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.

September Wrap-Up

I was feeling a bit slumpy in September (and I’ve been super-busy at work), so I’m actually quite surprised by how many books I’ve managed to read: 4 novels – most of them quite chunky – and 1 novella! And, more importantly, I really loved almost all of them! ❤

Melina Marchetta//Froi of the ExilesFroi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta. The second book in the Lumatere Chronicles. This book follows Froi – one of the supporting characters from Finnikin of the Rock – on a mission in the enemy kingdom of Charyn, where a curse has taken hold, and no child has been born in 18 years… since the birth of Princess Quintana, whom the Charynites refer to as “Quintana the curse-maker”. I really enjoyed Finnikin of the Rock, but Froi of the Exiles was even better; the same brilliantly complex characters, and wonderful world, but built up even further, and a little easier to get into. I wish there’d been a bit more of Finnikin, but I really loved all the characters – new and old – who had parts in this new story. In particular, it was great to see how Beatriss and Trevanion’s relationship developed after their years apart, and the Charynite twins, Gargarin and Arjuro, were fascinating. The plot was wonderful, too; quiet or dramatic in all the right places, and there was a very sudden development right at the end of the book that made me very glad that I already had the sequel on my shelf, waiting to be picked up immediately. 😀5 stars

Melina Marchetta//Quintana of CharynQuintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta. The final Lumatere Chronicles book, and what a book it was! 😀 I obviously can’t say much about what happens, but all the story threads were tied up wonderfully, the romance (and this book is definitely the most romantic in the series) was great, and the writing beautiful. Froi of the Exiles is still probably my favourite of the three books, but it’s been a long time since I was this satisfied by the way a series ended. 🙂5 starsMichael Grant//Messenger of FearMessenger of Fear by Michael Grant. My Library Scavenger Hunt pick for September, which follows a teenage girl who wakes up in a mysterious place, remembering nothing of her life before. I was a little disappointed by this book, but I’ve already posted a mini-review explaining why.2 starsPhilip Pullman//Lyra's OxfordLyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman. A short story set a while after the end of the His Dark Materials trilogy, in which Lyra and Pan come across a witch’s daemon being attacked by a vicious flock of birds, and set out to help it on its mission. Obviously, this comes nowhere close to matching the sheer brilliance of the main series, but it was really lovely to be back in the His Dark Materials universe (and I believe I said something quite similar after reading Once Upon a Time in the North, too 😉 ), and it was doubly nice to be reading about Lyra again, at to see what’s been going on in her life, and how much she’s changed (a hint: not too much). The story was interesting, too, though I wish it’d been longer.4 starsWinston Graham//DemelzaDemelza by Winston Graham. The second book in the Poldark series, which is set in a Cornish mining community towards the end of the eighteenth century, and follows various members of the Poldark family, who are landed gentry fallen on hard times due to the falling price of the copper from their mines. I actually started reading this book sometime last year (pretty much immediately after finishing Ross Poldark, I think), but ended up putting it aside when I got distracted by other books – but I’m really glad that I’ve finally finished it! I really love the drama in this series, and the romance, and all the politics/economics (which is not something that I ever thought I’d find myself thinking) of the community where the main characters live. I had already seen the whole of the first series of the TV adaptation (which covers the events of the first two books in the series) before I started Demelza, so I already knew what was going to happen, but I found that it made me anticipate each new development, rather than making the story seem tedious.5 stars

Teaser Tuesday #7

Melina Marchetta//Quintana of CharynTHE RULES:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I’m currently reading Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta, the third and final book in The Lumatere Chronicles, which I decided I needed to finish near the end of last month – I read the first book last year, but the series got left by the wayside while I was waiting for books two and three to arrive from Amazon… I’m about a third of the way through at the moment (or perhaps a little less), and I’m really enjoying it so far (though I fear I may be falling into a slight reading slump); Marchetta has done a masterful job of weaving together complex characters and worlds and plotlines, and showing that there are a hundred sides to every story.

Teaser #1:

Being Evanjalin had trained her for years and years not to cry. It’s how she differed from the rest of the Monts. But he could see that she was still broken inside.

Teaser #2:

“Well, I’m to blame for many things, so I try to make it easier on the gods and take responsibility for all of them.”

“Even for the war in the kingdom of Yutlind?” Froi teased.

“Oh, yes, my fault. Shouldn’t have told the northern king that he was far more handsome than his southern cousin.”

[Teaser Tuesday was created by MizB over at A Daily Rhythm.]

January Haul

At the beginning of the year, I visited Chloë (of SSJTimeLord and Her Books) in London and went on a ridiculous shopping spree, spending basically all my Christmas money. Somehow, though, I managed to only buy one book – despite stoping at Waterstones and Forbidden Planet, two of my favourite places to buy books. That is, until a spontaneous trip to a second Waterstones, where I got a bit carried away, and ended up using all of my accumulated Waterstones points, as well as a not-inconsequential amount of actual money… ^^’

And then there were, of course, a few more things that I picked up here and there… I didn’t even realise quite how many books I’d bought until the time came to put them all together. But, oh well! I figure that I’m still making up for my uncharacteristic self-restraint in December. 😉

January haul

On the plus side, I’m still reading more than I’m buying! Just.

1) The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. His new(-ish) book, which I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for what seems like an age! Chloë ordered this for me, as part of a multi-buy deal on The Book People’s website – and since I don’t get to see her in person that often, it’s taken a while to reach me. ^^’ Hopefully it’ll be worth the wait!

2) Rebel SpringGathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes. The second and third books in the Falling Kingdoms series, which I started reading at the tail-end of last year. I’ve already read Rebel Spring, and I’m really looking forward to starting on Gathering Darkness soon!

3) A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. A re-telling of the A Thousand and One Nights fairytale, which I wasn’t initially planning on getting, since I’ve heard some pretty mixed things about it… But I saw it, and it was just too beautiful to pass up. 😳 (As I keep saying, self-control is not my strong point.)

4) Lorali by Laura Dockrill. A mermaid story that I bought on a whim. I should definitely read more mermaid books, and for some reason I have a good feeling about this one.

5) Froi of the Exiles Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta. The two follow-ups to Finnikin of the Rock, which I read in December and absolutely loved. I got a bit sidetracked by other series in between reading Finnikin of the Rock and buying these two, which is the only reason I haven’t started on them yet… but hopefully I’ll be able to get to them in the not-too-distant future! 😀

6) The GiftThe RiddleThe Crow by Alison Croggon. The first three books in the Books of Pellinor series (which may actually just be a trilogy; I’m a bit shaky on the details, though I do know that there’s at least one more book associated with these three). I don’t know much about these, except that they’re YA fantasy, but I picked them up second-hand, so they were super-cheap, and they look pretty interesting.

7) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. A space adventure story following the crew of a ship that creates wormholes. I’ve already read this book – and reviewed it!

8) Uprooted by Naomi Novik. A slightly late Christmas present from my aunt and uncle, which I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I don’t know all that much about the story, but it’s a standalone novel from one of my favourite YA fantasy authors, and that’s enough to get me interested. 🙂

9) Star Wars: Identities: Exhibition Catalogue. This is exactly what it sounds like – I went on holiday to Vienna towards the end of January, and happened to stumble across a really fun Star Wars exhibition that was going on… and then I bought the catalogue. You can find out more about the exhibition at the Star Wars: Identities website.