April 4, 2013

Book Review: Quintanna of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

I have to warn you that this review might be a bit of a love letter, or a rant, or a rave, or a very strange mix of all three.

But first, let me get some stuff out of the way!

US Edition
Quintana of Charyn is the third and likely last full length book* of the Lumatere Chronicles series which at first tells the story of Lumatere (a smallish but prosperous kingdom whose royal family is massacred, an event followed by 10 years of very bad stuff) and then adds the story of Charyn (the kingdom that orchestrated massacre of the royal family, but whose inhabitants possibly have an ever rawer deal - and curse - than the Lumaterans).

It's a very complex story, with lots of sub plots and lots of characters and it's not one of those stories that you can just pick up in the middle. TRUST ME.

Having said that, Quintana of Charyn is a great and epic story where all the stuff you have been learning and feeling and thinking since Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles finally comes to a head.

The story starts pretty soon after the ending of Froi (or at least I think so, I'm a bit hazy with the timeline of the Epilogue) and things just start happening. Froi and Quintana are separated by a lot of distance and circumstances, and in some ways they spend the bulk of the book trying to get back to each other.

As this plays out there are many other plots and subplots moving afoot and I have to give Melina Marchetta major props for keeping all these treads - big and small - on a tight leash, everything that happens matters one way or another.

Actually, there was this scene near the end of the book that has to do with something minor that happened in Froi that made me cry so hard, and I get teary eyed just remembering that scene. It just guts me.

Anyway, since I'm not going to spoil the conclusion of the story for you guys, I'm just going to say that, over all, I found the book to be great. Froi is still my favorite book of the series but I'm happy with where things ended.

I did have a couple of problems with Quintana though. The first one is minor, and is mostly born out of my selfish longing for wanting the couples I love spend more time together on the page, just because I like seeing people be happy after all the suffering (and to clarify, you do get some of this, but I just (selfishly) wished for a bit more).

The second trouble is a bit bigger: I freaking hate Isaboe and her daughter Jasmina. There, I said it!!
I know a lot of people like Isaboe but, boy, she just rubs me the wrong way. For me, and this is MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION AND JUST THAT, Quintana got a much rawer deal in life than Isaboe did (though admittedly neither of their lives has been a walk in the park), yet Isaboe is actually the one that whines about it the most.

People LOVE her, she's the freaking Queen of Lumatere and yet she's so hell bent on revenge and tends to see the people of Charyn as this "Other" thing that don't quite deserve her compassion. She's not all that bad, and I don't hate her like I do the actual villains of the story, but she irritates the bejesus out of me.

Same goes for her daughter. Every single thing I hate about children in books is embodied in Jasmina. Again, JUST MY OPINION, but yeah, each time she was around or was mentioned I clenched my teeth. And I don't hate children in books, I love Vestie in this story, she's awesome. Go, Vestie!!

Now, back to the good stuff and to end in a sweet note: have I mentioned that all the characters I loved going into Quintana I LOVE even more after Quintana? no? well, I totes do. Melina writes some of the best adults/parents in the history of fiction, these aren't some stock/token characters or carton cut outs put there to foil our younger, more intrepid protagonists. Hell, no!

They are people with lots of flaws and virtues, who make mistakes and love their children and are just trying to do the best they can with the (often) shitty hand they have been dealt. Beatriss, Trevanion, Perri, Tesadora, Lord and Lady A, Lirah, Gargarin, Arjuro and DeLancey (to mention a few) are three dimensional characters and they totally make their presence felt! They matter to the story.

Aussie Edition
Second shout out? The Last Borns!! I FREAKING LOVE YOU GUYS!! I've mentioned it before, but these kids just slay me. No one really expected much of them, they could have skated through life just being adored, but instead they recognize that what's happening to Quintana isn't right (in book two) and they decide to do something about it even though they don't have the means or skills to do it. That's SO not going to stop them. Not all of them are perfect, I definitely have my favorite(s) but yeah, I love the Last Borns. And they keep the awesome going in Quintana of Charyn.

And I'm not even going to start with Phaedra and Lucian because a) SPOILERS!! and b) This is already to long as it is. I can just go on and on about how much I love those two.

In closing: If you're a fantasy fan, go read this series. If you are not, then go read it anyway. It's fantasy but with really strong characters, a complex plot that isn't overly complicated and terrific writing. Quintana of Charyn will be released on April 23, 2013, and thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for the e-galley.

starstarstarstar1/2Personal Favorite
* There is a short story about Lady Celie of the Flatlands , published by the Australian review, and rumor is that there might be another one. 

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