FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK / FROI OF THE EXILES / QUINTANA OF CHARYN
In the land of Skuldenore, the country of Lumatere has been cut off from all outside interference by a magical barrier, the consequence of a dark curse. Inside the barrier, the land is occupied by a vicious usurper, who has slaughtered the king and queen and their young children. Outside, thousands of its people are suffering in exile, and Finnikin of the Rock – son of the Captain of the Lumateran Guard, and apprentice to the King’s First Man – finds himself searching for a way to take them all home.
The Lumatere Chronicles is composed of three books: Finnikin of the Rock (#1), Froi of the Exiles (#2), and Quintana of Charyn (#3). The first of these was originally published in 2008; the last in 2012.
This story is about finding hope where none seems to exist, and about homesickness, and the best parts of humanity and the worst, and about how everyone has a story to tell, and all of those stories are equally valid. It’s a beautiful story, and a complicated one, and one that I’m not likely to forget any time soon (if ever).
Structurally speaking, Finnikin of the Rock could stand alone, but the inclusion of Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn makes the series much richer, and more well-rounded. If you’re thinking of picking up the first book, I’d definitely recommend having the other two ready to jump into straight afterwards.
There are a lot of characters in these books, but for the sake of succinctness, I’m mainly going to talk about the three title characters here. First up is Finnikin, who is the main character in the first book, and an important supporting character in the other two. He’s an aspiring scholar of sorts – a historian and a linguist, among other things – which sets him apart from many other high fantasy protagonists, and one of his main occupations is working on the Book of Lumatere, a task he created for himself in order to preserve the stories of the Lumaterans living in exile. He’s very compassionate, and also very stubborn, and that last quality meant that he was often frustrating to read about – but on the other hand, his parts in Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn were some of the bits that I looked forward to the most.
Froi took rather longer to warm up to. He first appears in Finnikin of the Rock as a savage, vicious child, who is brought along on Finnikin’s journey because Evanjalin feels some sort of connection to him, but he doesn’t come across as trustworthy at all. Even when we begin to read from his perspective in Froi of the Exiles, he’s still not really able to trust himself. Froi’s character growth is incredible, though, and he ended up being my favourite character in the whole series.
Quintana, similarly, was a bit of a mystery to begin with, which made it difficult to get a real grasp of her character. She yo-yoed between extreme politeness, haughtiness, and wildness, and although this is something that was (ingeniously) explained as the series went on, it made her difficult to like in Froi of the Exiles. Again, though, she became much more understandable and sympathetic as the story went on, and more was revealed about her very unique situation.
Even if I didn’t like all of them, all of the time, all three characters were incredibly well-written and well-developed – and this was something that was also extended to the supporting characters in each book, who had distinct personalities, and sympathetic motivations, and felt very much like real people.
There are three (or possibly four) main romances in this series, all of which build and develop naturally, and which play an important part in the plot. That of Finnikin and Evanjalin, which develops over the course of all three books; Beatriss and Trevanion – Finnikin’s father and step-mother – who are trying to find their way back to each other after being separated for the years that the curse was active; Lucian and Phaedra, the Charynite girl he was forced to marry and spends much of the series resenting; and one final romance for Froi, whose counterpart I won’t mention, as – though not entirely unexpected – it’s potentially a little spoilery.
In fact, all of the romances in this series were rather predictable, but they were so well written that they never felt clichéd at all. Of the four, I was most invested in Lucian and Phaedra’s relationship, as it had the most dramatic tension, but it was also nice that they weren’t all full of drama, all the time.
With The Lumatere Chronicles, Marchetta was able to create a rich, engrossing world, complete with a fully-formed history and mythology, and, more importantly, she was able to introduce us to it in a way that felt natural, without resorting to massive info-dumps; the way people are able to get to know a new country after moving abroad – slowly, bit-by-bit.
Skuldenore itself was wonderful, with all the different countries having distinct cultures and outlooks on the world. The countries that were described in the most detail were, of course, Lumatere and Charyn, but significant effort has clearly also gone into creating places like Sarnak, Osteria, Sorel and Yutlind, as is evidenced by the fact that I remember them well, even though the characters spent very little time in any of them.
All three books were written in an unusual but excellent, fluid style that only got better as it went on. The pacing was very slow, however, and while I found that I didn’t mind that too much in the last two books (as they were building on a story and characters that I was already invested in), the early parts of Finnikin of the Rock were very difficult to get into. It was definitely a worthwhile struggle, but a struggle nonetheless.
OVERALL IMPRESSION [5/5]
A rich, entertaining story, with a memorable setting and wonderful characters. The writing is quite slow-paced, so it may be difficult to get into at the beginning, but it is absolutely worth the effort.
It’s difficult to find a good match for The Lumatere Chronicles books, as they’re so unlike anything I’ve ever read before. However, those who like their fantasies long, complex and epic (e.g. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien), with a dark but still heroic narrative (e.g. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss) should appreciate all the nuances of this series.