Froi of the Exiles: an extended review

I usually write reviews in 100 words. This is because while I read many books, I don’t really want to dissect them too much. I enjoy story, I enjoy style, but I don’t want to analyse something that I love in case it ruins the experience for me.

The problem with writing 100-word reviews is that it doesn’t leave a lot of space to really get into a book.

Froi of the Exiles is one such book. I have written five lots of 100-word reviews and none of them really say what I want them to say. None of them really explain why I feel how I feel.

I read Froi for the second time this year. I was given an advanced copy last year and read it over two days. But I read it so fast, I missed so much. I forgot so much.

The emotions in this story are what holds it together. We met Froi in Finnikin of the Rock (book one of the Lumatere Chronicles), and he was a thief. He couldn’t speak any language, he spat in people’s faces, he was dirty and ragged; he had no home, no family and no love. Then Isaboe and Finnikin came along and took him home with them. Afterall, he had to be an exile. He was young enough that it made sense–a child locked out of their country by a curse with no family. What else would a child do but live on the streets?

Three years later, Froi has family. He lives with a lord and the lord’s family and farms in his land. He lives with Queen Isaboe of Lumatere and her king Finnikin, and trains in the Queen’s Guard. He speaks all the languages of the land. He’s been trained as an assassin and he’s a very good one at that.

So when the Queen sends him to Charyn to kill the king responsible for the murders of her royal parents and siblings when she was young, he goes without question. Afterall, he owes the Queen his life, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do for his Queen.

“Do what must be done.”

What happens when ‘what must be done’ breaks his word to his queen? Breaks his word to those he trusts with his life and trusts theirs to him? What happens when ‘what must be done’ breaks him in half where he belongs to all and none all at once?

Froi finds comfort in the insanity of the Princess of Charyn, of the boys with no skills wanting to protect her and in the family he didn’t know existed. Simultaneously, he finds comfort in knowing his home is two days away and that there are people there who love him.

Even after all that, it’s still quite difficult to describe what Froi’s story means to me. Froi of the Exiles, the book, builds on and enhances the world and characters created in Finnikin of the Rock, the book. I adored Finnikin of the Rock, the book and the character. But I’m irrevocably attached to Froi, the book and the character. The strength of the emotions that bind this story together make me sob at two in the morning. Froi believes he’s a Lumaterean–what if he’s not? He finds love, trust, family and friendship in both countries, yet an undercurrent of pain, betrayal and nostalgia plague the people. His heart belongs to those in Lumatere; his blood sings for those in Charyn. Can he choose? Can he survive belonging to both? A devastating story about finding out who you really are and if it is worth the journey.

Someday, I wish someone will write a review about my work with no meaning, a review that doesn’t really say anything, but just with raw emotion because there are no words. There is just the devestating look on one’s face when they think about the book that tears open a heart and lets it pour out on the floor. Well done, Ms Marchetta, well done.