Review: Quintana of Charyn, Melina Marchetta

I actually forgot this book was happening, even though I read and loved Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles just last summer. I saw this one mentioned on Romance Novels for Feminists and immediately emailed Candlewick for a review copy. Which I now have! And it is up for grabs if anyone wants it, so ask in the comments if you’re interested. I’ll do a draw if I have more than one request. I beg you will not enter if you plan to try and read this book without reading the first two books first. You are only hurting yourself if you do that. [ETA: I’ve posted the book away now but you should still buy a copy because it’s good.] The series is kiiiiiind of like a much darker Queen’s Thief series. Speaking of that, when will Megan Whalen Turner have another book? I WANT ONE SO MUCH.

Since I reviewed neither Finnikin of the Rock nor Froi of the Exiles at the time, I will quickly run through the premise of the series. The premise is that many years ago, the country of Charyn invaded the country of Lumatere. The Lumateran royal family were brutally murdered, as were thousands of other residents of Lumatere, and a Charynite imposter took the throne. Furious at the slaughter of her people, a witch of Lumatere called down a terrible curse that prevented anyone from getting in or out of Lumatere, and stopped any Charynite women from having babies from that day forward. So that is the backstory, and then the series itself is about the aftermath of all this — how the Lumaterans and the Charynites have struggled to put themselves back together since the time of these horrors.

You know what I love, my dears? Conflicts about values! And also I love the Scouring of the Shire and Among Others. Which is why this series — and Melina Marchetta generally — is pleasing to me in spite of being (the lovely Julia might pull for the inclusion of a modifier like “cartoonishly” or “over the top” here) dark and full of sadness and pain. Marchetta’s books are not typically about The Event (whatever it might have been; in this case the war and its aftermath), but rather the fallout from The Event.

Marchetta is good at making you love characters who at first seem rotten through and through. At the end of Finnikin of the Rock, you may just about be willing to admit the possibility of Froi’s redemption, but you know you still hate all of Charyn. At the end of Froi of the Exiles, you adore Froi and totally understand why Finn and Isabel are so devoted to him, and you think Charyn might not be so bad after all but there definitely isn’t any way for it to ever have peace with Lumatere because it’s still mostly hateful. And, er, I won’t spoil the end of Quintana of Charyn, but I will say again that Melina Marchetta is wonderful and makes her characters act with painful, but believable, grace.

Like many Melina Marchetta books, there’s some barrier to entry with Quintana of Charyn. Marchetta jumps straight back into the action without a lot of “previously on” to assist you (which is why you should read it right after reading the first two! in a glorious binge, Ana!). She eventually does provide some background — like, this is who this guy is to Froi, this is what happened with Lucian and Phaedra, and so on — and I was able to jump back in the swing of things without too much difficulty. In the beginning our characters are much divided, by emotional and physical distance. Early in the book, Finnikin said Froi was dead to him, and I was just spiraling into premise denial when this happened:

“You returned for me, Finn. After everything you said…I’m surprised you were able to convince Perri and your father to return.”

Finnikin laughed. “All I had to do was stop the horse and say, ‘I think…’ and they were racing back into the woods to you.”

So then I was back in. I just hate it when people I love are in a fight. I do not read Melina Marchetta books for people to hate each other. I read them because people in Melina Marchetta books are — once they’ve bestowed their love — unswervingly loyal. My fave!

In a way, I enjoyed this third book less than the first two, maybe because a few things felt like a retread of emotional territory that was already covered in Froi of the Exiles and even in Finnikin of the Rock. But that’s okay. It’s been a while since those two books came out, and I had forgotten a lot of the stuff that happened in them.

As in the first two books, I loved watching the development of a cautious respect, then an intense love and loyalty, between the characters — in this case, between Quintana and the women who were guarding her. It’s great that Marchetta doesn’t feel the need to soften Quintana’s nastiness and weirdness, but just shows you that there are other sides to this damaged woman that make other characters’ devotion to her understandable.

And, of course, as with all Melina Marchetta books, I loved it that the thrust of the book seemed like it was going to be toward revenge and war, but instead it was toward forgiveness. (In the words of the super great Tony Kushner, forgiveness is where love and justice finally meet. Oh Tony Kushner you glorious genius.) And that is why I like Melina Marchetta even though many sad things (perhaps too many? one might argue?) occur in her books.

Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

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23 thoughts on “Review: Quintana of Charyn, Melina Marchetta

  1. Finnikin was almost too dark for me to take, and I’ve not yet had the courage to try Froi. But I’m hearing such nice things about this third one that I think I will have to press onward!

    • Guess what, I’m dumb. I wrote “e-book” by accident because most of my review copies lately have come to me through Netgalley. But not this one! This one is physical. So I shall consider that you have asked for it. :p

  2. Megan Whalen Turner! Oh geez, the world’s SLOWEST writer, lol. We’re all more than ready for another here… I love her stuff *so* much, to the point of having purchased 3 hardcovers of each of her books so when my kids move out they can take their own copies & leave mine for me forever. :-) But Melina Marchetta … I’ve read a few things by her, the early “real world” ones, namely Looking for Alibrandi and Jellicoe Road. I liked them a lot (though Jellicoe was emotionally draining, what with the father taking so long to die right at the beginning and all – holy cow, that was *brutal*), but when I tried Finnikin it just didn’t quite “take”. Of course I read it at a really crazy time in my life with my brain chock full of stressful stuff, which sometimes is great for escape reading but other times bad because one just can’t *concentrate*… I think I need to make another try… (Not asking for the book, by the way, because I’m not up to date with the series.) In my rambling way I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’ve twigged my memory as to this author and her fantasy world, and reminded me that I need to explore her stuff more, because I’ll probably love it once I let myself really get into it…

    • Hahahaha, I know! I want a thousand Megan Whalen Turner books, and there’s only one like every few years. It bums me out. I love her so.

      Re Finnikin not “taking” — Me too! Me too the first time. It starts out slow, and you have to keep pushing on through. Once I got past the first few chapters, I was able to enjoy it a lot, even though it was pretty punishingly dark.

  3. Okay, I’m convinced. Don’t enter me for your copy, though, because I’m putting this on my list of “a good series to read all at once when I can make time” and I want someone else to be able to get hooked, if this is as good as you say it is.
    Everything you say about this series makes me think of Supernatural. Everything.

    • Huh. I am realizing I have absolutely no idea what to expect from Supernatural. I know it’s dark, but I didn’t think it was dark in the way this series is dark. Hm hm hm.

      • I do not think it anything like supernatural, having just finished the first two books. But then, I don’t see the darker queen’s thief analogy either, so maybe I’m not good at this.

  4. Well, I love Megan Whalen Turner, and I have never even HEARD of this lady (apparently this was a problem to be remedied, so I thank you!) but I will not put my name in because I feel like I should go buy her first two books first, because you say not to read this one alone. & so far you have not lead me wrong. However, I did promise myself that I would not buy any more books until I read at LEAST half of the ones that I own and haven’t read, so until I give up on that craziness, I may have to put this one on standby for laterz.

    • Your standby plan seems really fair. When you do get to Melina Marchetta, I hope you like her! She has this series, which is fantasy, and then she has some non-genre YA books. All of her books are sort of slow to start, so be patient if you don’t love her right away. It’ll be worth it!

  5. OK, you’ve convinced me to give this author a try, and I like that there are already 3 books out. I am off to buy the first one, and then read it for the readathon if I can. You are an amazing source of all kinds of praise for books I have never heard about but MUST READ NOW! Great review today. Off to shop!

  6. I’m POWERLESS to resist a personalised recommendation from you (but I think you know that :P). The glorious binge will happen! And the best part is that I already have Finnikin of the Rock, so I’m one third of the way there.

  7. I hope its not too late to enter for a chance to win a copy of Quintana of Charyn because I would LOVE to enter! I love Melina Marchetta. I have never met her but I love her because of this trilogy. I first heard of Finnikin of the Rocks from a book blog because the blogger often compare this book to her favorites so I decided to read it. Finnikin of the Rocks was full of unexpected twists and turns and adventure. Melina is NOT predictable. I was smiling and laughing through it all. For Froi of the Exiles, it was refreshing to move the focus on different characters while the old favorites are still present. This trilogy combines everything I love in a book, adventure, love (no love triangle), magic, and kingdoms. This is why Finnikin of the Rocks and Froi of the Exiles are one of the few books that I still go back to just to read my favorite parts or heartbreaking moments. I honestly can’t wait to read Quintana of Charyn because I just don’t know how it will end. Writing this comment is making me want to read memorable parts of Finnikin of the Rocks again :D Also, I agree with you about the love in these novels. It really is “unswervingly loyal.” I hate it when the characters are like “I love you, but wait, I kind of like him, no, I decided, I like you.” Sorry for such a long comment, but Melina Marchetta’s books makes me so comment happy.

    • I realized I made a mistake instead of “I was laughing and smiling through it all” it should be “I was crying and smiling through it all.”

  8. I recently finished Froi of the Exiles so I can’t wait to read the next book. I’m interested in entering for a chance to win the book if its still going on. Thank you.

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