Froi of the Exiles — Melina Marchetta (Lumatere Chronicles #2)
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.
Froi is happy with his new life in Lumatere. He serves his queen, honors his bond, and spends time learning from men he respects. When he’s asked to go under cover and assassinate the king of Charyn, Froi is reluctant, but he refuses to deny his queen anything. When he gets to Charyn, he has a week to figure out how to kill the king. He has been warned of the king’s savage daughter, Quintana, a princess failing to meet the expectations of her people to break a curse. Froi just might be the answer to breaking that curse, but he smart enough to know he can’t afford to get close to the princess — not that that should be a problem, what with her seemingly split personality, complete lack of manners, and overall savage characteristics. Still, the longer Froi stays in Charyn, the more he realizes the city — and Quintana — might also provide the key to unlocking the secrets of his past.
Froi of the Exiles is an epic fantasy, high-stakes adventure with a plethora of dynamic and engaging characters. Fans of Finnikin of Rock will not be disappointed with Marchetta’s second novel in the Lametere Chronicles. As a lover of high fantasy novels (a la Tamora Pierce and the world of Tortall), I was surprised to find I wasn’t as enamored with the world so much as the supremely original characters. It is such a rare treat for an author to provide such deeply flawed and complicated characters as Froi, Quintana, Lirah, Gargarin, and Arjuro; characters that you can hate one instant and love the next.
However, it took me awhile to reach this conclusion. Weighing in at around six-hundred pages, Froi of the Exiles took about the first two-hundred pages to grab my attention. The beginning felt slow to me, as reading felt laborious and dissatisfying. Fans of Finnikin may prefer reading so much about his current life with Isaboe and the state of affairs in Lumatere, but for me, the story really begins when Froi reaches Charyn and he’s introduced to Quintana. And while Froi’s story is the main focus, chapters still oscillate between telling the story of what’s happening in Charyn and what’s happening back in Lumatere. While I can see the bigger picture Marchetta’s painting of this world, the viewpoints of those back in Lumatere often left me bored and desperate for a return to Froi. Though the other characters are interesting, some of their chapters don’t seem to add much. The only viewpoint shifts I really appreciate are those of Lucian, Phaedra, and Rafuel, most likely because their goings-on influence or relate somehow to Charyn, which seems to be the focus of this novel. However, these shifts didn’t ruin anything about the book for me — they just didn’t add anything, either.
Charyn is one of the most interesting worlds I’ve read of in awhile. The intrigue of the provinces, the battles for power, the manipulation and politics all enthrall me. But Marchetta’s thorough descriptions and world-building go even farther as she creates one of the most complete worlds to grace YA shelves. She depicts architecture, art, ethnicity, nature, clothing, and every other little detail so that you feel as if you’re standing in the middle of a street of Charyn, watching as events unfold. She doesn’t coddle the reader with inauthentic descriptions of facial expressions and characters’ feelings, but instead lets the characters speak for themselves so that you can truly come to know each characters’ personality and range of emotions.
Though I said before, though this book has a lot going on plot-wise, the characters really steal the show for me. Each character is so intricately layered and portrayed so beautifully that you really get a sense of how real he/she is. There are a lot of powerful moments, words left unsaid, emotions and thoughts expressed and hidden. There are also such perfect comedic moments — I was surprised to find that both Froi and Quintana have startlingly hilarious senses of humor. Many of the characters are fiercely passionate. That passions lies at the heart of the story and drives every event forward.Unfortunately, I feel like Froi ends on an undeserved cliffhanger. I don’t necessarily hate cliffhangers, but Marchetta really doesn’t provide much — if any — closure, which is frustrating after six-hundred pages. Regardless, I can’t wait to see what happens. I just wish we weren’t left with so many questions.
Froi of the Exiles is not a light read. This is a story you need to plan to invest in. That being said, I’d recommend it to anyone who loves reading action-packed, character driven, high-fantasy novels. Reading Finnikin of the Rock first isn’t necessary to understand what’s going on, but highly advisable as it provides a lot of helpful background information for Froi. Also, it’s just plain good. Melina Marchetta is a literary genius and well worth your adoration.
Publication Date: March 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Teaser Quote: “They camped the night under a full moon and a sky crowded with stars that made Froi forget that there was an old man waiting to die and remember that there was a kingdom dying to live.“