(Wouldn't trade a minute of it though)
Why is it that when something is annoying or drives you mad it is so easy to find a million words to say about it? But when you find something you incredible, nay, so AMAZING, that you can't seem to find the words to say how you feel about it. I am here now. Melina Marchetta, where have you been all my life? Why am I just now reading these books? You HOOKED me with Finnikin of the Rock, but you OWNED me with Froi of the Exiles. This book was enchanting. Every page was captivating. This was epic fantasy at it's very best! I'm not even exaggerating when I say that all I did yesterday was devour this book. I read all 596 pages in a day. I stayed up until 2am marveling at this gem. I want to take this book, wrap it up, cradle it like a baby and keep it near my heart for all of time.
Froi of the Exiles how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...
The characters. Oh the characters. They are broken. They are ravaged, down deep in their souls. We see how they got that way, we watch it happen or so it breaking down more and more. But we also see a glimpse of light, and hope, at the end of this dark tunnel of despair, and sometimes we get to see this fraction of light grow so bright that it's blinding. Oh what a pay off it is. It's worth every torturous moment in the darkness. No character is inconsequential. Be it a main character or secondary, or even a small role as a villager, they all mean something to this grand story.
"She is worth nothing, Arjuro had said. If Froi understood anything, it was that in this world one's worth came from others. He had no worth until he crossed the path of the novice Evanjalin and Finnikin. So he found himself writing his own bond to Quintana of Charyn. Her worth would come from him and Lirah and the idiot last borns. She would not die alone. That would be his bond to her."
I found myself loving Froi most of all in this book. Don't get me wrong, I adored Finnikin and even the novice Evanjalin in Finnikin of the Rock, still do, but Froi was just something more to me. He was even more damaged, and there was such a darkness in him. Where in FotR the beast inside roamed free, you could see Froi constantly struggle in this book to keep his darkness leashed. It made me love him even more. We got to see so much more to Froi in this book. He has grown to be so much more than I could have even hoped for.
"Most days, he feared that a monster of great baseness lived inside of him, fighting to set itself free. Killing the traitors of Lumatere for Isoboe made sense. But killing also fed the monster. He could not bear the idea of letting that monster free among the girls of Lumatere So Froi kept away from them."
We got to meet loads of new characters in this story. Quintana was one of my new favorites. She kind of reminded me a little of the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland. There were layers and layers to her, each one you uncovered only made you want to see more and more of what made this madly intriguing girl tick. She was so strong. Even when she appeared weak and useless, it was real a testament to how smart and strong she was.
Honestly nearly everyone new we met, along with some others that we had but glimpses of, they all weaseled their way into my heart. Gargarin, Arjuro, Rafuel, Lucian, De Lancey (and even his silly children), and sweet Phaedra....just to name a few. Amidst this love fest of characters here, there were a few that broke my heart. People I had grown to trust, right along with Froi, people I liked, they let me down in ways that were heartbreaking. I think that's one of the things I love most about these books, no one person is all good or all bad. The prettiest, shiniest egg can turn out to be nothing but rotten in the end. Likewise, the seemingly cruelest and most standoffish people end up being the ones you need with you the most for they are the only ones you should trust with your life. Nothing really ends up being what you see on the surface, there is always more to people than that.
I really appreciated the dual point of views in this book. While it was clear that Froi and his journey into enemy territory in Charyn was the main focus, it was so wonderful to also get breaks to see things still progressing in beloved Lumatere. It was great how everything started tying together at the end as well. It was clear that the fates of both kingdoms are going to be intertwined. It's such a delicate balance between these to lands, I'm still really unsure which way things are going to go down between them. There seemed to finally be some progress starting to be made between the two races of people but in the end I'm just not sure that it was enough to halt the looming war creeping to their doorsteps. One can only hope, I guess. It was eye opening to say the least to get a look at the Charynites in this book and see them for more than that of the heinous deeds some of their kin did to the Lumaterians during the curse in Lumatere. It was so easy in the first book to paint them all as monsters, but no so easy in this book where we see the good in their community as well. Also all the plight they bear as their own torturous curse of 18 years has been reeking havoc on their people.
"Phaedra shook her head. "If your people mean no offense, they should not speak their thoughts out loud in front of their children, Tessadora. Because it will be their children who come to slaughter us one day, all because of the careless words passed down by their elders who meant no harm."
I don't know what else to say. This book was flawless. It had me comepletely enamored from page 1 to the very last page. At nearly 600 pages I never skimmed, I never grew bored. I only felt EVERYTHING. I laughed, I cried (seriously, literal tears)
(If anyone has wads of 100 bills that they want to give me to wipe my tears with, I'm not opposed to it)
I was hopeful, heartbroken, excited, nervous, and about a million other things throughout reading this book. Books like this aren't just a story, they are an experience. I can't sit here and tell you about it and do it any kind of real justice, you need to experience it for yourself. It is one of those rare books that you finish and you think
you feel like no other book is going to make you feel this much again. It's just not possible. This is the best it's ever going to get. Until one day another one grabs you by the heartstrings and drags you through the whole ride all over again, and leaves you feeling exactly the same way. I have a bunch of "favorite" books, but even amongst my favorites there are only a few of these kind of books. My only hope is that the next book in this series, the final book, Quintana of Charyn will be a book I can add to that elite list. If you haven't started this series yet, you should.