Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Review: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Book: Froi of the Exiles
Author: Melina Marchetta
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Froi would do anything for his queen, so when she asks him to travel to nearby Charyn and assassinate their king, he agrees without a second thought. But it's not going to be as easy as slipping in with a dagger in the dead of night. Froi has to pose as a young nobleman who's come to the palace to impregnate the princess, the last in a long string of unsuccessful attempts. Only when she's conceived a child will the curse of infertility that's lain on the country for eighteen years be broken.

Froi finds himself drawn into this drama, because the princess is irresistible. Oh, not for her beauty or her charm, because she has neither, but her ferocity, her secrets, and her strength under an unbearable situation. As Froi fights his way through the thickets of schemes and danger in the Charynite palace, every answer just seems to lead to more questrions. How did the curse come about? Why is the princess's mother locked away? Who exactly is Gargarin, his prickly companion?

And most importantly, what does Froi himself have to do with it all?

This was a behemoth of a book, weighing in at nearly 600 pages, and not light ones either. It's a complex tapestry of a novel, with multiple plotlines, secrets, and schemes to follow. I stuck with it for the characters. Froi, impulsive, hot-tempered, and unexpectedly sweet. Quintana, both damaged and powerful in ways that keep being discovered. Gargarin, Arjuro, Lirah, the older generation who are inextricably entwined in Charyn's curse.

It's also an examination of love, family, politics, and power, and how they're forever intertwined. Each is affected by the other, and very often in ways you can't predict.
While Froi's story is the central plot, there are two threads back at home in Lumatere that didn't work quite as well for me. As individual stories, yes, but I couldn't work out until near the end what they had to do with Charyn or the central plot, and I suspect that I'll have to wait for the third book, Quintana of Charyn, to really understand all the ins and outs.

I'd shelve this next to the Attolia series for the complexity of politics, the fate of countries and the fate of individual hearts.

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