5 Star Review: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

“Imagine who she would be if we unleashed her onto the world. I think she would rip the breath from all of us.”

5 stars: because I have no regrets.

I planned to like this book, but I did not plan to like the characters.

Picking up this book, I had been completely 100% sure that I would hate Froi all the way through. When I first read Finnikin of the Rock, I hated the little fuck for what he did. Those who’ve read the first will know what I’m talking about.

Scrolling through reviews from friends on this book, I was confused. Why did they like this book? It’s from Froi’s point of view. FROI! The little shit who did that thing in book one?

But, I digress. This book changed my opinion about an author’s ability to make you love characters you hate. I don’t mean the bad boy who turns soft because he gives a pretty speech to the heroine. I mean Marchetta fully and completely twists and turns and manipulates and crushes your thoughts as she connives her way into that head of yours. It’s not even obvious what she’s doing until it’s happened. You won’t even see it happening. I didn’t.

Melina Marchetta mind-fucked my brain with her master writing skills.

The ways in which Melina overtook my brain:

1. The characters:

Almost every character in this novel is unlikeable in one form or another, but the character I found the most interesting: Quintana.

She’s probably the weirdest character you’ll ever see. Not just in this book, but in the entirety of the Young Adult genre. She’s got crooked teeth, wears a big pink dress, and her hair is always clumpy and full of dirt. She has multiple personalities. The entire time you’re wondering “what’s Quintana’s deal? Is she actually this fucking crazy?”

Quintana, grew up in a place where everybody hates her and calls her a whore. She’s the last-born. When she was a young girl she made a prophecy: the prophecy that she would carry the first child since the oracle’s massacre. Basically, there hasn’t been a child born in Charyn in eighteen years.

Many might hate her for her simple façade, utter madness, and the fact that she’s not exactly rational. She’s not rational because she’s had many assassins after her since she was a child. If you grew up in a place where everyone hates you, everyone wants to kill you, everyone expects you to get pregnant, everyone expects you to do as you’re told what kind of person would you turn into? How mad would you be? Would you be the same person if you grew up in a different environment? What would it feel like to be called worthless and a whore all day long? Where a man who see’s no worth in you expects you to have sex with him? Would you fight all those years or would you be dead inside?

I felt like Quintana’s madness was justified because of the way she was treated all her life:

By now Quintana was shouting the words, pounding at her head with her palm. Froi grabbed hold of her, but she slipped out of his hands and onto the ground, crawling into a crevice in a wall, pressing herself into it as though she wanted to disappear inside the stone. He knelt, taking her face between his hands.
“It doesn’t go away if I count,” she said, sobbing. “Nothing goes away.”

Even though at times, I got annoyed, I could see how she turned out the way that she did. They call her birthday the day of weeping, if that gives you a sense of how little people care for her.

But despite all of this: Quintana is a she-wolf. She’s strong in ways you don’t even realize until the crux of the novel. At first, you think she’s a weak and innocent child. She’s fierce and protective of those she comes to love.

Froi is confused by Quintana. He doesn’t understand her. He doesn’t understand why she says the things she does, why she lets people say those awful things to her, and why she only wants one thing from him.

Froi introduced me to a side of him I had never seen before:

Three years ago, when he hardly knew a word of Lumateran, his tongue would twist around all the strange pronunciations of his new language, causing great amusement among those who saw Froi as nothing more than street scum. Here comes the feef wif nofing to show for, they’d taunt.

Having read this novel, I now know why he did what he did and how he feels about it:

“I fear that I will do something to bring harm to those I love,” Froi said. “So I follow their rules to ensure that I won’t.”
“But what if you bring harm or fail to protect those you don’t know? Or don’t love? Will you care as much?”
“Probably not.”
“Then choose another bond. One written by yourself. Because it is what you do for strangers that counts in the end.”

I haven’t forgiven the little shit because I feel like what he did was truly awful. It’s not something that I can fully forgive. Maybe I never will, but I’ll have to see in the next novel. But even with that said, I couldn’t help but like Froi. He’s a cool guy. He’s witty and sarcastic. He doesn’t take anybody completely seriously. He’s very laid back.

2. The feelings:

I felt a lot in this novel. I’ve felt more in this novel than I have in a long long time, while reading a good book.

More than once I could feel my eyes popping out of my skull, my hands gripping the book to the point where they might have bled, just wondering what’s going to happen next. By the end of the novel, my book was bent and the edges were frayed.

The relationship between Quintana and Froi was agonizing and….nuts. That would be the only other word I could describe it.

“If I see that pointy chin and nose hidden, I’ll have to hurt someone.”
“You’re supposed to say I don’t have a pointy chin or pointy nose,” she said, somewhat dryly.
“But you do,” he said. “And you also have pointy eyes,” he added as he kissed both lids, “and a pointy mouth,” he teased, pressing his lips against hers, “and a pointy tongue.”
…”And a pointy, pointy heart.”

It builds slowly and surely. They began to know each other through talking. They didn’t like each other at first. I found it hard to believe they would even like each other slightly by the end of the novel. It’s not that there were glares and fighting, it’s that Quintana didn’t see herself having any type of relationship with anyone. She didn’t even think sex could be pleasurable.

Against my control, I fell for this couple despite their utter madness and irrationality.

The last magnanimous thing that turned my mind to mush: The writing

So beautiful. What I loved about Marchetta’s writing is that it wasn’t flowery. She didn’t try to throw a bunch of purple prose in an attempt to make you feel things. Her writing was beautiful in it’s gritty feel without being gratuitous. She had subtle ways in making it beautiful, but didn’t overwhelm the reader with it either:

…they spoke of Charyn and Froi and Rafuel of Sebastabol and curses and last borns and Sarnak, and then Charyn again and taxes and empty Flatland villages, and then Charyn again. When all that talk was over, they stood before each other ready for the mightiest of battles, which they saved until last.

Concerns readers may have:

Some readers might say that Marchetta is one of the author’s who committed slut shaming. I’d disagree. Here’s why: the mention of a character being called a whore isn’t slut shaming. Lirah’s occupation as a prostitute is factual, that is her job unfortunately. People call her a whore, with spite or not, as a fact. I see slut shaming as something the author does through descriptions such as catty female behavior, and actual name calling someone the main character doesn’t like and things of that nature. I often feel that many reviewers see the word slut or whore and their brains instantly go to “slut shaming!”. This is a problem because you can’t call something slut shaming without thinking of the author’s intent, the character’s role, and whether it’s slut shaming or whether it’s a characters occupation. The people of Charyn calling Quintana a whore is done because 1. They hate her for what she’s done and 2. The author wanted to show us what the character goes through.

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