Series Review: The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta (Spoiler-Free)

FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK / FROI OF THE EXILES / QUINTANA OF CHARYN5 stars

Melina Marchetta//Finnikin of the RockSUMMARY

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. 

Melina Marchetta//Froi of the ExilesSTORY [5/5]

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.

Melina Marchetta//Quintana of CharynCHARACTERS [5/5]

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.

ROMANCE [4/5]

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.

WORLD-BUILDING [5/5]

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.

WRITING [4/5]

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.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

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.

December Wrap-Up

My first post of 2016! (Though I’ll probably still be talking about last year – and isn’t that odd to say? – for a little while longer.) I read nine books in December, which wasn’t my best reading month in 2015, but what it lacked in quantity, it definitely made up for in quality! 😀 And my reading was also pretty sci-fi-heavy, which isn’t something that’s ever happened to me before… But anyway, on to the books:

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//IlluminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. A sci-fi thriller that follows two teenagers who – after being evacuated from an illegal mining planet that was under attack – are attempting to reach safety with a group of damaged ships, and pursued by their attackers, whose ship is in significantly better shape than theirs. Interestingly, this story is told almost entirely in the form of data files and IM transcripts, and the such, which I was initially worried that I would find off-putting, but somehow it didn’t make me feel distant from the characters at all (and actually, since the files had personal details of everyone on board, I think it actually made the characters seem more real to me, not less). In terms of the story itself, it was fantastic, and tense, and full of surprises, and incredibly powerfully written. I would definitely recommend this, even for people like me who aren’t generally fans of sci-fi.5+ starsChristine Pope//Blood Will TellBlood Will Tell by Christine Pope. The second book in the Gaian Consortium series, which follows the hacker Miala Fels, who’s in the middle of trying to break into the bank accounts of her father’s murderer (the crime lord Mast), when he and his entire gang are killed in a shoot-out – except for the mercenary Eryk Thorn, who Miala saves in exchange for his help getting off-planet. I’ve always found Christine Pope’s writing rather hit-or-miss, but this is definitely one of the better ones! I really loved both Miala and Thorn, and their relationship dynamic was great. The plot was also pretty fun (especially in the first half of the book), though nothing special in itself – the romance is definitely the selling point for this series.4 starsLauren Oliver//Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver. A contemporary novel that I’ve been meaning to read for the longest time… It’s about a teenage girl called Sam, who dies in a car accident on her way home from a party one night – and then wakes up again (and again, and again), the morning before it happened. Time loops have, of course, been done to death in literature, but I found that I really liked Oliver’s take on it: Every time Sam relives her last day, she does things a little differently, and learns new things about herself, and the people around her, and this allowed for some really incredible character development. The characters themselves were brilliant – they were very realistically portrayed, and I found that I actually really liked all of them, even though most of Sam’s friends (and even Sam herself) aren’t always the most likeable people. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending (not because it was bad, but because it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to), but overall, it was an interesting and enjoyable read. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read by following this link.4 stars

Christine Pope//The Mandala ManeuverThe Mandala Maneuver by Christine Pope. The fourth book in the Gaian Consortium series (which is a companion series, and doesn’t need to be read chronologically), following a human diplomat called Alexa, whose shuttle is attacked, stranding her on the strange, inhospitable planet of Mandala with Lirzhan, the Zhore ambassador – but very soon they discover that not all is as it seems on Mandala. This was one of the less interesting books in the series, though the plot initially seemed to have some promise. Unfortunately Alexa and Lirzhan were both rather bland, which rather killed the story for me. :/ I might have enjoyed this more, however, if I’d read it before I read Breath of Life (the first book in the series, which is also about a human-Zhore couple), but the characters and relationship in The Mandala Maneuver felt very similar to in Breath of Life.2 starsMarissa Meyer//FairestFairest by Marissa Meyer. The prequel to the Lunar Chronicles novels, which tells the story of Queen Levana, the series’ main antagonist. I was initially a bit nervous about reading this, as I’d heard a lot of mixed reviews, but – much to my surprise – I ended up really liking it! 😀 It was also my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for December, so I’ve written a mini-review which you can read here. 🙂5 starsMelina Marchetta//Finnikin of the RockFinnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. The first book in the Lumatere Chronicles, which follows Finnikin, a Lumateran boy who’s searching for a way to help his people return to their homeland, which has been taken over by a tyrant, and is surrounded by a magical barrier that kills anyone who tries to cross it – and then one day he meets a girl called Evanjalin, who swears that the rightful heir to the throne is still alive. I struggled to get into this book at first: The narrative took some getting used to, and Marchetta seemed quite fond of switching perspectives without warning, which could be confusing at times. The story itself is wonderful, however, and I really, really loved the main characters, Finnikin and Evanjalin, and although the big reveal near the end of the story didn’t exactly take me by surprise, it was so well-executed that I found that I didn’t really mind. Even Froi grew on me, which is fortunate, since he’s apparently the main character in the second book… ^^’ And, as with many slow-burn fantasy books, I got a lot more invested as the story went on – for the last 200 pages or so, I had real difficulty putting it down!5 starsTakashi Hiraide//The Guest CatThe Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. A short novel about a couple who befriend their neighbours’ cat, Chibi, and how she changes their lives and way of thinking. An enjoyable story, though I’m not really sure how to explain it… It was slow-paced, meandering and quite whimsical, but I found myself liking all the characters a lot. This isn’t the kind of book I’d usually read, but was still definitely worth reading, and I’d recommend it for fans of literary fiction.3 starsMarissa Meyer//WinterWinter by Marissa Meyer. The fourth and final book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and the first book I completed for the Holiday Booktubeathon (for which I didn’t write a dedicated wrap-up because I was too pressed for time…). Obviously, anything I could say about the plot would make this place spoiler central, so I won’t, but I can talk about the characters, who were all wonderful. Scarlet and Wolf, in particular, really shone through in this book, which was something of a surprise to me, as they have, until now, been my least-favourite (main) characters in the series – and I also really liked the friendship between Scarlet and Winter. Winter herself wasn’t quite as awe-inspiringly crazy as she appeared to be at the end of Cress, but I still absolutely loved her. 😀 Getting to know Jacin a bit better was also wonderful, as were all the returning characters… My only real complaint about this book is that I wish it had been longer (and since it was already over 800 pages, that complaint seems a little unreasonable), so I’m definitely going to be getting the novella bind-up, Stars Above, when it’s out, as it apparently contains an epilogue-type story (amongst others, of course).5 stars

Emma Mills//First & ThenFirst & Then by Emma Mills. A contemporary romance that’s half Pride & Prejudice, and half Friday Night Lights: It follows a girl called Devon in her last year of high school, as she copes with: college applications; her younger cousin, Foster, coming to live with her; an embarrassing, long-time crush on her best friend Cas; and her developing feelings for Ezra, the captain and star of the school football team. I’ve never been a huge fan of American football, and since I’d heard this book compared to Friday Night Lights, I suspected that it’d be fairly central to the plot, but although it was undoubtedly important to the story, I found that it felt more like a backdrop to everything else that was going on, which I liked; I definitely wouldn’t recommend that anyone read this book purely for the football aspect. As for the aforementioned “everything else”, it was all really great. I loved Devon, and really identified with her; Foster was adorable, and their relationship progression was both realistic and incredibly sweet; Ezra – the Mr. Darcy of the story – was a wonderful combination of swoon-worthy and socially-awkward (my favourite kind of love interest! 😉 ). It was a shame that the book wasn’t longer (my copy is 267 pages long), however, as I would’ve liked to have seen more of Emir – a character who showed up at the beginning, then disappeared until near the end, when he became surprisingly important to the plot – and also of Ezra and Devon as a couple.5 stars

October Haul

Once again, I managed to accumulate quite a lot of books in October – and most of them were new releases, which is unusual for me. There’ve just been so many books released recently that I really, really wanted to read… 😳 Hopefully my book-buying will slow down for a while after this, but for now, here’s my October haul:

October haul

1) Magnus Chase & the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. The first book in the new Norse mythology series, Magnus Chase & the Gods of Asgard. I’ve been excited for this book since I heard it was going to be a thing, and although I’m not really in the mood for more Percy & co. at the moment, I’ve heard really fantastic things from those who have already read it. 😀

2) Percy Jackson & the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan. A book I put off buying because of my (now failed) book-buying ban… I was thinking of waiting for this to come out in paperback, simply because I don’t have all that much space left on my bookshelves, but eventually I decided I’d rather have it match my (hardback) copy of Percy Jackson & the Greek Gods

3) Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. The new illustrated edition! 😀 Need I say more?

4) The Princess & the Captain by Anne-Laure Bondoux. The only book in this batch that I bought on impulse, and don’t really know anything about. I believe it’s a pirate book, and since I found it second hand, it was super-cheap. I was mostly drawn to it because of the swashbuckling that I assume it contains. Who doesn’t love swashbuckling? Not me. 😛

5) The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare. The second book in the Magisterium series, which I’ve been excited for since I read The Iron Trial this time last year. This one follows Cal and his friends in their second year of magical schooling, but I know little more about it than that.

6) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. A kind-of companion novel to Fangirl (the characters in this are the ones that Cath was writing fanfiction about in that book), in which Simon Snow returns for his last year at Watford School of Magicks, and is tasked with having to save the magical world. I’ve already read this one – you can read my review of it here.

7) Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. The first book in the Lumatere Chronicles, a YA high fantasy series that I’ve heard really incredible (but vague) things about. I picked this up mostly as a pick-me-up on a particularly rubbish day, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet… 😦 Soon, hopefully.

8) Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan. The most recent instalment in this amazing space-odyssey graphic novel series, and (in my opinion) the best one yet. I will say no more, because spoilers.

9) Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton. A second collection of short comics from Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant web-series. I’ve finished reading this one, too, and it may even be better than the first book (which is a difficult thing to achieve)… There was a little less history in this volume, though (or at least, less history that I didn’t understand), and a bit more literature, so that probably accounts for it. 🙂


And now, as a little extra, I have an additional mini-haul for you, since on Halloween morning, my cousin and I decided to drop in on the Cambridge Comic Art Festival at my local library. As per usual, I bought more than I probably should have (and most of it from the same artist’s stall), but I regret nothing. I’ve read all of these already, so if you’re curious about my thoughts, then you can take a look at my October wrap-up, and, when it’s up, my November one.

Cambridge Comic Art Festival haul

1) Adventure Time 2015 Spoooktacular by Hanna K. A short one-shot comic that follows Marceline from the Adventure Time cartoon series, and an adorable dog.

2) The Fabulous Adventures of a Gallant Gentleman by Emma Vieceli. Another one-shot comic, this one about an Antarctic explorer who wanders off in search of tea (as one does). A really, really fantastic read.

3) Dragon Heir Reborn, Volume 1 by Emma Vieceli. A high fantasy comic that follows a group of young men who carry inside them aspects of the dragon Spiratu’s soul.

4) The Avalon Chronicles, Volume 1: Once in a Blue Moon, & Volume 2: The Girl & the Unicorn by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. The first two books in a(nother) fantasy series, about a girl from our world who one day gets sucked into a book that her parents used to read to her as a child. The art in this one is also by Emma Vieceli, and it’s beautiful.

Finally, since I spent so much money at Emma Vieceli’s stall ( 😳 ), she also gave me a sampler of her new webcomic (with Malin Ryden), Breaks, for free. And it may only be a sampler, but it’s pretty high-quality, and I’m really liking what I’ve read of the story so far, so I’ll be hanging onto it. 🙂 If you’ve a mind, you can read the webcomic here – it’s a not-so-cute contemporary romance series.