Review: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

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April 19, 2013 by Heidi

Froi of the Exiles by Melina MarchettaTitle: Froi of the Exiles [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Melina Marchetta [Website|Twitter]
Standing: The Lumatere Chronicles 2
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: March 13th, 2012 by Candlewick (Originally published in 2011)
Format: E-book; 400 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Spoilers!: This book and review contain spoilers for Finnikin of the Rock, so go read that first!

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.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t really sure how to feel upon finishing Froi of the Exiles.  I was thankful that I’d waited till I had Quintana of Charyn on hand to read it.  I was happy to see Froi develop as a character and live out all of the potential I saw in him in Finnikin of the Rock.  I was extremely disappointed in another romance that lacked emotional connection or believable development.  I was satisfied that points that ticked my dealbreaker meter at the beginning turned out to have acceptable explanations.  I was nonplussed about the fact that I’d just read a young adult book almost entirely about sex.  I was elated by the depth of feeling I developed for all of the secondary characters.  But mostly, I think I was confused.  I can objectively sit back and say that Froi is a better book than Finnikin, but I expected to really love Froi in a way that I didn’t love Finnikin, and that failed to happen.  I only liked it maybe just as much, but probably not quite because it doesn’t stand as its own complete story as Finnikin does, and will rely on Quintana for its completion.  Don’t get me wrong, Froi of the Exiles was a wonderful book, it just didn’t sweep me away as I’d assumed it would, and therefore I come away feeling a bit dejected.  Ah, expectations strike again.

So let’s get my irksome issues out of the way so that I’ll have a chance to butter you up before you all throw garbage at me.  As stated, I again found the main romance to be completely flat and uncompelling.  I had thought that my feelings toward the romance in Finnikin were a result of my dislike of Evanjalin, but I realized reading Froi that it was more than that.  There’s something missing in Marchetta’s formula.  There’s no real reason for Froi to develop feelings for Quintana at the rate he does, no real explanation for it–it’s just suddenly there.  I can understand the reticent relationship on Quintana’s part, but she’s not the one we’re seeing this story from, it’s Froi that needs to sell it.  Marchetta hasn’t sold me on Froi and Quintana as a couple, to the extent that while I am concerned with their individual fates I care nothing for their fate as a pair.

I also felt that Marchetta leaned too heavily on many fantasy tropes in this book (I’ll not go into details so as to avoid spoilers).  It seemed almost as if a well-versed fantasy reader could sit back and predict all of the shots, know the twists coming down the bend long before we reach them.  This doesn’t make Froi a bad book, in fact it will be excellent and unexpected for many readers (it did really surprise me at least once), but it just felt like it was trying too hard to be all the things and make readers’ heads spin.  It was too sensationalist for me.

All of my issues stemmed from the main Froi storyline and I’ll admit my investment and interest was easily drawn from character to character as we moved between Charyn and Lumatere.  Froi is one of those rare books that jumps from point of view to point of view, but each jump is welcome because of my concern for all of the characters.  If the relationship between Froi and Quintana fell flat for me, I had Lucien and Phaedra to keep me engaged.  Theirs is, for me, my favorite romance in The Lumatere Chronicles because it isn’t epic, sweeping, and emotional.  It is a relationship built first with contempt and harsh words, then a cool calm, followed ever so slowly by a grudging respect that could just maybe grow into something more.  And then there are Trevanion and Beatriss.  While we were given Trevanion’s perspective in Finnikin, we see primarily from Beatriss’ in Froi.  There is something unequivical about learning to love again, namely when it requires forgiving and loving yourself for the past as much or more so than whom you love.  And I am so grateful that Marchetta gives Beatriss a story that is bigger than romance, a story that reflects the love of people and country we saw in Finnikin.

And then, there were our new secondary characters from Charyn.  Froi has spent three years schooling himself to maintain calm and follow his bonds, despite his inner impulses.  Froi is convinced he is a monster, kept at bay only by the chains he, the Queen, and the guard place upon him.  When he accepts the mission that will send him into Charyn, Froi has no idea the challenges he will endure.  Quintana chiefly among them, but inseparable from his struggles are Arjuro, Lirah, and Gargarin.  I loved how these three adults with very tangled pasts set such a contrast to the older generation of Beatriss, Trevanion, Perri, and Tesadora in Lumatere.  All had faced horrors in their past, but it is how they have come out of them and who they have become as a result that is vastly different.  This, more than anything, highlighted the cultural difference between Lumatere and Charyn.  I connected to these three adults in a way that had me thirsting for more of their story, and my heart breaking for the knowledge that their end may not be so well as those in Lumatere.  These three, along with Quintana, play such a roll in unraveling everything Froi has worked to become, until he is at a loss for ways to patch himself together without them.

I love Froi, and truly believe him to be a stronger and more interesting character than Finnikin, sadly I just didn’t completely fall for his story.  I am hoping that my mood will shift by the end of Quintana, and that as a complete story I will feel more satisfied than I do at this moment.  Still, an incredibly strong fantasy, one that will appeal to readers who enjoy prophecy, curses, and many twists.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  I forced myself to sit down and write this review so that I could start Quintana and not mix them up in my head.

Recommended for:  Older teens or adults who have an interest in high fantasy, but perhaps have not read a great deal of it.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  I read this for Hannah‘s Lumatere Chronicles read-along.  I totally sucked it up though, and really only dug in for discussion the first two weeks.  I believe I was in a reading funk in general, and that coupled with reading this book over the course of a month may have resulted in some of my disappointment.

Get a second opinion:
Realm of Fiction
Wear the Old Coat
The Nocturnal Library
The Readventurer
Vegan YA Nerds
The Flyleaf Review

I’ve also reviewed:
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (The Lumatere Chronicles 1)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

This review was written as part of the Aussie Women Writers Challenge

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18 comments »

  1. VeganYANerds says:

    I agree, I preferred Froi to Finnikin (in terms of books, not characters) and I’m wondering if I loved this so much and didn’t notice all the typical fantasy aspects because I don’t read as much fantasy these days as I did when I was younger.

    Lucien and Phaedra are my faves, too. Even now I feel my heart sing at the thought of them :)

    I do hope you enjoy the final book, Heids!

    • Heidi says:

      I don’t think the typical fantasy stuff would bother me so much if she hadn’t used to many variations. I’m so glad to hear Lucian and Phaedra are your faves as well! They make me so happy. :)

  2. I completely understand your reasons for not loving this one as much, Heidi. I love the stand-alone quality of Finnikin which is why I suspect I didn’t enjoy Quintana of Charyn as much because I was unable to appreciate the novel as a whole, only with it attached to Froi. Also, I loved what you said about Lirah, Arjuro, and Gargaroi being complements to Trevanion, Beatriss, and Tesadora – YES! And, as you know, Lucian and Phaedra are one of my favorite couples in this, along with Beatriss and Trevanion. All of them are far more nuanced in their subtle romances than Froi and Quintana or Finnikin and Isaboe. I can’t wait to see what you think of Quintana now! :)

    • Heidi says:

      I did decide that I loved Froi’s story as a whole after finishing Quintana, but if I’d been unable to read them so close together, I fear I would have been disappointed in Quintana as well. Lucian and Phaedra get my favorite couple award hands down, and I actually love Lirah and Gargarin as much as Beatriss and Trevanion…both had to get over their pasts for love of one another.

  3. I wish you were enjoying this series a little more, heidi. I’ll be curious to see what you think of the last installment and hear your thoughts on on the series a s a whole.

    I gave Finnikin my highest rating, but knocked off half a star for Froi. However, the character development of Froi and all the new secondaries introduced, like Phaedra, Arjuro, Gargarin and Lirah, were AMAZING additions to the story as a whole. (And if you love Phaedra and Lucian’s story I think you’ll appreciate their roles in Quintana.)

  4. Lina G says:

    Finnikin of the Rock is one of my favourite books. So, I had hugggeeee expectations for Froi of the Exiles. They were filled, but I always felt that something wasn’t quite there. After reading both of your reviews about these two, I have *seen the light* hehe. Seriously, I am a sucker for swoooonnny romances, but I appreciate different takes on relationships. But Froi and Quintana never truly convinced me. Is it because they are broken that they should be together?
    I was specially drawn to your perspective:
    ‘There’s no real reason for Froi to develop feelings for Quintana at the rate he does, no real explanation for it–it’s just suddenly there.’

    Froi left me confused as well. What was this book’s main focus? A curse? Redemption? Choices? Though, I’m still a fan of these Lumatere chronicles and all its secondary characters.

    Okay, now I’m ranting. I really liked to read your thoughts on these books :-)

    • Heidi says:

      Lol, I’m glad I could help you see the light, Lina! I really was expecting epic swoonworthiness from this series, and didn’t feel like it delivered. That wouldn’t be such a disappointment to me if I didn’t feel like the romances were really in the foreground. I’m happier with Froi after having read Quintana–the two are really one story and need each other.

  5. This trilogy’s on my TBR shelves — I’m glad you made me back my expectations off a little, now I probably will love the series rather than be disappointed.

    • Heidi says:

      I hope so, Rachel! I do think that most of my issues with this series could have been solved by not having such high expectations. I know that my favorite book of the three ended up being the last one, partially because there hasn’t been enough time yet to build up tons of hype for it.

  6. I saw your mini review for Quintana before this so PHEW. I’m glad it lived up (exceeded?) your expectations. I’ve had so many fantastic discussions about this book with people who loved and hated it, and while I loved it, I get the criticisms. Lucian and Phaedra, Beatriss and Trevanion though… my heart. I can’t wait to hear your Quintana review.

  7. Alexa Y. says:

    I loved Froi of the Exiles ten billion times more than Finnikin – and I liked Finnikin a lot. I think I enjoyed it because I loved Froi from the first book, and it was truly wonderful to see how he developed in this one. I agree about the believability of his feelings for Quintana, but I think I can manage to stomach their relationship. My favorite pair, without a doubt, is Lucian and Phaedra though!

    • Heidi says:

      Oh I’m glad you loved Froi from the first book as well! I did too, but that’s part of why I was disappointed I think, BUT I was much happier after finishing Quintana. Lucian and Phaedra are so my favorite as well!!

  8. I will fully admit to loving this one, and I’m sad that you did not connect to it more. But I think your arguments are fair and well explained. I think it all comes down to whether you believed the characters and connected to them or not. I think that Froi in his brokenness and harsh past saw something in Quintana that appealed to him, that he wanted to protect and keep. And I think he liked that she was a bit crazy. Thankfully for MM, she writes so many characters that you’re bound to fall for some of them, and I’m glad that you did connect to a few. I’m very interested in what you think is predictably fantasy about this series. I will agree that MM does include some predictable elements, but I saw them more in Finnikin than int this book. I am curious about your thoughts on the finale however. And I’m glad you’ve stuck with this series.

  9. Hello lady! I’m so late to this review, but I hope you’ll forgive me :)

    I agree with your thoughts on the series as a whole – I didn’t actually love them as much as I expected. Now, because I’m not a huge fantasy reader, I don’t think everything was necessarily as obvious to me (as it may have been to you) but I still felt a little lukewarm on these books at times. I preferred Froi to Finnikin (honestly, both as a book and a character) but I still thought there were things that just didn’t work. For example, totally with you on Froi’s feelings coming out of nowhere. I thought the exact same thing about Finnikin’s feelings for Evanjalin! It’s weird but I just didn’t connect to the romance. I do think it got better in Quintana, however, and I felt better about Froi and Quintana. I, too, loved Lucian and Phaedra best of all :)

    I think the thing that held me back from loving these books was that they were a little too big – there were SO MANY elements (romance, action, political, curses, prophecies, etc). It’s like there was just a few too many characters and a few too many things going on for me to really fall in love with them.

    Anyway, off to read your Quintana review!

  10. […] of Lumatere, and she reviewed the second and third volumes of the series. Check out her reviews of Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn. She says that “[t]he fact that they were initially intended to be a […]

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