Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lumatere Chronicles

I haven't read a lot books for a long time, which is a real shame. The more immersed I've become in my writing, the more I've neglected the book-lover within me. It's only recently that I've begun to realize that both sides of me need books, because they help me connect more with my own writing and they remind me of the reason I got into it in the first place. Because storytelling is amazing and I'd love to be able to make people feel all of the things I do when I read incredible books.

It's a good thing I've made an effort to read more, because otherwise I would have missed out on two great reads this summer. Firstly, I don't know what it is about Marchetta's stories, but I have completely polarized feelings about them. As well-written as they were, I didn't connect with her contemporary novels. What frustrated me was that so many people loved them and I knew that whatever beauty they found in Saving Francesca or The Piper's Son, I didn't have the capacity to grasp it. And for the first time in my life, I felt as though it was my fault for not liking a book. 

It seems that the very things I didn't get in her other books are those that I loved in her fantasy: the extensive backstory, the huge cast of characters, the amount of time people spent talking and interacting with one another. All of these produced an incredibly rich and diverse world, and believable characters so flawed and real that they stayed with me long after I finish reading. 

The Lumatere Chronicles is a trilogy that consists thus far of Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles. It was a friend who suggested her fantasy series to me and I remember approaching it with reservation, but it completely blew me away once I got past the first twenty pages of the first book.

Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin's faith in her . . . but in himself.

Finnikin of the Rock is not a story about an archetypal young hero living in a fantasy world. It's not about the hero learning magic or training to prepare for an epic, climactic showdown against the tyrannical villain at the end of the book. It's not about dragons and elves and gremlins. It's not a story that moves through plot and cliffhangers. This is a story about a nation of lost people who have suffered, bled and continue to long for the beloved home they left a decade ago. And Finnikin is on a quest to save his people, even though their conditions in the refuge camps are heartbreaking and a lot of great people have already been lost. Finnikin meets all sorts of characters and Marchetta does an incredible job of bringing them to life. The Royal Guard are an amazing group of men, especially Trevanion and Perri the Savage, and I was really heartened by the love, fierce loyalty and camaraderie between these men.

And then there's Evanjalin, a mysterious girl who seems to know a lot more than she shares with Finnikin or any of the other main characters. The twist near the end came as a surprise, but it really made sense and fit into the storyline well.

The ending was perfect and the book itself stands alone. But for those who want more, there's also:

Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

“He knows no other way but ugliness,” Sir Topher said quietly. “He was taught no other lessons but those of force. His teachers have been scum who live by their own rules. No one has ever taught him otherwise.”
“Am I to forgive?” she said, her voice shaking with anger.
“No,” he said sadly. “Pity him. Or give him new rules. Or put him down like a wild animal before he becomes a monster who destroys everything he encounters.”
-Finnikin of the Rock

We met Froi in Finnikin of the Rock, when he was a little foul-mouthed brat destined to grow up into a vile and cruel human being on the streets of Sarnak. But Finnikin and Isaboe, after a very rough start, gave him a chance to mold himself into something more worthy. And mold himself he does. Froi gains a sense of duty in his time with the Guard and his loyalty toward Finnikin and especially Isaboe runs deeper than anything I've seen. But he also proves that, even though he lives to follow the command of his Queen and his superiors, he is willing to act on what he believes in and to fight for those he grows to love.

The theme of this book is darker than its predecessor, but the underlying elements of family, grief, redemption, and what it means to belong are still present. This book has a few profound nuggets of wisdom that really define what the people in the tragedy-stricken lands of Charyn have gone through. In Finnikin of the Rock, the Charynites were portrayed as being an oppressive and conquering nation that once destroyed Lumatere. But Froi of the Exiles tells a different story about these people, one that is as heartbreaking as the tale of Lumatere.

I'm eagerly awaiting the third installment in the Lumatere Chronicles, Quintana of Charyn:

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi and his companions travel through Charyn searching for Quintana and building an army that will secure her unborn child's right to rule. While in the valley between two kingdoms, Quintana of Charyn and Isaboe of Lumatere come face to face in a showdown that will result in heartbreak for one and power for the other.

A showdown between strange Quintana and strong-minded Isaboe? I'm not sure how I can await until it's out.

Some of my favorite moments in Froi of the Exiles:

“Are you an idiot, or an idiot?' Gargarin hissed
[Froi] 'The first one. I really resent being called the second."

[Gargarin] “I don't despise you for what you allowed to happen to me. I despise you because when I was released, you refused to be found and I needed you more than anything in my life. Not to mend my broken bones, Arjuro. I needed my brother to mend my broken spirit."

Arjuro made a scoffing sound. ‘You think Lumatere will invade because of you? Are you that important?’
Froi looked away. ‘Isaboe would invade if you kidnapped a servant, let alone a friend.’
‘Isaboe? We’re on first-name terms with the Queen of Lumatere, are we?’ Gargarin asked.
Froi found himself bristling. ‘What? Do you think I’m some cutthroat for hire who they found hanging around the palace walls with the words “I want to kill a Charynite King” tattooed on my arse?'

'And then we began to hear the stories. Of what the Lumaterans claimed our sons did during those ten years.'
 Not claims, Froi wanted to shout. What the imposter King's army did to the Lumaterans was more than claims.
'It keeps us awake at night,' Hamlyn said. 'What did a boy who was brought up with such kindness and love do to those people?'

Beatriss shook her head. ’I can’t leave this place, Isaboe. I can’t.’
‘Why?’ Isaboe asked, frustration in her voice. ‘For pride?’
Pride? Beatriss’s pride was long gone. It was smothered by the smugness in the expressions of the Flatland lords. It was shattered by the disappointment in Trevanion’s eyes.
‘My daughter is buried here,’ she said quietly, pained to say the words. ‘Down by the river. I can’t leave her spirit alone. I feel her every day, Isaboe. I can’t leave her behind.’


  1. i read finnikin of the rock years ago and i really loved it. my friendship was solidified with my best friend when i discovered she loved the book too. i love how when i was reading i had the sense of reading an expanded version of a myth - as if the characters from the old myths were being detailed on the pages even though i know finnikin of the rock isn't really a myth. although froi of the exile had more memorable scenes and twists, i think the simplicity of the first book is what made me love it the most

    1. The first book was definitely amazing, even being simpler than Froi of the Exiles. I was in this sense of awe the whole time. It's an incredible series altogether, and I hope Marchetta keeps writing fantasy alongside her contemporaries. :)