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