Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Froi of the Exiles
Melina Marchetta

It was a few weeks ago that I read Finnikin of the Rock, and although I found the book dark, there was enough light bits in the story for me to finish without trouble and overall would say I enjoyed it. Since Froi of the Exiles was up on Netgalley, I decided to request it to see how the story would continue. Since I’d already known the second book would be about Froi, I paid attention to his character in Finnikin and I was curious if I would like a story about a character I found darker than Finnikin or Evanjalin.
This review will have minor spoilers for the first book, so if you are interested in this series, I suggest you start there ( I also warn you that this is an advance review for a book that doesn’t come out till March 2012.
The Premise: A few years have passed since Finnikin lead his people back to their beloved homeland, but Lumatere is still struggling with the horrors its people have seen.The new King and Queen focus on rebuilding and starting afresh, but have a desire for justice still burning in their hearts. They know that the ones behind their country’s ‘five days of the unspeakable’ and the ten year aftermath is the kingdom of Chayrn. So when Charynite refugees and resistence fighters say they have a plan to kill their despot king, Lumatere sends in one of their favorite sons – Froi, to do the job.  It seems that Lumatere is not the only country with a curse, for Charyn is suffering its own form of hell which may or may not be broken by its loony princess Quintana. Not quite understanding this curse, but seeing an opportunity, Froi impersonates a Last Born and infiltrates the palace. In the meantime, there is unease in Lumatere as those closest to the border, the Monts, deal with a slow and steady influx of refugees from Charyn and must battle with their own latent hatreds.
My Thoughts:  In this second book, things are somewhat different from the first. It’s much longer (a little over 600 pages on my nook) and wider in its scope.The main character is Froi, but the book constantly switches its focus from him back to individual Lumaterians in Lumatere – mostly Lady Beatrice, Lucian of the Monts, and Phaedra, Lucian’s Charynite wife. This is a book that’s about Charyn and Lumatere.
But since the book begins with Froi, I’ll start with him. His character is that of a unlikeable boy-thief rescued from the streets who has now grown into an accomplished young man. He still has trouble with his temper, but he is loved by those who raised him and eager to prove his loyalty to his Queen. When the opportunity to kill the Charyn king who was behind Lumatere’s years of grief presents itself, Froi is the one to go.
It’s from Froi’s point of view that we are introduced to Charyn, and it is a dark place. The people are desperate, the king is a tyrant, and it has a recent history of a terrible genocide. When I read Finnikin of the Rock, rape was alluded to, but not directly shown. Here, rape and sex with questionable consent is a common trope. In order to alleviate Charyn’s curse, princess Quintana, an obviously mentally ill girl must have sex with the last born sons of Charyn. I was pretty disturbed by this. I continued to be disturbed when I read the description of Quintana’s lack of care (unwashed hair, often wearing the same dress), coupled with her childlike airs and the voices she hears. The prologue described in heartbreaking detail her penchant for disconnecting during the sex act by making shadow figures on the wall. To warn those who avoid rape in the books they read: Quintana is raped in a scene that squicked the heck out of me, and she is of course, hated and called a whore by her whole country. I don’t think I can begin to describe the way reading this affected me.
While Quintana is introduced as a character who is abused, she is also clearly set up to be Froi’s love interest. This is a very difficult thing to achieve, because on her side, we have an abused, mad child, and on his side, Froi is the person who in the last book tried to rape Evanjalin/Isaboe. Part of me has a very, very hard time rooting for Froi after this act, but this story does not try to rewrite history or deny that Froi is a dark character. He is a person tainted with the darkness of his past, and in many ways his darkness makes him a match for Quintana’s own demons. But it was very difficult for me to connect personally to these characters and their romance. I think that while I rooted for their happiness, I could never really love them. They were too alien for me. Quintana is too shifting in her moods and manner, and Froi too self-serving. I did believe Froi’s attraction to a dirty, mad princess with dark calling to dark, but on a logical, not visceral level.
I also think that the romance was difficult to get lost in with all that happens in the story. This was an incredibly heavy book. A sense of either shocked horror or utter despair pervaded my whole experience. As the story continued, I hoped for better things to come, but one calamity seemed to follow the next. When innocents are not being killed in Charyn, we’re treated to the problems in Lumatere and its border. This includes the drama of unfinished business between Beatrice and Trevanion, who are letting their pain stand between them, and the constant friction between Monts and the Charyn refugees.  Lucian of the Monts struggle as a leader and husband through an arranged marriage was particularly compelling and at times heartbreaking.  I think that there is room here for things to eventually turn out right, but as a reader I felt the balance of this installment of the story slide more towards hopeless over hopeful. When things started on an upward swing, it wasn’t for long. And if you are someone sensitive to rape, this book is a hard hitter.  While Quintana’s rape is on the page, she is not the only one. There are at least 4 other characters that have had this experience, and it is common for the females to be labeled as sluts and whores. This left me full of anger, which I think is the point. I don’t think that Marchetta wants to keep the reader cocooned from the horrors of war and strife, but I was pretty worn out emotionally. There ARE bright spots in the story (like when Finnikin and Isaboe make cameo appearances), but overall, I found this to be a grim book.
As with Finnikin of the Rock there are revelations in Froi of the Exiles which are alluded to by prophecy. Again, these secrets weren’t too difficult to guess, but I did have fun being right. The truth of what brought about Charyn’s curse wasn’t as much fun though. More horror and needless killing by the corrupt, basically. It got to the point where I was numb and unsurprised by the evil of those behind the curse, but it was disheartening to read about the past pains of the characters who lived through Charyn’s dark history.
OK, so I’ve talked a lot about how dark this book was. Is this a dealbreaker? I think it depends on the reader. Froi of the Exiles ends on an unfinished note, but I am glad I have a year to recover for the next one. I do plan to read it. I wouldn’t have found this story so dark if I wasn’t so caught up by these people and their struggles, and I really want to see all of this end in something good. I’m not eager to reread this book, but I am eager for a happy ending. I hope to see one in the next book, Quintana of Charyn.
Froi of the Exiles comes out in March 2012
Overall: Compelling but not for the faint of heart. Froi of the Exiles continues where Finnikin of the Rock left off but brings more heartache and strife to the tale, making this story more painful than enjoyable. It widens the scope to focus not just Froi and the kingdom of Charyn, but also on multiple characters still coping in Lumatere. Now the story is no longer standalone and the darkness will hopefully make way for better times, but we’ll have to wait for the next installment to get to them.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
Other reviews:
No one in my circles have reviewed this yet. Let me know if you have and I’ll link to your review.

6 thoughts on “Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

    • Yeah pretty much. Ug. I think all the dark bits kind of overwhelmed me with this one. There is a plot and it is twisty and interesting and there are a lot of characters I didn’t talk about, but when I wrote this review, all I could focus on was wow, how GRIM it felt and how I wanted things to be happier! I really really want these people to have a happy ending. Please, book 3.. please: happy ending!

  1. I felt the balance of this installment of the story slide more towards hopeless over hopeful. -> I already felt this way about Finnikin and I probably wouldn’t have bumped this one up the TBR pile if we didn’t sort of do a read along for it. Hmm it wasn’t that emotionally tiring for me to read because I felt disconnected from the characters so I wasn’t fully invested them, I was more of a casual observer. Does that make sense? I read it because I wanted to know what happens to them, not because I was rooting for them. I still need to write my review for this.

    I really hope you read one of Melina Marchetta’s contemporary YA books!

    • I didn’t feel that FINNIKIN was as bad, but I definitely felt it in FROI. I guess that makes sense what you are saying. I was emotionally wrung out by this one because of all the mass killing, the rapes, people being terrible to one another. It just made me really tired because I wanted things to be better for the two countries, but Froi & Quintana – I didn’t love them. I didn’t feel attached to them either.

      I will, I will. 🙂

  2. Eek, this books sounds super grim. I think I’ll be able to handle it though, having read three volumes of the Song of Ice and Fire series (where everyone is terrible to everyone and anyone who has an ounce of honour is brutally murdered…).

    From what you’re saying, I really do hope that the ending of the trilogy ends on at least a hopeful note. Marchetta’s endings (from the three books I’ve read by her so far) are never perfect ones, but they always leave enough that you feel GOOD when you’re finished. Here’s hoping she doesn’t break the trend with Quintana.

    • Ohhh, dude, if you can handle the SoIaF, then this is fine, fine! I couldn’t get past book 1 of that. In FROI I at least believe the main characters will not die…

      Yes, I think there will be a good ending, because with Finnikin I was happy with how things ended. I think FROI just steps back so the scope is wider so with more characters and a more involved plot, it also takes longer. I think it will take 2 books (QUINTANA & FROI) rather than 1 (just FROI).

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