Tag Archives: Melina Marchetta

Book Reviews
April 3, 2012 posted by Kiona

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.

Pages: 598
Publication Date:  March 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Source: NetGalley
Rating : ★★★★☆

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.

Special Guest Author Interview: Melina Marchetta
Author Interviews
March 9, 2010 posted by Katie

Special Guest Author Interview: Melina Marchetta

Melina Marchetta is the author of Australian young adult titles Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellico Road and Finnikin of the Rock. March celebrates the release of Melina’s new book, The Piper’s Son. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Melina on the phone during her Australian tour, and Melina answered a few of our questions about The Piper’s Son and writing in general. Just a warning, there may be a few spoilery type moments throughout the interview. Enjoy!

Congratulations on the release of The Piper’s Son on Monday. It was an excellent book, and I enjoyed it immensely.

For readers that haven’t read Saving Francesca, I was impressed by the fact that you could read The Piper’s Son, without feeling lost in all the characters. Was this something important for you during the writing of the book?

MM: Defiantly. I didn’t want– in actual fact, I like the idea of people reading The Piper’s Son and then going ‘oh I’d like to go back and see what they were like when they were young’. The thing that probably was the hardest was making sure I wasn’t writing The Piper’s Son without the Francesca readers in my head and that meant sometimes what I was trying to do was maybe spend a bit more time on, say the Will/Francesca relationship. I had to really make sure that didn’t dominate, so that’s why I kind of sent Will overseas, because I had to remind myself not everyone will have an emotional investment in that relationship. So I think that if people have read it will be great to see what they were like five years later but I certainly didn’t want it [Saving Francesca] to be a pre-requisite.

Tom seems to go through some major changes and developments in this books, starting off from a bad place and moving into one that ultimately seems him thrive with new life. Was it difficult to get this development of the character down or did Tom’s progression come naturally?

MM: It came slowly, but naturally. Like I didn’t put– I suppose to have a really basic understanding of where it’s going to go, as the writer you kind of know he’s going to be okay so you just have to work out how to get him to that point and I let it come naturally. I knew that it was going to be once he was in these two locations, one being Georgie’s house and the other being the Union pub and I knew it was going to be through his correspondence with Tara Finke but I had to make sure that that was paced really nicely rather than rushing into it. What worries me sometimes, and I know I was worried about this in the re-writes, was at what point things were happenings sometimes I thought ‘oh god, Tara doesn’t really come into it properly until after page 100, I wonder if people are going to hang out that long’, things like that. But it was kind of the pace of it was really quite important that I let it come as naturally as I could.

To me, Georgie was almost as an important character in the novel as Tom was. Was Georgie always going to have an important role, or did that develop over the course of writing?

MM: I think so; I can’t remember it being any other way in my head that they were going to get a chapter kind of each. I didn’t want it to be a he said, she said, where you kind of get a different perspective of the same incident so I knew it was just going to be his story one chapter, hers the next but somewhere probably a quarter or three quarters into the novel a lot of the times they were together with all their worlds in the same chapters. She was very important to me as a character. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that when I was writing her she was my age and I felt that probably as someone over forty I had probably something to say about relationships and life in general. I love her as much as I love Tom and I love their relationship as prickly as it is. Sometimes what worries me, especially you could tell me this as a reader closer to Tom’s age, I was worried that when people were in Georgie’s chapter they would want to be in Tom’s chapter. Or else people were in Tom’s chapter they wanted to be in Georgie’s chapter. So did you feel that you had a yearning to be in Tom’s chapters when he wasn’t quite on the scene?

Occasionally, but I also really enjoyed reading inside Georgie’s mind and seeing where she was going. I thought she was quite a highlight of the book. I thought there was quite a good balance there.

MM: Because I think that sometimes people– a friend of mine was telling me that, she was actually my age which was surprising, she said I kept on jumping ahead and going to everyone of the letters between Tara and Tom. But then it made me worried. I thought ‘oh god I hope people don’t push Georgie’s story aside’ because to me, what’s taking place in Georgie’s life is very similar to what’s taking place in Tom’s life. They’re both stuffing up relationships, and they’re both grief stricken and they both don’t know how to get out of a particular rut. But they are 20-so years apart, and sometimes there’s no big difference between people, except when you’re older, there are probably bigger ramifications, than when you’re younger.

The London bombings shocked the world on a global scale. What I found interesting was how you decided to show how the aftermath of these attacks can change a family for better and worse. What influenced your decision to use the London attacks as the background to losing Uncle Jim?

MM: Because I think for me, I didn’t want this novel to be about terrorism at all. I didn’t want it to be, I can’t say I didn’t want it to be political, because I think it is a pretty political novel at times. I didn’t want it to be about terrorism but I needed something, sadly I needed something where there wouldn’t be a body, a possibility where there wouldn’t be a body and I suppose a bombing is a classic example of that. Unless someone goes missing, and if someone goes missing then the readership would have thought then ‘oh were going to find him, Joe at the end’. I kind of needed it to be certain, in the same way with Tom Finch. There was a certainty that these men were dead that they couldn’t bury them. I choose London because, I taught for ten years, most of my closest friends have taught in London so it’s such a normal thing for Australian’s to go over to London and teach. I could have based it on the Madrid bombing or September 11, but I just thought there was a bigger chance that Australian people would be affected by something happening in London. I actually remember when it happened, thankfully people didn’t die. But again my cousins, a girl that went to school with my cousin, was on the bus, her fiancé when it happened. This is someone from our suburb so there’s always this idea when something happens overseas, was there an Australian involved, most times Australian’s are somehow involved because we are such big travellers.

The relationship between Tara and Tom takes an interesting climb through the novel. What would your advice to teenagers in similar situations be?

MM: What kind of similar situations? The fact that they are estranged from each other?

I guess the distance and being apart, yet from what we gather from throughout the novel and learn that their parting wasn’t on the best of terms.

MM: I think that, to me it’s a story about forgiveness. Some people say to me that they would never forgive Tom for what he did. Other people say ‘well he was grief stricken’. But I still think that the way he acted was awful. There was a trust thing that happened there and especially coming from a character like Tara Finke, he’s not really a player and she’s not really a confidant person on so many different levels. But I think for me there was just, ultimately I know what he did was wrong but there was such a respect between them as people and I like the fact that he had to actually work instead of trying. Like I think in the past he had found it so easy to charm people but at this particular case because he didn’t have her there in front of him, he actually had to work at wooing her back. And I think he succeeds. And there are so many times when people around him don’t think he is going to succeed at that, there’s no way that she will forgive him and I like the fact that she does, and it’s not because she’s a pushover it’s because Tom has really worked at it that he has opened himself to her in the same that that she kind of opened herself to him. I suppose it’s about trust between people in the end. I would never know what kind of advice to give anyone, whether they were young or older or my age. I think relationships are so, so tricky and they’re so not black and white, there are blurry moments. The same could be said about Georgie and Sam. A lot of people have said to be there’s no way that Georgie should have ever forgiven Sam. I think well there are a lot of blurry moments in that relationship and I had to kind of give it the conclusion that I felt really worked for the story.

What authors influenced you growing up and in your writing?

MM: When I was growing up I really loved the Anne of Green Gables novels. The one thing that I, I’ve said it so many times, but I feel as if– have you read Anne of Green Gables?

No, I haven’t.

MM: There’s a moment in it where Anne Shirley, great character, where she hits, she’s in the same classroom as Gilbert Blythe and she hit’s him over the head with a slate, which is their kind of writing tool, and I always say, that moment for me, was just, I was just absolutely mesmerised. I thought it was so romantic thought she hated his guts. I would always say that in every one of my novels there is a moment where my character’s metaphorically hit their potential love interests over the head with a slate. It could be that winning an argument or getting the upper hand, an example in say The Piper’s Son could be here’s Tom thinking it will be easy, text messaging Tara saying ‘How’s it going, babe’ and her response, that for me is the hitting someone over the head with a slate. It happens in Saving Francesca when she kind of meets Will and Will’s such a bastard to her. So they’re moments I kind of adopted and I loved that particular one, so I would say she was a major influence.

Any quirky writing rituals or habits?

MM: They’re just not quirky, they’re just rituals. I always, what do I always do? I mean I do write in bed. I love laptops. The best thing about a laptop is writing in bed and I actually think I do my best writing late at night in bed. I always do like a coffee, but I have to have, if I have a coffee while I’m writing I always, always, always have to have a biscuit with it. There’s no such thing as having coffee on its own. Its comfort stuff. To me writing, I have to stop making it feel like work, and it is work at the end of the day. I quite like the cosy-ness of it. And I have to say that in summer that I love a glass of wine while I’m writing.

The Piper’s Son was released in Australia on March 1, 2010.

The Piper’s Son – Melina Marchetta
Book Reviews
March 3, 2010 posted by Katie

The Piper’s Son – Melina Marchetta

Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favorite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.

But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pup with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he walked away from Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle’s death.

In a year when everything’s broken, Tom realizes that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

Thomas Mackee feels as if he has nothing left to live for. His family is split apart; he no longer communicates with his closes friends and almost lost everything if not for the compassion of those friends he cut off. For as much as Tom seems to hate the world, the further we go along and find that Tom is struggling with hating himself. After an event that leaves him in hospital, Tom ends up pleading with his Aunt Georgie to let him stay. A decision that eventually puts Tom on the path to who he really wants to be.

Georgie is pregnant. To the man she broke up with for seven years. Who has a son from another relationship. Georgie and Sam have a careful relationship. What it is neither can really decide or talk about. For Georgie and Sam, silence is normal. Until Tom appears and unintentionally creates a channel for communication, and Georgie and Sam might have a chance to finally work out exactly what they mean to each other.

Francesca and Justine work at the Union pub, the pub where Tom’s flatmates stole $2000 from while they were working there. Tom decides that it is up to him to repay the debt. Francesca and Justine knew Tom through high school, and were cast aside when Tom lost his uncle, yet they never stopped caring. Slowly, Francesca and Justine find that they are getting their Tom back, and will do everything they can to help Tom return to who he used to be.

But Tom doesn’t only have his own life to worry about. His father is a former alcoholic whose drinking problem forced Tom’s mum and sister to relocate to Brisbane. His father abandoned Tom to fend for himself, and never once looked back. His favourite uncle was killed in a terrorist bombing attack, the one person Tom relied on for good, true, honest advice. His sort-of ex-girlfriend that he is still in love with is in Same and has moved on, refusing to communicate in any form.

In a life where everything seems so tangled, will Tom be able to work out, what it is he truly wants before it is too late?

The Piper’s Son is the fifth novel from Australian author Melina Marchetta, and is set five years after the events of Saving Francesca. Yet, it is not necessary to have read Saving Francesca to understand the story, as believe it or not, this is the first Marchetta novel that I have read. That may come as a surprise to some who knows Marchetta’s work, but I now know why Marchetta is regarded as one of the best young adult authors in Australia.

The Piper’s Son was one of the most captivating and engaging books I have read this year. I could not get the characters out of my head, constantly wanting to pick up the book and find out what happens next. Through the perspective of Tom and occasional flashes into the mind of Georgie, I’ve discovered two characters that I care about. Tom is troubled and flawed, needing love and acceptance, even if sometimes he shrugs it off and pretends like nothing can tough him. Georgie is that aunt that you wish you have – caring enough to let you stay when you have nowhere else to go and perceptive enough to know that something is wrong, even if you don’t want to talk about it. From the beginning of the novel where nothing goes right for either Tom or Georgie, to the end where you find that maybe, just maybe they can make their lives work in a positive way; you are there with them, each step and failure along the way. Failure that reminds you that they are just a human as anyone else.

Set in a modern day Sydney with references and mentions to recent events from everything to the Lord of the Rings to the London terrorist attacks, Marchetta has created a world that is gritty and instantly believable and recognisable as a world that we belong to.

I highly recommend this to everyone, no matter the style of novel you like to read.

Publication date: March 2010

Pages: 328

Rating:: ★★★★★

Teaser quote: He went to the sent box praying that somehow the email got rejected. No such luck. Twenty seconds earlier anabelsbrother sent taramarie a message, now with the words cheers, or see ya, or whenever. But signing off with the word, love.

February 24, 2010 posted by Katie

Penguin Presents Melina Marchetta

Hi yaReaders!

Some of you may know, that in March Melina Marchetta’s new novel The Piper’s Son will be released in Australia on March 1, 2010. Melina Marchetta is the author of YA novels such as Saving Franchesca, Looking for Alibrandi and Along the Jellicoe Road.

In anticipation of this release, Penguin Australia has kindly given us permission to post an exclusive mini-documentary into the world of Melina Marchetta.

Enjoy! And keep an eye out for our review of The Piper’s Son coming soon.

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Guest Reviewer: Maggie Stiefvater
Guest Reviews
February 10, 2009 posted by Nikki

Guest Reviewer: Maggie Stiefvater

We recently asked Maggie Stiefvater, author of the popular fey book Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception if she would be interested in reviewing one of her own fave YA novels. Maggie chose Saving Francesca by Australian author, Melina Marchetta.

Saving Francesca – Melina Marchetta

This morning, my mother didn’t get out of bed.

So begins SAVING FRANCESCA, the story of Francesca, one of the few girls going to St. Sebastian’s, a previously all-boys school. The joys of going to St. Sebastian’s are numerous: the sounds of musical burping and farting echoing through the halls, male-centered theater picks, and the general feeling of living in a fishbowl as the thirty girls go about their business amongst the seven-hundred-and-fifty boys who also attend the school.

But this is only sort of a book about being a girl in a boys’ school. It’s a fact that needles Francesca, but not as much as it needles Tara Finke, a slightly hilarious feminist schoolmate, and certainly not as much as it needles Francesca’s mother, Mia. Mia is a vivacious, passionate, take-no-prisoners sort of person, and Francesca has been living in her shadow for her entire life — until the beginning of the novel, when Mia doesn’t get out of bed.

When Mia’s sudden and all-encompassing depression leaves her bedridden, Francesca floats adrift, not realizing how much she had used the framework of Mia’s beliefs — the ones she didn’t believe in just as much as the ones she did — to live her life. Though Francesca’s narrating voice is bright and entertaining, the reader soon sees through her actions that she is, as the title suggests, definitely in need of saving.

Lest this all start to sound rather heavy, depressing, and angsty, I have to mention here that this novel is not what you expect. It is whimsical and occasionally laugh-out-loud, pulling you from the darker moments for some well-earned humor before returning you to some poignant observation.

One of my favorite parts of the entire book is the relationships between the couples. Francesca’s mother and father have a relationship that feels real and familiar; I identified very strongly with pre-depression Mia and thought their dialogue was just pitch-perfect. Francesca’s changing feelings toward the other characters is portrayed so beautifully and subtly through the close first-person point of view that I completely bought her disdain to crush to love relationship progression.

And yet I know that no matter how I describe the plot and characters of this book, I’m not conveying how much I love it. It’s that rare breed of literary novel that is nearly impossible to sum up tidily and yet still manages to drag the reader through the pages in happy captivity, in love with the prose and charmed by the dialogue and sighing with the slow twists of the plot as Francesca slowly saves herself.

I haven’t read Melina Marchetta’s JELLICOE ROAD yet, but based upon SAVING FRANCESCA, I’m not at all surprised that it just won the Printz.