Froi of the Exiles  - Melina Marchetta How can I do justice to this book?

With a well-deserved 4.57 average rating over 1,484 ratings, what more can I say that hasn't been said?

This book is good. Really, really good. It's a book that will make your feel like your heart is being torn vein by vein out of your chest. It's a book that will fill you with fierce warmth and affection, and then dunk you in icy cold water with just one word. It's an emotionally exhausting journey, but it's one that I would endure again and again if I could.

Finnikin of the Rock was a fine novel, but Froi of the Exiles upped the ante. The scope was bigger, the heartaches more painful, and the characters darker. Three years after Lumatere's curse has been lifted, tensions between Charyn and Lumatere are at a breaking point. The new queen Isaboe and her consort Finnikin send Froi on a secret mission to Charyn. However, things get complicated as Froi uncovers terrifying secrets about this barren, cursed kingdom that force him to peer into this own dark soul.

The main driver of this book was the characters. Froi. Oh, Froi. It takes guts to make your main character so conflicted and dark. Marchetta never lets us forget Froi's sordid past, but his path to redemption was incredibly touching. Quintana was the other power player of this novel. I expected to feel sympathy and curiosity for this insane princess, but identifying with this dirty, unpolished, mentally unstable girl? Didn't expect that. Marchetta is the queen of turning freaks and exiles into heroes. I could go on and on about the others in the book all day. Lucien, Phaedra, Beatriss, Rafuel... Almost every person populating this novel was multidimensional and alive.

As always, Marchetta's writing is superb. She doesn't bullshit or mince words, but she evokes outpourings of emotion with just a sentence. Marchetta's power is in gestures and small acts of kindness and cruelty. The hesitation before a kiss, lifting the hem of a skirt just above the thighs, wrapping a dead spouse's shawl around your body... Marchetta evokes tears without tears.

Clocking in at around 600 pages, this is a long, ambitious novel. But don't let the length deter you--no part of this story dragged, and despite the number of issues that this book touches on, Marchetta gets her point across while never being preachy. Be warned that this is a book that deals with dark themes, but as always with Melina Marchetta, she explores these themes with insight and respect.

Read this book. And if you haven't, read Finnikin of the Rock as well. Even if they don't make you shed tears, the books will make your heart hurt and challenge you to think about some difficult issues. The Lumatere Chronicles really is a fantastic collection of novels, and Melina Marchetta is an amazing author who deserves more recognition.

Overall, A MILLION STARS, and highly recommended to everyone!