24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Month: April 2015

Abby Reads: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Froi of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Candlewick 2013, 608 pages
YA Fantasy

Find the review for the first book in the Lumatere Chronicles, Finnikin of the Rock, here.

Froi of the Exiles continues the stories of characters first imagined in Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock. In Froi, we focus on a minor conflicted and antagonistic character from Finnikin — Froi. As readers discover more about Froi’s origins, they learn, too, about the seemingly-crazed Princess Quintana. Sent on a mission to assassinate Quintana’s king-father, Froi meets a pair of estranged brothers, who, along with dealing with the struggles of the kingdom  of Charyn, have their own relationship to sort out. Meanwhile, in order to get to the hiding king, Froi must first get through Quintana, who is far more than she appears to be. Back in Lumatere, the Queen and her people endeavor to rebuild the home destroyed by a curse while helping new citizens assimilate.

Starting off with a cast of characters in Finnikin, Marchetta already has a good amount of material to handle. In order to make the new plot work, Marchetta manipulates these characters into almost entirely new people. Many of these changes can be simply accounted for by considering the events of the first novel and the passage of time. However, I found some of the changes to be jarring and unnatural, despite the explanations the narrator offers. This was particularly true of the title character, Froi. Now a late-teenager, Froi has benefited from a more structured education and the company of refined individuals such as the Queen and Finnikin. Though certainly plausible to an extent, Froi’s change in personality felt overwhelmingly sharp, as if the core of his being had become composed of some other material. Marchetta does make up for this in some ways, such as her attention to internal conflict on the behalf of every character who has something over which to be conflicted. Arjuro and Gargarin exemplify this theme especially well, as they work — or, refuse to work — with the intent of healing their broken brotherhood.

“Family” continues to be a running theme in Froi, with various structures and definitions represented through the several relationships portrayed in the book. Newlyweds, brothers, adopted families, and mistaken identities all come into play as different characters ponder on the meaning, obligations, and restrictions of belonging to a family. Along with an understanding of family comes doing right by family and self. Throughout the entire novel (as was also true in Finnikin), Marchetta juggles a balance of right and wrong. Nearly every character questions the merit and morality of their actions, often dealing with the consequences of those actions mentally and in reality. Marchetta also discusses, through plot events and characters, insanity. How do we define insanity? How do we know when someone is truly insane? Is insanity something that can only be diagnosed by the individual experiencing it?

Like many fantasy novels, Froi falls prey to a slow pace at times. Due to the political nature of the novel and tendency for characters to be unreliable, the actual incidents of the plot can be hard to identify and understand as the true incidents. In terms of plot, too, I found a hard time really rooting for anyone in particular — in general, the stakes and motivation just weren’t high enough for me to be truly engaged and captivated by Froi’s continuing story. Unlike Finnikin, Froi cannot be read as a standalone novel. Have Quintana of Charyn ready, because chances are, you’ll pick it up the minute you put Froi down.

❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

 

Abby Reads: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Candlewick 2012, 416 pages
YA Fantasy

Lumatere, Finnikin’s home, has suffered. After the royal family is slaughtered and a curse laid upon the land, Finnikin goes off on a journey. He trains and, along with his guardian friend, begins a search for the prince he believes to still be alive. They meet Evanjalin, a young woman sworn to silence as a part of her pact — a convenient one which allows her to keep secrets. She keeps her silence until IMG_3260violence continues to mount, then proves her strategic and sometimes manipulative abilities to keep the group moving forward. The three meet Froi and, despite Froi’s violent and inappropriate tendencies, keep him as they travel toward the end of suffering, meeting plenty of it along the way.

Here’s the thing — I did not expect to like Finnikin of the Rock. The concept — an epic, nearing the idea of “high fantasy” — is typically not something I can get myself to sit through. A little secret for you: I couldn’t get through any of Lord of the Rings ( to be fair, I was twelve or so when I tried reading it and I started with The Two Towers for some idiotic reason, having already seen the films up to that point). So I hesitated at picking this one up, but it was on the list for book club as we were reading the sequel for March, so I figured — why not. And I’m glad I did.

Finnikin of the Rock features some very well-done characters. Though in some scenes a little overwhelming with the number of people to keep track of, the overall direction of individuals is impressive. Marchetta manages to make stakes high when characters deal with internal conflict — her strength, actually — while maintaining a sense of unreliability with each character. This balance makes the characters really come to life, which is something I rarely see in fantasy as the focus is typically so intent on world-building. Despite their unreliability, the characters are likable and I felt compelled to hear their story, understand their histories, and, ultimately, cheer them on. I did find, as secrets came to light, some characters did not stay consistent in their personalities. While some change in character can be attributed to the events of the plot, much of it seemed awkward and unbelievable.

The overall plot was a bit skeletal for the length of the book. Perhaps this is because I am generally bored by politics and struggled to keep the story of Lumatere’s takeover (and the individuals involved) straight, but generally I felt I needed a little more help grasping the events that brought our characters to this point. Luckily the relationships of the characters were interesting enough to keep me reading, although the ambiguity of the main plot left me confused and therefore a bit bored.

Marchetta adds skillful prose, however, that helped mitigate my fears of anything that resembles high fantasy (which I’m not necessarily saying this book is, but does, from my perspective, at least have some elements of). The sentence structure was rarely (if ever) overly complex and Marchetta used flourishing language only when it served the plot. I particularly appreciated the subtle shifts in style which occurred as a chapter focused on one character or another without using first person narrative (George R.R. Martin, I think, could take a hint from this!).

I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is my favorite book ever, but I liked it enough (and had the pressure) to finish it within a matter of three or four days despite the length of it, and then move on to its sequel, Froi of the Exiles. If you’re looking for something a little on the slow side with a few surprises, take a chance on Finnikin.

❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

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