Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
You know how authors say that once in a story the two main characters get together there is no point in continuing because nobody is interested in reading about them getting married, having babies and discussing about who takes the kids to school?
Well, with Marchetta it doesn't work that way. Because, in fact, in this book she does tell us about the Happily Ever After. She also switches the focus of attention to some OTHER interesting characters and that's where it gets tricky, for the new characters have to be unique and interesting.
So this is how, in Froi of the Exiles we find all the characters of Finnikin of the Rock, especially Finnikin and Isaboe happily together, yet we never get bored. Because this story is mainly about Froi, a trait d'union between our old, well acquainted set of characters and a whole new one, just as amazing as the others and possibly more.
The story picks up exactly three years after the events of Finnikin. All is well in the kingdom of Lumatere and people are starting to build new lives for themselves.
But it's time for retribution. Froi, who's become an expert assassin trained by the Guard, gets sent to Charyn to kill the King, the real culprit of the curse that's plagued Lumatere for 10 years.
Little did the Lumaterans know that Charyn has a curse of its own and Froi is just a pawn in a scheme that goes well beyond the assassination of its King. By meeting Quintana, that half-mad Princess who's believed to be the holder of the key to break the curse, Froi will finally discover his origins and the truth that flows in his own blood.
I always forget how Marchetta's books successfully manage to unsettle me every time. It happened with Jellicoe, with The Piper's Son and to be frank, even with Finnikin. The stories confuse me at first, their whole force revealing itself well into the narration. So it was for Froi. This book is quite a tome, let me tell you. With more than 600 tightly written pages, it's quite a brick to digest. I don't know how Marchetta managed to keep my attention for so long.
Actually, I do. The plot is quite twisted, revelations ensue one after the other and with two story lines going on at the same time, there is no TIME to get bored. The reader constantly travels from Lumatere to Charyn and viceversa, an intelligent strategy in my opinion to keep the story engaging and never dragging.
So as my head started to ache for all the court intrigue and politics of the kingdom of Charyn, I was thrown back to some beloved characters of which I knew almost everything there was to know in Lumatere. This is how you digest a 600 and counting page book.
The characterization is simply amazing, as usual. Not only we get to know Froi better - and the guy has come a looong way from the street rat we met at the beginning of Finnikin - but the reader will be mesmerized by his sidekicks as well, each and every one well developed and unique. Marchetta manages to make fictional people come alive like no other author does. Quintana is, without a doubt, her greatest success. I loved her. I truly cannot wait for the next book to come out and see more of this amazing creature.
And as in Finnikin, the message this book holds within itself is always of outmost importance. Even with the barbarities, the injustices and the abuse that take place within one country, the underlying message contained in the book is undoubtedly one of love and hope. Hope in the generations to come, to learn from the mistakes of the fathers, never to repeat them again:
"If your people meant no offence, they should not speak their thoughts out loud in front of their children. Because it will be their children who come to slaughter us one day, all because of the careless words passed down by elders who meant no harm."
This kind of story, although taking place in a fictional, fantasy world, can truly be valid universally, transcending everything: race, religion, politics, beliefs. It will never grow old and its actuality will resonate for years and years to come. That is how you make a book "immortal", I think.
Eagerly, eagerly awaiting the final chapter of this amazing story.
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