April 19, 2013 by Heidi
Title: 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.
I’ve also reviewed:
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (The Lumatere Chronicles 1)
This review was written as part of the Aussie Women Writers Challenge