Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book Review: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

It has been three years since Finnikin of the Rock discovered Isaboe, the lost princess of Lumatere, hidden in the cloister of Lagrami disguised as the novice Evanjalin. Three years since he and Isaboe discovered Froi, an orphan pickpocket, living wild in the streets of Sarnak.  Three years since Froi bound himself to Finnikin and his queen, beloved Isaboe.  And three years since Finnikin stormed the gates of Lumatere, freeing the country he and Isaboe were exiled from the imposter kind of Charyn and the curse of darkness brought down upon the entire country.

But Lumatere was not the only country in the kingdom of Skuldenore to bear a curse.  Unknown to Finnikin, Isaboe, and Froi, Charyn, the home of imposter king who laid waste to Lumatere during the long years of the curse, also was cursed.  In the last eighteen years, not a single child has been born to a Charynite.  Nine months before the birth of the princess Quintana's birth, the sacred godshouse in the capitol of Charyn was destroyed by Serkers, the oracle queen the only survivor.  On the night of the princess Quintana's birth, the oracle queen threw herself from the balcony of the godshouse into the gravina below, the end of a night shrouded in blood, violence, and mystery, cursing the kingdom with her death.  The princess Quintana was the last born child to the kingdom of Charyn.

In the years since, Charyn has become a ruin, its king a recluse, its only heir and princess a mad girl who believes she is the only one who will end the curse of Charyn.  The last borns of Charyn are hidden away, their families living in fear of the day the princess comes of age and still no heir has been produced.  Many of the Charynites have fled the drought and famine that haunt their kingdom, begging refuge and sanctuary in the valley on the border of Lumatere.  From this group of refugees comes Rafuel of Sebastabol, who begs Finnikin and Isaboe to send Froi deep into Charyn, disguised as Olivier, last born of Sebastabol.  The real Olivier, on his way to the palace to try his luck with Quintana, will be kidnapped and held while Froi embarks on the most fervently held wish of the Lumaterans and the Charynites - the execution of the king of Charyn and its mad princess.

His heart singing at the prospect of bringing justice to Lumatere, Finnikin and Isaboe, Froi eagerly sets off on his quest.  But what he finds in the capitol city of Charyn is far more terrifying than he imagined.  With layers of deception, violence, prophesy and lies, Froi no longer knows who he is or where his loyalty lies.  His own past shrouded in mystery, Froi is strangely drawn to the erratic Quintana, who is indignant and ridiculous one moment, ice-cold and vicious the next.  She seems to see inside his very soul, into the darkest, most hidden paths of his past.  Froi does not know how, or even if, it is possible for her to break the curse, but he does know that he must do everything in his power to keep her alive, for Quintana is the key to everything, including the truth of who he is - and who he will be.

The sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles is dark, complex, and beautiful.  Melina Marchetta brings out her trademark lyrical prose in full force, making this tale of the rise and fall of kingdoms something to savor.  With a unique, richly detailed geography (the gravina and the labyrinthine caves and tunnels beneath the Charyn capitol are particularly fabulous), Melina Marchetta has created a dangerous, fully realized world for Froi to battle his way through.  Epic fantasy at its highest, Froi's search for belonging is for anyone who read and loved Finnikin, fans of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, Kristin Cashore's Fire and Graceling, or Elizabeth C. Bunce's Starcrossed and Liar's Moon.  Don't miss this one!

(who is sooooo super stoked to start Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers tonight - I've been excited about this one for months!)