Froi of the Exiles, Melina Marchetta (Gr 9+)
Candlewick. Review copy provided by publisher.
“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 taken roughly and lovingly in hand by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper with a warrior’s discipline. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds in its surreal royal court. Soon he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess in this barren and mysterious place. It is in Charyn that he will discover there is a song sleeping in his blood . . . and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.”
Remember how much I loved Finnikin of the Rock? No? Then click the link or just scroll down a little ways and remind yourself, because woah did I ever LOVE that book! Finnikin was my gateway into Melina Marchetta fangirlishness, and Froi of the Exiles has cemented her as one of my all time favorite authors (so did Jellicoe Road, more on that another time).
Froi’s story picks up a few years after Finnikin’s left off. The Lumaterans are back home in their own country and starting to rebuild. There’s a lot of hurt left for this country and a divide between those who were in exile and those who were trapped inside. Froi has found a place for himself with the Guard and has started to really feel like a Lumateran. He has decided to devote his life to protecting Queen Isaboe, Queen’s Consort Finnikin, and their young daughter. Froi has also decided to become a character I love instead of one I don’t actually like much at all. He has grown and developed into a main character to root for, one whose story will haunt readers.
Elsewhere in the world, trouble is brewing. The nearby country of Charyn, under the rule of a mad king, is in the grips of a disastrous curse, one almost more devastating than the one on Lumatere. The women of Charyn have all been barren for eighteen years. The Charynites have started to leave their wasted homeland and have formed an uneasy truce with the Lumateran Monts. Now the Lumaterans are faced with exiles living in their land and must decide whether or not to help them. Queen Isaboe believes the best way to deal with Charyn is to send Froi in to the country undercover to assassinate their king. I love the way Melina Marchetta deals with issues of tolerance, refugees, and many other modern day topics. She makes readers think about contemporary themes in a fantastical world.