Froi of the Exiles
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 3/13/12
Publisher: Candlewick Press
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
.Review: Finnikin of the Rock
was a fine fantasy novel in itself, but I think there is more of everything in its sequel. There is more heartache, more pain, more adventure, more mystery, more secrets, more magic, more intrigue and more madness.
Three years after the breaking of the Lumateran curse Froi is sent to neighboring Charyn on a revenge mission. What first is thought to be a simple avenge-and-escape task, quickly becomes something more when Froi learns of a curse hanging over Charyn, a curse that is even more horrifying than the Lumateran one. And the person who seems to suffer the most because of it is the half-mad Princess of Charyn Quintana. Hers is the unbearable and thankless burden to save the country which is about to explode from the inside.
Now, I will refrain from saying more about the plot to stay away from inadvertently revealing secrets and plot twists. Trust me, there are many. But I will tease you with a few things: Quintana - she broke my heart, a poor girl who has to serve her land by doing things most degrading; Lucian - I was ashamed of him in the beginning, I was in pain for him in the end; Froi - he has become a man of wondrous strength and depth and he might have met his match - someone of equal passion and darkness of soul. These are only a few familiar characters that took possession of my heart, but there are more, equally fierce and unforgettable - a couple of old men with dark pasts, a defiant whore, a stuttering idiot girl who finds her worth in spite of everyone calling her useless.
It won't be a proper Melina Marchetta
book review if I don't mention how much I cried over it. And, of course, I did quite a bit. I cried because I felt shame and of pity and in triumph. Froi of the Exiles
is a huge book. It is so big, I am actually surprised it wasn't split into two, because, if you look at it, the climax of the story happens at about half way point. But for such a lengthy book, it is surprisingly unputdownable and very tightly written.
You also need to know that this is only a half of the story. The cliffhanger is big, softened only by a mercifully hopeful epilogue.
I remember Marchetta promised not more than a year between publications of Froi of the Exiles
and Quintana of Charyn
. I sure hope it's true. I foresee this wait to be quite agonizing. 5/5 stars
Finnikin of the Rock
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 2/9/10
Publisher: Candlewick Press
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere.
But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.
Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock--to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and the startling truth will test Finnikin's faith not only in her but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.
In a bold departure from her acclaimed contemporary novels, Printz Medalist Melina Marchetta has crafted an epic fantasy of ancient magic, feudal intrigue, romance, and bloodshed that will rivet you from the first page.Review:
My second reading of Finnikin of the Rock
and I am changing my mind - 5 stars!
Now, when I have more fantasy under my belt to compare this book to, I am pretty confident it offers something that many others in the genre don't. This is a fantasy that is not drowned in clunky, 1000-pages long world-building, this is a book about people. People whose country is torn into pieces, people exiled from their homeland, lost, damaged, abused men, women and children. As a story of a displaced, broken nation that fights to rebuild itself Finnikin of the Rock
is almost without a flaw.
But of course there is more to love. All the nuances of the narrative, plot lines that make Melina's works so rich - there is a love story in which a couple struggle for the upper hand in their young relationship; there are scenes of friendship and loyalty; there are intricacies of the relationships between fathers and sons, respect, pride and competitiveness all tangled; there is a heartbreak of a love once powerful but now sullied by years of violence and abuse; there is an enemy, despicable and crass, but now not reformed but changed; there are strong men and there are even stronger women. It's hard to list it all, but Melina writes everything with such power, managing to break your heart with a sentence, a word, a glance.
I still think the pacing could have been better though. The climax, the high point of the story, is simply too short, too understated. There is not enough feeling of a lot being at stake, it lacks danger and excitement.
However, there are so many other things about Finnikin of the Rock
I loved that I am happy to overlook the obvious flaws, to stick to my 5 stars and to wait for Froi of the Exiles
with eager anticipation.5/5 stars
A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness (from an idea by Siobhan Dowd), illus. by Jim Kay
Publication Date: 9/15/11
Publisher: CandlewickBlurb (GR):
This is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss. The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. . . .
This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.Review:
Last Fourth of July, I played a party game called Time’s Up
with some friends. The gist of the game is that everyone has a partner and you start with a certain number of cards as a group—say 40. Each one has a different movie/television show/book title on it and you use the same cards for the entire game so if you have great recall, the game is much easier. In the first round, you try to get your partner to guess the title by describing the movie without using specific words. (like Taboo
) The second round involves trying to get your partner to guess the movie by saying one
word. The third round is charades. This game is hilariously fun because I get to watch people try to act out Bridge on the River Kwai
and to see what the one word they’d pick is to sum something up. So many books are utterly forgettable. I read too much to remember all the details of everything over time. I reached 1,000 books read last week and so what if somewhere around 150 of those are children’s books, it is still a milestone. 1,000 books further down the line, I’ll still remember A Monster Calls
. While it would be a completely useless one word sum-up for the party board game, the one word for this book is beautiful because it is just that, inside and out.
I think it is lovely that Patrick Ness
took a story idea from an author we lost too early, Siobhan Dowd
. I’d read reviews of A Monster Calls
before going into it so I knew what I was getting into, but in case you don’t, this is about a boy dealing with losing his mother to cancer. I have not experienced the loss of a parent but this book did not feel emotionally manipulative to me, and from what I’ve taken away from other reviews, the feelings reflected by Conor ring true for at least a large portion of people who have gone through that nightmare themselves. No part of the book felt cliché to me either, which I frankly found surprising. There is an absolute skill to taking a heavier theme, writing a book for children or young adults, and making it not only accessible but I daresay appealing
to adults. I’ve never read anything Ness has written beyond this but I definitely will be doing so. He isn’t condescending to children. He doesn’t tell saccharine fairy tales, and I loved that. I guessed what the monster was there for all along but that takes nothing away from the book and the way the yew tree was brought into the story, through references and illustrations by Jim Kay
was perfect. On Kay’s website, he discusses the cover image and says,
“I have very fond childhood memories of being in the back seat of a car watching fields and farmland rush by. During the hour of twilight, the familiar objects began to lose their definition, became dark, anonymous forms. The countryside at night through the window of a car was both frightening and compelling; the everyday merged with the unknown, and this is how Patrick’s story felt to me.” (1
You and me, both, Mr. Kay. The eerie artwork paired perfectly with Conor's story. The whole book felt like he was stuck in an in-between place, which I suppose he was. Those aren't places I like to spend a lot of time but every once in a while...
I won a signed copy of this from my friend Jo
's blog, Wear the Old Coat
. It was definitely a prized treasure of mine from the moment I unwrapped the parcel.5/5 stars
Author: M.T. Anderson
Publication Date: 2/23/04
Publisher: Candlewick PressBlurb (B & N):Brave New World
takes a romantic teen twist in this disarming, engrossing novel set in a hyper-computerized future.
Spending time partying on the moon and riding around in his "upcar," Titus is an average teen of the future, complete with a computer chip implant -- the "Feed" -- that lets corporate marketers and government agencies broadcast directly into his brain. Then Titus meets Violet, and an anti-Feed hacker shuts down their Feeds for a short time; but when Violet's Feed is seriously damaged, she begins spouting some radical ideas.
M. T. Anderson has predicted the future, and it's startling indeed. Although Titus is a good, well-meaning kid, his blissful ignorance of the control over him leaves readers thinking twice about the destiny of earth's citizens. Beneath the book's techno-veneer, however, lies a romantic tale between a boy who gives into the system and a girl who sees beyond it. All told, Feed
is a "meg" remarkable work of science fiction, and once readers begin, they'll be caught up in its powerful grip.Review:
While I’m sitting here writing this review, a Seattle Groupon advertisement is trying to get me to buy nachos with some amazingly tasty-looking picture in my sidebar. Now I really want some nachos. I just turned on the television and the advertisements while I’m perusing the OnDemand selections (because who can be bothered to watch television in real time these days?) made me want to watch The Fighter again. But I’m not going to! (I’m going to watch Clueless, duh) My mom told me today that Bath & Body Works is bringing back Copa Cabana scented lotion so I just bought lots of it online. (It was Buy 3, get 2 free!! OMGZZ!) We are sick. Our entire consumer-based society makes me ill but I am a willing participant in a lot of it.
This book is set in a (plausible?) future wherein our consumer desires have taken over. Corporations rule the roost, run the schools, and implant wetware into humans so people can research online without having to do any work, receive targeted ads and shop 24/7, and chat their friends without, you know, having to move their lips. There isn’t an incentive to learn anything because your feed can just tell you what you need to know. It’s soooo MEG! Titus and his friends do all sorts of unit things like frag around in clubs on the moon, wear whatever the hip new style of clothing is (I actually laughed out loud at the conversation about the geriatric chic clothing—canes, walkers, muumuus—and the riotware—the “Kent State Collection”), and go mal (malfunction) which is the equivalent of getting f*&ked up. No one seems to give a second thought to the system they are a part of--save a few people. Titus meets Violet on the shuttle to the moon and she got her feed later than most. Because her parents are academics she still has a lot of experience reading actual books, speaking (in the air as opposed to chatspeak), and philosophizing. She, arguably foolishly, tries to get Titus and his friends to actually think about what their consumptive lifestyle means in the larger scale of things. It was frustrating to listen to his friends let her inquiries about their knowledge of worldwide riots, mass killings, deforestation, etc. just slide off them—they just called her pretentious and said she was on the lookout for any sign of the decline of civilization. Sigh.
This aspect of the book, actually thinking about the effects of disposable culture and (over)consumption really struck home for me. I am fascinated by attempts to create closed-loop manufacturing systems. (ideally, a circle from raw materials through to end product in which little to nothing is wasted and byproducts may be used rather than disposed of) and the entire seven generation sustainability concept. (making our ecological decisions based on their effect seven generations ahead). But do I get ecstatic thinking about new video games coming out? Yes, I totally do. Can our individual environmental choices actually effectively change anything
? Is our only choice to either watch our entire world deplete its resources at a disgusting rate oroverthrow it all and start anew?
Even at the end of this book, though it ends on a semi-hopeful note, I was still depressed. The types of people who would probably benefit the most from reading a satire like this will never read it.
While I feel like this book was successful at making me think a lot about our current society and its possible devolution into something even more corporate than it already is, I don’t know if this book is as successful as it could’ve been. I thought Unwind
was so fascinating because it brought up tons of societal issues while still having an engaging plot. Here, I was only passively interested in what was going on in the story. Which brings me to the audiobook—awesome. The audiobook is narrated by one man but the feed portions are actually done by a cast and it sounds completely real. You hear all sorts of crazy commercials and advertisements just like you are actually experiencing the feed. I really don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this one as much in book form—maybe 3 stars—but the audiobook popped it up to a 4. 4/5 stars
The Piper's Son
Author: Melina Marchetta
Published: 3/1/10 (Aus) 3/8/11 (US)
Publisher: Penguins Australia (Aus), Candlewick Press (US)
The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family’s hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.
Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca
- but five years have passed, and now it’s Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can’t forget. Shooting for oblivion, he’s hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom’s in no shape to mend what’s broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper’s Son
redefines what it means to go home again.Review:
In an interview at Persnickety Snark
, Melina Marchetta
said that she wanted to capture, “People holding it together and succeeding some days and failing other days” in this novel. Thank you. No, seriously, thank you for summing up a book that is so hard to capture. That comment made me think of a perfect quote--“You have to laugh at yourself because you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t.” Sure, it’s from an Indigo Girls song but it’s still totally relevant. (right?) On those days you are failing, a sense of humor goes a long way. The grief that the Mackee/Finch family has been living with for the past year or two seems insurmountable. How can life go on when life as you knew it is over?
For those unfamiliar with the story, this book follows up on several characters from Saving Francesca
, though this book can stand alone. Thomas Mackee and his close-knit extended family have been grieving the loss of Tom’s uncle Joe, who died in a bombing, for over a year. Tom’s mother and sister moved away, his alcoholic father checked out, his aunt is pregnant but believes that because her grief was the impetus for her ex to return, she shouldn’t celebrate the pregnancy. This might sound like a ton of family drama going on but honestly, every person has their problems. Every family has their issues. What this book really deals with is that belief that we all have that no one could ever
understand how we are feeling, especially the suffering we go through when we lose another person who is such a huge slice of our world
. It’s hard to go on living when someone who served as a point of reference is no longer there. It feels so singular, like we are going alone. And sometimes it feels like it’s easier to live in oblivion.
But it wasn’t all sad. I truly laughed as much as I wallowed in this one, and often out loud. Tom's family and friends really make his turnaround. No, they make each other's turnarounds. At one point in the story, Francesca and Justine are trying to argue that Tom cried while watching Lord of the Rings
. The girls text Siobhan and Tara to ask what movie Tom cried during and Siobhan answers “LOTR,” but Tara answers, “He cried when those two muppets climbed that mountain in New Zealand.” (167) I couldn’t stop laughing at this because I have several jokes with my friends that run along this line. (how people describe movies, actors, etc. but we know exactly what they mean when they say something ridiculous) Sometimes all I want is to call, email or text one of my friends just to get back the other half of a joke—it’s the reassurance of a shared memory. Family are the ultimate example…and we all know that families never forget anything. (Hell, my sister is still pissed about me knocking over her dollhouse OVER TWENTY YEARS AGO. Seriously Casey, get over it.) Anyway, I really loved the family and friendship dynamics in this one. I was really glad there was so much discussion going on about how it feels to be those people on the outside trying to help. No one knows what to say but they keep trying, and waiting, and trying some more.
I know I really love something when I don’t give a shit what anyone else says about it. You’d think it would be the opposite — teeth-baring rage directed at any naysayers. Sure, I’ll fight to defend it if someone says they didn’t enjoy x or y about it but when it all boils down, it means so much to me that everyone else can just go to hell if they don’t see its value. I’ll be in my own little corner (in my own little chair) poring over my favorite books (including this one) laughing hysterically, giving my heart a workout, inconsolably sobbing, and hoarding my memories like that packrat garbage lady in Labyrinth.
This book gave me a heartache and a stomachache. I thought I would cry, even before I knew where the book was going, even before I cracked the book open. But I didn’t. Not until the very last few pages and it was more like two tears streaming silently down my face. I wish I could know these characters in real life. I’d marry Tom Mackee in a nanosecond. And please, Melina Marchetta, please tell us what’s happened to Jimmy.
I’m leaving this picture I drew as a placeholder for my review. It’s totally honest. In this book, Melina Marchetta will rip out your heart and serve it back to you on a silver platter.