Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles Series)

Froi of the Exiles  - Melina Marchetta I resisted reading Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles because I expected to love them and knew waiting for the final installment, Quintana of Charyn, would be hell. My foray into the world of Skuldenore did not start well, however, as Finnikin of the Rock failed to wow me. But I am an eternal book optimist¹ and quitting a series, especially one penned by the masterful Melina Marchetta, is rarely an option. Lucky for me, I placed my faith in the right place because Froi of the Exiles improves greatly on its predecessor.¹I am still full of self-doubt over my premature abandonment of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series; I keep thinking, but what if Martin learned to write??? Oh and I forced my way through Breaking Dawn. Because somehow I (foolishly) believed it would get better.Sure, I have similar complaints about Froi of the Exiles as I did with Finnikin of the Rock. I still question the legitimacy of Marchetta’s linguistic worldbuilding. In this series, linguistic differences are crucially important; they emphasize cultural and identity differences, which in turn fuel most of the conflict. It is unbelievable that these disparate languages would exist in such close proximity, and I became even more exasperated when Marchetta’s own writing undermined the fact that the characters were supposed to be speaking fictional dialects. Her use of the distinctly Australian term “lad” pulled me out of a land of castles and curses and instead placed me in downtown Sydney. She also makes reference to rhymes that only exist in English, not Lumateran or Charynite. Overall, though, I find Marchetta’s prose to be uncomplicated and subtle. It is never extraordinary but it is especially calming and lulls you into the narrative. I just wish she’d be more careful with her word choice and wordplay when writing fantasy because dialect and language are vital to building a world not based on our earth.Another thing I’ve noticed about Marchetta is her proclivity to melodrama.² I love books that make me think and feel, but I think (and feel) that Marchetta can overdo it sometimes. In my review of Jellicoe Road, I remarked that its ending is one circumstance of such histrionics, and the ending to Froi of the Exiles was no different. I couldn’t help but snicker during a climactic farewell scene featuring a character near death, repeated gushy goodbyes, promises to “not stop breathing” until they become reunited, and of course, TEARS on TEARS on TEARS. At one of the novel’s most pivotal junctures, it read like a soap opera, unrealistic yet hilarious. In addition to this failure to properly resonate emotionally, Marchetta packs in several critical events and plot reveals in the final pages, leaving us with a horrible cliffhanger—a plot device that always cheapens a novel and creates a seemingly interminable wait until the next book.²or at least, what I’d define as melodrama. But then again I’m an unfeeling, aloof statue so anything vaguely emotional may be categorized as melodramatic in my mind.Many of Marchetta’s staples are here, though, and shine in full force. She delivers on her typical specialty—characters with rich and complicated backstories. Froi, the titular character who served as a minor character in the first novel, is infinitely more interesting than Finnikin or Evanjalin. In particular, I thought Marchetta did a fine job in depicting his struggles for self-control and redemption after the events of the first book when he attempted to rape Evanjalin. Not many authors succeed in such a task, but she makes Froi both forgivable and even, dare I say it?, understandable and sympathetic. Joining Froi are Quintana, the oh-so-beautifully damaged Princess of Charyn, Gargarin and Arjuro, two identical twins sharing a tragic past, and Lirah, the whore of Charyn’s king. The rapports and the secret history between these characters are the highlights of the novel. So I’ve rambled on and on without mentioning what the novel is about! The premise is unequivocally brilliant. For the past 18 years, Charynites have been unable to birth children. Taking advantage of this unrest, Froi enters Charyn as a Lumateran assassin out to avenge his country for their period of exile. He slowly discovers the events leading to this curse on the kingdom, and as they are revealed, feelings of loss, regret, and shame ensue. It’s a slow yet gentle tale about what it means to find a home and a family.