Title: Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Viking Australia/Candlewick Press
Release Date: original date, October 3rd, 2011
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.
Spoilers! Sorry! I just cannot talk about these books without them.
When I first read Finnikin back in 2014, I wasn’t interested in the sequel, because of Froi. I could not let go of his attempted rape on Isaboe, who was Evanjalin at the time. I couldn’t see how I could ever love a character like him, no matter how he had grown up or who had taught him to be so ugly. But if there is one thing Melina Marchetta does SO well, it is in the way she writes and breathes life into her characters. Because by the end of this book, not only had I learned to love Froi, but I had wept for him.
I’ve wept for a lot of characters in this story, probably none more so than Isaboe, who will forever remain my favorite. And so I kind of feel like I’m betraying her a bit by understanding and sympathizing with Froi. I cannot ever forget what he had done, nor could Froi himself, or Isaboe. But, by following his character in this story, I was able to grow to love him in spite of it. Melina does not turn this into a rape apologist story, to be clear. He had never once been absolved or forgiven for his rape attempt, and he certainly feels so much shame for it. It is something that he will walk with for the rest of his life, but what made me love him, was his determination to prove his worth and to be a better man. And when he travels to Charyn to kill the king, and he poses as a last born son, he’s put in a position that he had never wanted. Throughout the whole of this story, Froi is pushed beyond anything, is caught up in a curse that should not be affecting him, and is learning about his past as he goes. He is angry, hurt, torn between Lumatere and Charyn, between saving himself and saving the girl he’s come to love. Despite all he’s done in the past, Froi is a genuinely good person inside, someone who had just been brought up in a dangerous and unforgiving and ugly as fuck environment. In an environment where he learned that power could, and should, be taken by taking someone else against their will. He’s learned that…. the hard way, something that painted his actions in that barn in Sorel in a new light. No, it was not an excuse. No, he was not forgiven. But it seems he’s found a home and happiness with the people who had no reason to take him in afterward, and perhaps he’ll learn to forgive himself for it. And I loved him because of how he’s grown as a character in three years.
I also freaking LOVE Quintana of Charyn. This girl, man. She is wild and cutthroat, but also incredibly vulnerable and delicate. She’s grown up in a dangerous environment like Froi had been, and so he feels a definite connection with her, and he becomes her greatest ally when neither of them seem to want it. I hated how Quintana was treated, not by Froi, but by the people in the castle who were supposed to nurture her. She’s their PRINCESS. She should have been treated like a princess, but she wasn’t. Because everyone believed she had been the sole curse maker, and that she had been the one to bring down grief and pain in the kingdom. She’s called a whore, for something she can’t control and for a courageous act on her part to save the other last born girls of Charyn. She is deserving of so much more, even if she is not completely likable at times. But oh, she’s so REAL. So incredibly strong and perhaps a genius for how she’s survived all these years with no one else on her side. Do not underestimate her. She is smart, brave, and a survivor. But she has also been broken down by others in her life, and she doesn’t expect anyone to be able to love her for who she is, doesn’t believe she is worthy. But this girl deserves the world, and she is worthy of everything, and Froi starts to show her that.
I was worried and a bit hesitant on the romance because of Quintana’s character at first; she just seems so delicate and vulnerable, like it would be easy to take advantage of her. But the care Froi took with her was wonderful. And not only that, he understood her, and he also came to realize that she is just so very strong and able, that she isn’t as fragile as she seems. That she is his equal. Froi and Quintana recognize in each other a brokenness that neither can seem to mend by themselves. And perhaps they won’t be able to heal the brokenness in each other, and perhaps they shouldn’t (love doesn’t cure all), but it gives them an understanding that not many people have. The two of them fight like hell, are downright mean and stubborn toward the other, but they love fiercely. Though they have a lot to obviously work through, and though they were brought up in different kingdoms, I believe they could be good for each other. That they HAVE been in this book, when no one else was there for them, and they only had each other for companionship. I’m curious to see where their relationship leads in the final book!
I cannot believe how much I love and live for these characters. ALL of them. Not just the Lumaterans, but the Charynites too. Every single one has been touched by the darkness, has either been a witness or been subjected to the ugliness of the world and other people. Not only are we learning about the pasts of the new characters, like Lirah and the twin brothers Arjuro and Gargarin, who I LOVED, but we are seeing how the events of the Lumateran curse are still affecting people 3 years after it was lifted. I cannot tell you how much I have sobbed for the characters in these novels, for the way that they do what it takes to survive, for the way that they kept going and didn’t give up. It hurt so much to hear the stories. To understand exactly how broken some of them still are from the events that happened during the ten years of terror. I can imagine they won't ever heal completely, but the most amazing thing about these books is that they are not alone. They have each other, bonds and connections, that warm my heart and make me so happy to read about.
These books aren’t action-filled, and Froi spends most of the time at the palace, and then on the run. But his POV is broken up by Lumateran chapters that I ended up happy to have, even if they stopped the action over in Charyn. It could easily dip into boring territory, but it doesn’t. The series is very much character-driven. They are the most important part, second to the plot. And I don’t think there are many books where I can say there were moments where I could laugh on one page, and shed tears in the next. I had so many different feelings throughout the book, especially after secrets are revealed and pasts are spoken about. Truths are unveiled and characters are pushed to the breaking point. Everything keeps building up to an epic finale that I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for, because how can I ever leave this world and its characters?
Froi of the Exiles was not a book I ever thought I would WANT to read, but I’d kept hearing that the sequels to Finnikin were 100% better, and I was curious enough to see how Melina wrote Froi’s character arc. Because though he is not the only main character, or the only one who has page time, he is the HEART of the story. And I should never have doubted that Melina could make me love him. I will never doubt her again.
“You find her strange? When as a child she managed to separate parts of herself and make them whole beings? Each situation requires a different Quintana. But she survived. In this cesspit. That’s not strange or mad. It’s pure genius.” -Lirah
“...warn the Monts that if I have to travel up to speak to them, the regret will be theirs.” -Isaboe
“I don’t despise you for what you allowed to happen to me. I despise you because when I was released, you refused to be found and I needed you more than anything in my life. Not to mend my broken bones, Arjuro. I needed my brother to mend my broken spirit.” -Gargarin
“It’s not that I liked you the least, it’s that I feared you the most. The reginita taught me to like you. There was a strange joy to her that lifted my spirits. But you, Quintana of Charyn, you made me love you.” -Froi