when another book would be almost over. There are so many brilliant moments and characters wrapped up in those pages. So many developments that NEED that much time or else it would feel rushed and not nearly as true.
Even though this is clearly a fantasy novel, there are many themes and elements that could fit into any genre. It’s about family, and what that word means and the kind of love that blood inspires. It’s about displaced people searching for their place in the world. It’s about how strong people can be, and also how cruel.
One thing I really like about the Lumatere Chronicles is how Marchetta handles unhappiness. As I said earlier, a lot of horrible things happen in this world. It’s terrible and characters suffer and that’s a reacurring theme. In another author’s hands, these books might have just left you with the feeling of “Wow, life sucks.” But somehow the focus in these books shifts from these awful events and instead focuses on where the characters go from there. How they grow. I’m not saying that everything is uplifting or heartwarming, because that would be way too simple. I’m just saying that nothing is black and white here. There is balance and understanding woven into every event and word written…
I may be gushing. Am I gushing? Melina Marchetta has that effect on me. Just wait until I get around to reviewing The Piper’s Son.
Anyway, I don’t know what else I can say about this book because I really think it’s the sort of thing you have to experiance for yourself. I can’t explain Quintana to you in a review. I can’t describe how Froi practically leaps off the pages until his thoughts and actions are all that’s running through your head.
In Conclusion: Loved it. In case you couldn’t tell. I don’t want this series to end.