Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta
Candlewick, 2014, 528 pages
It had been quite a while since I read the book leading up to the final installment of The Lumatere Chronicles, Froi of the Exiles. So, when I picked up Quintana of Charyn, I knew I was getting into somewhat complicated politics (especially for a YA novel) and I was likely to be lost. That ended up being exactly what happened. I say this because I feel like my review of the book is “tainted” because of it. Given that the first two novels combined well-surpass nine hundred pages, I was reluctant to reread them in preparation for Quintana of Charyn. Plus, I was really looking forward to Quintana despite the lack of memory I had regarding Froi. Anyway, all this to say the book is probably at least a little better than how I’m going to describe it, especially if you read it together with the first two rather than waiting seven months to finally get around to it.
Quintana picks up not long after Froi ends. Now pregnant with Froi’s child (which is a Big Deal because of the curse), Quintana is left to defend for herself, having spent her entire life within the walls of the palace. Meanwhile, Finnikin continues to struggle with Isaboe’s relationship with Froi and his relationship – both as husband and advisor. Plus, the women of the valley are wondering how Quintana got to them and why she’s there. Froi is working to track down Quintana, still struggling to manage the guilt he feels about, well, everything.
Quintana just didn’t do it for me. It felt long and meandering and mostly aimless. While Froi and some combination of Finnikin and Froi’s parents and maybe some other friends romped around the continent, the back-and-forth of travel didn’t have the same excitement as in Finnikin of the Rock or even Froi of the Exiles. Characters who became big players in Froi still hadn’t gripped me by the heartstrings (though I knew they should have), so I skimmed through their scenes, even though those scenes were some of the most interesting.
Isaboe becomes almost completely unlikable by the third book of The Lumatere Chronicles, and perhaps never more so than in the climax of the novel, in which she takes great action but in a way that came across as begrudging. This was especially jarring given that this is such a huge difference from when we knew her as Evangeline. Up until this point, Marchetta excels at creating strong women as characters. In Quintana, she seems to forget that women need not take on macho characteristics to be considered strong. Instead, she masculinizes the actions, sentiments, and language of her women, tearing them away from what made them so great in the first place. The odd part of this is, so much of this novel is rooted in inherently female experiences: menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and oppression in a male-dominated world.
The characters I referred to as recently-made-big-players deserve their own book or even spin-off series. I never felt Marchetta introduced them well enough in Froi and, despite their rather large arc in Quintana, they still felt secondary to the now-dislikable main cast (that is, Finnikin, Isaboe, Froi, and Quintana). It further occurs to me, now that I’ve listed these main characters, that while the entire series is, at its heart, about Isaboe, Isaboe is the only character of the four who doesn’t get a book title. There’s no Isaboe of the Throne, for example, to Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles, and Quintana of Charyn. My understanding is, this is it. There’s a short story to accompany it all on Marchetta’s website, but no plans for a fourth book. And frankly, I don’t think there needs to be in terms of plot. But I still feel, particularly for an arguably-feminist series, Isaboe was cheated.
❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤