May 3, 2013 by Heidi
Title: Quintana of Charyn [Goodreads]
Author: Melina Marchetta [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Book 3 in The Lumatere Chronicles
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: April 23rd, 2013 by Candlewick Press
Format: Hardcover; 528 pages
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley
Spoilers!: This review contains spoilers for both Finnikin and Froi! Consider yourself warned.
Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi and his companions travel through Charyn searching for Quintana and building an army that will secure her unborn child’s right to rule. While in the valley between two kingdoms, Quintana of Charyn and Isaboe of Lumatere come face-to-face in a showdown that will result in heartbreak for one and power for the other. The complex tangle of bloodlines, politics, and love introduced in Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exilescoalesce into an engrossing climax in this final volume.
To all of my readers who considered me possibly deranged (or just quit reading) when I didn’t fall head over heels for Marchetta’s Froi of the Exiles, I hope you’ll be willing to forgive me now. See, neither Froi nor Quintana of Charyn stand alone well as stories. The fact that they were initially intended to be a single volume rings so true while reading, and had a strong effect on me as a reader. Separate, I find them lacking. Together, I find a much stronger and more compelling story; while still not quite what I was hoping for when I initially picked up The Lumatere Chronicles, I leave this world satisfied, happy, and content.
Yes, Quintana, this is the story I was banking on all along. It’s a bit stunning how much more irresistible these characters’ stories become when we shed the focus of curse and prophecy and focus more on the humanity. By the time we as readers pick up Quintana of Charyn, we have a pretty rounded idea of all of the reveals and twists of The Lumatere Chronicles, and I felt this volume was stronger when Melina Marchetta stopped attempting to make readers’ heads spin and simply work her magic. Yes, in Quintana MM still has a few (largely predictable) tricks up her sleeves, but I didn’t find them to be as overplayed as I had in Froi.
In Quintana, we really get to see our characters shine. We finally are offered bits of the story from Quintana’s point of view, which MM chooses to set off from the rest of the story by molding them in first person rather than third like our other perspectives. This personal insight into the mad princess’s mind as she struggles through pregnancy and trust without Froi at her side is what finally drew me around to their relationship. I adore Froi as a character, but felt he had so much more than he realized to live for. Quintana, on the other hand, had very little other than Froi, their child, and the ungrateful country she suffered to keep safe. As we see the women (and others) forming a connection to Quintana that is unarguable, we begin to understand her better than we could merely through Froi’s eyes. She is not at all crazy, she is incredibly quick-witted and fierce, but with a feral edge that is reflected upfront. There is a continued parallel between the two queens, Quintana and Isaboe, which is played out beautifully (despite the fact that it meant I had to suffer through way too many Isaboe scenes–yep, still don’t like her one bit), in which they slowly come to realize just how similar they are in their suffering and intense need to protect the children of their nation.
As in the previous two installments, it was again the secondary characters who truly stole my heart–though I am happy to say that Phaedra and Lucian took nearly as large a part in Quintana as Quintana and Froi did themselves. Can there be any doubt that this slow burn, learning-to-love-the-hard-way relationship was my favorite among the three ‘young’ couples in this series when the other pairings seemed to go from zero to 60 in three seconds flat? The quiet, nearly unspoken pasison between the two was, for me, the most heart-wrenching in the book. Lucian and Phaedra’s love for their people is no less than that of their rulers, though they may suffer more lost love in the end if they are unable to strike a balance. Phaedra is, after all, “dead”.
One of the perspectives I was missing in Quintana was that of either Trevanion or Beatriss. It seems we saw their HEA in Froi, and so we get merely glimpses of them in Quintana. Still, I felt a strong parallel between them, Gargarin and Lirah, and Perry and Tesadora. All were couples who had created children in love, and all had those children taken from them through one cruel circumstance or another. Because of this, and the separate hardships they endured over the years, we get to see these couples struggle to come back together and be more than a mere shadow of what they once were.
I find it funny that in the end, The Lumatere Chronicles were really more about Charyn than they were about Lumatere. All were about the relations between these two countries for certain, but if we’re talking strait up page-numbers, Charyn got the bulk of the story. Which is maybe one of this series’ greatest weaknesses in a way. MM has a deft skill for making readers love those characters they once hated, but she did not manage the same fate for her counties. Because of Finnikin and Isaboe we love Lumatere from the start, and while we feel pity for Charyn and recognize them as a nation of people who have suffered greatly, we never love them the way we do the forest, flatlands, river, mountain, and rock of Lumatere. Quintana continues to have the small irksome issues that have bothered me throughout, including an almost way-too-neatly-packaged ending, but on reflection I admit this didn’t detract for me. The Lumatere Chronicles won’t be listed among my favorite series, but it does have its strength in being a character-driven tale unlike many things I’ve encountered in fantasy. It wasn’t perfect, but neither were its heroes, and in the end it’s that reality that warmed my heart.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: I’m really interested to see if MM chooses to write fantasy (or another spec fic genre!) again in the future. I want her to return to this world to give us a novel about the heir/king of Yutland Sud. Who’s with me?
Get a second opinion:
Ivy Book Bindings – “Now, looking back on this series as a whole, I can truly admit that everything has come around in a full circle and Marchetta continues to render me speechless with the beauty of her work.”
Wear the Old Coat – Jo wrote a poem. It is awesome.
Young Adult Anonymous – “I loved being in this world and I hope Marchetta revisits it again, as I know I will.”
Love Is Not a Triangle – “This series is a masterpiece, and reading it felt like watching a beautiful tapestry being stitched one thread at a time.”
Vegan YA Nerds – “Quintana of Charyn is a compelling, entertaining and beautifully written story involving realistic and loveable characters that will have you laughing and crying throughout the journey.”
This review was written as part of the Aussie Women Writers Challenge