Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Moment of Silence in the Face of Fantasy Greatness

Froi of the Exiles: The Lumatere Chronicles
It is no surprise that Melina Marchetta would write an amazing follow-up to Finnikin of the Rock. It IS surprising to me that I could love a book as much, if not more, than I loved Finnikin. Froi of the Exiles is a continuation of Finnikin and Isaboe's story as their faithful Froi heads into Charyn to do what he does best- eliminate any danger to Lumatere.

Charynites are flooding into the valley under the Lumaterian Monts to escape their tyrannical king. Unfortunately, having just come out of years of terror, curses, and exile at the hands of Charynites, the Lumaterians are uncomfortable having the very people who tortured and raped and exiled them in their backyard. But there is a very big difference between the refugees and the people who held Lumatere captive. These Charynites are just as terrified of their king as Queen Isaboe and Finnikin are. Being the queen she is, Isaboe decides to send Froi, the boy who once tried to rape her and she once saved from slavery, to assassinate the king. When Charyn's curse is revealed, no child has been born since the princess Quintana 15 years ago, Froi is sent in as one of the last born boys. As Quintana claims to be the key to breaking the curse by bearing the first child, a child to be fathered by a last born boy, she is also fear... and ridiculed.

Quintana, daughter of the king's mistress, is forced to be intimate with every last born boy in the hopes of breaking the curse. Froi doesn't know what to expect from a girl of such a history, but when he meets her, he can't believe this is the princess talked about across the lands. She is a mess. Ratty hair, the same ugly, ill-fitting gown every day, odd behavior, and quite frankly, she is one step from total and complete madness. Froi should be disgusted, but there is something about this young woman who refers to herself as the "whore of Charyn". In playing his role as a last born, Froi learns more and more about Quintana as well as deeper and deeper layers into the mysteries of Charyn. The job he thought would be a relatively simple assassination quickly becomes a mystical and twisted tale he is closer to than he ever thought possible. With political instability on the horizon, invaders ready to storm the country, and traitors working from within the very castle they are supposed to protect, what chance does Froi have to remain detached?

This story left me speechless. And quite honestly, very little leaves me speechless! It was phenomenal. 10 stars out of 5. Beyond all expectations. Best book I have read since Finnikin. And I do not hyperbolize here. Marchetta is a genius. I have often thought of writing a book, but I fear after reading this book, the intimidation factor is just too great. How could I ever enter a genre where something like this is written?? But setting my star-struck, jaw-agape fascination, I can't tell you enough how brilliant this author and this series is. It defies all boundaries of greatness and Marchetta will be talked about a century from now. Mark my words- this series will be the new Lord of the Rings. It will be revered and passed on for decades.

The series is very, very mature. It is complex and intricate. It deals with terrifying situations and the evilness that has such a root in the human race. Stories are intertwined and confusing at first, but in the end, you will be left as floored as I was. I think Froi was always an interesting character for me, especially since he tried to rape Isaboe (before he knew she was the queen) and she forgave him. Now he is her most trusted companion besides her husband. How could you love this man? This book will make you not only love him, but respect him as well. His dealings with Quintana are funny and petulant at times, but they are amazing and transformative. And Quintana? This is a girl you think is crazy, brilliant, sad, brave, pitiful, exceptional, and everything in between. You are horrified by how she acts but then you see all she takes on to protect the nameless girls in her kingdom. It is such a tumultuous experience, you will finish this book and never be the same. But you will never forget Quintana and Froi either. Luckily... there is a third book! So here is to Quintana of Charyn! I can't wait.

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