Monday 8 October 2012

YA REVIEW - 'Froi of the Exiles', Melina Marchetta (Penguin Viking, 2011)

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 trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.
And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

And now, keeping up the tradition of always being at least one book behind everyone else, I will now post a review of Froi of the Exiles when everyone else will be posting a review of Quintana...

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)
I just thought I'd let you know that this is my second attempt at writing this. It's just that kind of book. This is the first review I've ever had to do that required essay-type prep work - making notes of my arguments, drafting out a summary etc etc. Under normal circumstances, I just, well, starting typing and hope I produce something coherent and witty and amusing. *clears throat*

Yeah, well, that didn't quite work with this book. So in honour of all my prep work, I've set myself an essay type question -


I'm in a conundrum. A literary conundrum involving a certain set of broad shoulders (thanks Jo). And here is my dilemma -

Froi of the Exiles is an excellent read. It's complex, it's tightly structured, it's a romance, a mystery, a coming-of-age tale and it manages to juggle all these elements ...

So why didn't it make me go all wobbly?

I read Finnikin of the Rock last year and it was one of those day-and-a-half-constant-devouring-of-book-can't-actually-remove-it-from-my-hands-so-will-try-to-chop-this-onion-whilst-reading-and-oh-whoops-I-appear-to-have-nearly-taken-the-tip-of-my-thumb-off-not-to-worry-I'll-just-sit-and-read-until-the-bleeding-stops.

Yes, THAT sort of book.

Evanjelin completely got under my skin. So much so that I fear I may have neglected my family for a few days in the process. So, boy, did I have high hopes for Froi and his shoulders. Obviously not in the way of neglecting my nearest and dearest again, or maiming myself, but I did fear I may end up in hospital as a result of trying to read a 600 page book whilst carrying the weekly food shop up the stairs, or something.

This book is raw and unapologetic. The first third could have been a much more uncomfortable read if the writing wasn't so bloody brilliant. The character of Quintana, Princess of Charyn is one of the most challenging I have ever encountered. A girl who, since the age of thirteen has been used as a vessel to, not only continue the royal line but to break a curse of infertility that has been placed on the kingdom since her birth. So, in other words, she has been raped and abused for all of her teenage years. It is not only this fact in itself that makes her so confronting, but it is her treatment by all of these characters , including Froi in the early stages of their relationship, that is the most shocking.

In her review of of Jasper Jones, Jo brought up the interesting question of how the way we are emotionally affected by a book may be influenced by a current event we're exposed to. In recent news and for the last couple of months in fact, that has been so much astonishing talk about what constitutes rape and ridiculous questioning about the victim status of abused teenage girls. Rage inducing stuff that, in short, gets under your skin and stays there for a very long time. As it should do.

So how do I relate this back to my question? Well, whereas the first part of the book got my emotions in a bit of a tizz, for some reason, the longer her story progressed, the more detached I felt from Quintana. Her nature and her condition helps her put up her own barriers and maybe this was part of it.
I think the main reason was that her story was so raw and so shocking and because of this, I may have stopped myself getting too drawn in, made a concerted effort to remain detached from her as a character with realising, that maybe her defence mechanisms worked on me as a reader. I don't know. Maybe I'm just talking a load of old piffle.

You know the amazing thing about this book? Even over a week after I've finished, I'm still thinking, still pondering. Let's talk about Froi for a bit. FROI...

When we first met him in Finnikin, I think he could summed up as a right little so-and-so that showed promise. Agree? Well, with a bit of time, a smattering of discipline, and a bucketful of love, some tough, some not so tough, we see a slightly more mature Froi, but still with his macho bravado and teenage boy traits intact. And the genius behind the character of Froi is that I thought I knew him. I thought I had him sussed, but of course, did I heck. By putting Froi next to a character like Quintana, it was like revealing all those dark secrets, all those horrors in his past that we knew were there already, but it still whacks you around the noggin when you are reminded of them all the same. His bravado did such a good job of pulling the wool over the eyes of this reader, and it came as quite a shock to remember what he had gone through to get to this point. (Notice how I talk about him as if he was a real person.) (Because he is)

There's so much going on here. I can't even talk about Lucien and Phaedra. Well, maybe just a little bit. I think I might have just adored their story even more than Froi and Quintana's. Which is why I was just a little bit miffed that there were some sizeable gaps before we came back to their little dance of luuuurve. I know it sounds ridiculous asking for MORE from 600+ pages but I also would have loved a bit more of Beatrice's heartbreaking journey..

Maybe the reason I didn't let myself get too involved was because of all these things going on. Or maybe it was because of the prickly nature of the two central characters. These two are difficult to love but as compelling as they come. I had certain pre-conceptions about such a long tale - surely there would be sections that would drag, lulls in the action? But just I was approaching a section that I thought might not completely hold my attention - BOOM! - dramarama central.

It has taken me bloody ages to write this review. And I'm still tweaking it and pondering over this book. It my not have burrowed it's way into my heart in quite the way I expected it or wanted it too, but it hasn't half set up camp in my brain. And will remain their like a worthy renegade voice speaking up for intelligent, unapologetic stories for, hopefully, a very long time).

(So it turns out prepping for a review doesn't produce much in the way of coherent ramblings. Sorry about that)


  1. Anna! I completely didn't see this review and I'm SO angry because it's wonderful.

    It's weird though, because this book made me feel so much more than Finnikin (and I LOVE Finnikin). Froi is just... all the feelings for him.

    I'm sorry you didn't love it as much though but I'm glad it's making you ponder.

    And while Q and Froi will always be my favourite, I DO adore Lucian and Phaedra. <3 Mostly Lucian because HELLO FICTIONAL BOY.

    I'm so excited for you to read Quintana. I think you will cry in the most glorious way.


  2. "coherent and witty and amusing" your reviews are always this, Anna, always and this is no exception.

    I much prefer FotE to FotR but I can understand your issues with FotE, Quintana was such a difficult character to get to know. And yes, Froi is most definitely a real guy :)

    1. Aww, thanks Mand! Yes, Froi is as real as they come. Just wish I engaged with Q a bit more :(

  3. I can't wait to start this series, if anything the story sounds thought provoking.

    1. I think you will absolutely adore it Katja!

  4. Those were some of the reasons Froi didn't work for me, at least I feel like they were. Even though the book is meant to be mostly about Froi and Quintana, AT LEAST I HOPE IT WAS, it just moved around too much to the other stories so often that I just felt like I never connected to anyone at all. At the time, so, so many readers seem to have connected with everyone in this book so I guess I'll just have to chalk it up as an "I don't get it."

    I'm glad you talked about the disconnect you had with Quintana due to her mental blockade. I think after spending an entire semester learning about global children's rights and talking about child sex trafficking for ages and ages, I just can't help thinking about how sexual abuse affects the victims and how in many cases if not most cases, those events affect future relationships.

    1. Oh, I agree about there being too many story strands. I think if there was more Quintana action, I might have felt differently about her.

  5. I didn't read your review! If it makes you feel any better, I'll soon be reading Finikin of the Rock and reviewing it! I'm so behind the times! And it's Melina Marchetta! WHy haven't I read it sooner?!

    1. I can't wait to read your review of Finnikin! I never actually managed to review it, but I'll be having a re-read soon

  6. Of course Froi is a real person. ;)

    This actually managed to get more under my skin than Finnikin. I agree about Lucien and Phaedra though.

    Great review, Anna! :)

    1. Thanks Sam! I wish I had loved this one more :/