Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 10/3/11
Publisher: Viking Australia
Blurb (GR): Blood sings to blood, Froi . . .
Those born last will make the first . . .
For Charyn will be barren no more.
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.
Gripping and intense, complex and richly imagined, Froi of the Exiles is a dazzling sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, from the internationally best-selling and multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road and The Piper's Son.
I’ve been a fan of every other Melina Marchetta book I’ve read, which is all of them, so it sort of pains me to say that Froi of the Exiles was frustrating and unsatisfying for me. I’m still going to give it three stars because even when Marchetta is (subjectively to me) not on her game, she still has a way with words that blows nearly every other YA author out of the water. Originally, I tried to keep my review entirely spoiler-free but it just wasn’t happening. There will be a few spoilers but they are ones that are not likely to surprise you while reading the book. Oh, and there will be Finnikin spoilers, just so you know. *sigh* And we’re off…
The number one reason why this book couldn’t work for me was the relationship between Froi and Quintana. It is not a spoiler to reveal something you find out in the first few pages—Quintana has basically been systematically raped for years. While it is happening, she goes off into another place in her mind a la Precious (based on the novel Push by Sapphire) and her daydreams. She has been maltreated for years and everyone thinks she is more or less insane. Also, she is described as having weird teeth, bird’s nest hair, dirty clothes, and several personalities. Okay, so…
I read a lot of fantasy and romance. In romance novel series, a significant number of authors have a tendency to bring past couples from other books in as characters. Look! See how happy they are! They were happy then but they are even happier now—look at the babies! While I find it annoying, I don’t always mind when this happens in romance books. I do mind when it comes up repeatedly in fantasy and Froi is the only book I can think of as an example. Look at Finnikin and Isaboe! They are so unbelievably well-suited to each other. They are so attracted to each other that they do it up against walls and in closets, tra-la-la! If it were just once or twice, I wouldn’t even note it but it made up a large portion of the novel. On a similar note, I now know another thing that I don’t ever want to read about in another fantasy novel: breastfeeding. How long should someone breastfeed a child? I don’t know nor do I care to think about it while I’m reading a fantasy novel. (unless a woman is breastfeeding dragons or something) Froi of the Exiles was something like 620 pages long. Finnikin and Isaboe had their moment in the limelight in the first book of the series. We certainly could’ve gotten a taste of how sublimely perfect they are together and how they can communicate by looks and how they can’t keep their paws off of each other in a few less pages.
The tone of this novel is about 400% darker than any of the author’s other work. That’s fine, I don’t mind dark, nor do I mind sex. (in fact, I enjoy these two things in books) A friend told me that Froi seemed more realistic because there was so much emphasis put on the seedier elements of the atmosphere during wartime. Everybody seemed to be either having sex or talking about having sex or if not that, murdering other people. I have no experience living in an active warzone but every character seemed to have sex on the mind, even when they weren’t near any actual fighting. Before you go into this one, you should just know that everyone has slept with everyone else or if they haven’t, they’ve certainly thought about it or are going to in the near future. It got to the point where I just rolled my eyes and skimmed over sections of the book and I never, EVER do that with Marchetta books. (by sections I mean a paragraph here or there, not any significant amount of text)
I’ve been putting off this review for ages because I just have a bad taste in my mouth about it. I read it with a friend and our google document has over 20,000 words. I am rereading it and laughing because in Chapter 6 my friend wrote, “In general, I am getting more into it. Not a huge fan of travelling around, but looks like they are almost there.” Hahaha, yeah right. There is just so much movement in this book. Everyone is always going somewhere. Just GET THERE already—collect what you came for and go back, or stay. Whatever. I’d understand it if it was like a quest to Mordor to destroy the ring that binds them all but that isn’t the case here. (side note: Turns out I also guessed Froi’s father in Chapter 6 as well) Froi basically spends the entire book moving from one place to the next but I was more interested in his story than the other two storylines that appear in the book. When Finnikin and Isaboe aren’t doing it, they are having political meetings with otherzzzzzzzzz, oh sorry, I just fell asleep while I was typing. The other storyline is about Lucian of the Monts, whom I adored in Finnikin but who has turned into a huge douche in Froi. Let’s say it all together now, COMMUNICATION. Learn it, live it, love it.
You know what I was thinking about while I was reading? Every one of Melina Marchetta’s books deals with a child with a missing parent. In Looking for Alibrandi, Josie’s dad is gone but comes back. In Jellicoe Road, Taylor’s parents are gone and also the guy in the tree side story. In Saving Francesca, her mother is lost to depression. In The Piper’s Son, Tom’s dad was gone to him, and in Finnikin of the Rock, he grew up with no mother and was missing his father for years. Now we can add Froi, Quintana, and Lucian to the list. Finding family is a huge theme for her--It’s all about who you are and where you came from. I think this is really interesting but I really enjoy stories about people who don’t know where they are from, DON’T find out, but come to terms with it and become their own person. It is always hard to define yourself when people are pointing out the similarities between you and your parents. I’m not going to spoiler who Froi’s parents are but I saw that one coming down the pipeline pretty early.
This review is getting too long. I always start to space out after a few paragraphs of a review so I’m assuming I’m not alone in this. I did not truly enjoy the process of reading this book but on the upside, it seems as if almost everyone else did. If you want to know anything else about what I thought of this book, let’s talk about it in the comments. For now, I’m just going to share some more comment highlights I found in our google document:
“If you are making shadow puppets with someone, it’s safe to say things are getting pretty serious.”
“And why make out Froi is some legend in the art of tongue work? AWKWARD.”
“HELLO, people. Wake up and realize that Beatriss needs people to work the land and there are bajillions of Charynites just chillin’ with their vegetable patches and nowhere to go. Problem, meet solution.”
“ ‘Just ask me! Just ask me! I can’t say the answer without you asking the question!’ Bitch, please. If you can say it when he asks, you can say it anytime.”
“RAPE.GRAVINAS. STOP PLANTING VEGETABLES!”
“Everyone’s stories/pasts are so DRAMATIC. This is real, solid DAYS OF OUR LIVES stuff.”
“I am quick to say, ‘because she is an idiot.’”
“Everyone’s life sucks. Everything is more convoluted than it should ever be. ALWAYS BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR A TWIN.”
“That meeting with the Belegonian dude? www.snoozefest.com.”
“Yes, I noticed that smooth segue.”
“Why are all the characters such hardened tools? Where is the relaxed, carefree character? Where is MM’s (Saving Francesca- type) humor? …It is not a relaxing read.”
“Why is she always growling?”
“I just love it when guys take my hand and then put it on their crotch.”
“Maybe Froi and Quintana are somehow brother and sister and it is incest and the little king will come out with extra limbs. Or maybe some cannibalism. You know they’ve been having crop problems. Next step: People eating people.”