The other day I wrote about my love for the Lumatere Chronicles, starting with Finnikin of the Rock. Well, buckle up, because the love affair got real intense in Froi of the Exiles. (Oh, and also, this post is a huge spoiler for anyone who hasn't finished Finnikin! You're going to want to stop reading now. But come back when you're finished so we can fangirl together.)
When troubling news from Charyn reaches Lumatere's borders--along with droves of refugees--Finnikin and Isaboe entrust Froi on a secret mission to go into enemy territory and learn more about secretive Charyn, its convoluted royal court, and the mysterious half-mad princess Quintana. Froi is utterly devoted to Lumatere and his queen, but the longer he stays in Charyn, the more he discovers about his past and its messy ties to Lumatere. And even though he'd rather not admit it, he's come to care for the fate of the Charynites.
Froi of the Exiles is visibly thicker than Finnikin of the Rock--it's stuffed full of secrets and twists and long-buried resentment, and sneaky love. Once again, Marchetta dazzles readers with her elaborate world-building, expanding on Lumatere as it struggles to heal and find solutions to impossible problems created by the dark times. But Marchetta also takes readers deep into Charyn, a brutal and inhospitable country compared to Lumatere, but no less real or beautiful. Politics and personal feelings collide, sometimes messily, as the characters from two enemy countries work to address the injustices of the past and face the uncertainties of the future.
The novel is told primarily from Froi's third person perspective, but Marchetta frequently takes readers back to Lumatere, where we see more of Finnikin and Isaboe and the challenges they face running a country that's only just begin to heal. Many favorite characters from the previous novel feature prominently in these scenes, but perhaps the most delightfully surprising and wonderful subplot to develop is the thread that follows Lucian of the Monts, and his own struggle to fulfill his father's role and deal with the Charynite refugees. His story tangles with Tesadora and the Charynites and was one of my favorite parts of this novel.
Finnikin of the Rock is about reclaiming something--a country, hope, love, comrades--and as a result that story often felt noble and victorious. Froi of the Exiles is much more complex, although no less stirring. This novel is about dealing with an enemy nation that is populated by many good and evil people, facing the mistakes and tragedies of the past, and learning how to move into the future. It's about compassion and heartache and healing. I think that's why it spoke to me so deeply. Everyone in this book must confront all of the ugly things in the world and learn to see a little bit of hope and goodness--wonder--and keep moving forward. This novel is about the families you discover, and the families you create.
The plotting is also breathtakingly amazingly exceptionally good. More than once I looked up from the book, needing a second to catch my breath because the story developed in such wonderfully perfect and surprising ways. Everything in this novel is connected and important. I was a great admirer of Marchetta's talent and skill, but it was after reading this book that I knew--she is a master.
This book ends with a cliffhanger--the most terrible and wonderful kind. So I hope you have a copy of Quintana of Charyn on hand to dive in right away!