Review Blog

Oct 19 2011

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

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Penguin Viking, 2011, ISBN 978 0670 07608 6.
(Age: Upper secondary) Highly recommended. Froi of the Exiles is set three years after the events of Finnikin of the Rock. The curse has been lifted from Lumatere, but these are still dangerous times. The surrounding countries, sensing weakness, are set to either invade, or manipulate the situation to benefit themselves. The Queen Isaboe and her King, Finnikin, the heroes of the previous book, are caught up in endless political and economic wrangling. Isaboe has not forgotten or forgiven the role that Charyn, the neighbouring country, had to play in the tragedy that took place in Lumatere. To this end, the now eighteen year old Froi, who accompanied them on their previous travels, has been sent into Charyn on a mission that seems relatively straight forward - but events get in the way. Another curse, as fully dark and heartbreaking as the one that afflicted Lumatere for ten years, has bound Charyn for even longer. The key to breaking the curse lies with a half-mad princess, estranged twins with a terrible secret and a prophecy. Despite his orders, Froi becomes unwittingly embroiled in the unfolding situation.
This is a wonderful adventure fantasy that has contemporary echoes with its themes of religious intolerance, political infighting, the civilian casualties of war and displaced refugees caught between hopelessness, tyranny, and an uncertain future. All the characters are damaged, flawed or have dark, dreadful pasts, but in spite of all the hardships, betrayals and mistrust, do they still have the capacity to hope or to love?
This book is a page turner, that even with its complexity and multiple storylines, never seems to get tangled up or confused. There is a real sense of place, and the language and names of the characters ring true. There are twists and turns and surprising revelations that had me hooked.
Because of some of the complex themes including war crimes, genocide and rape I would recommend this book for upper secondary readers, but despite the darkness and cruelty, at the heart of this book there is a fine thread of humour, as well as the hope of redemption and love. A deeply satisfying and compelling read.
Alicia Papp

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