Book: Quintana of Charyn
Series: The Lumatere Chronicles, #3
Author: Melina Marchetta
Reviewed by: Ellyce
Rating: 5/5 stars
There is no doubt that there’s magic in the way that Melina Marchetta writes. She’s one of the few masters of her craft who makes crossing literary genres seem as simple as a stroll down the lane; her stories are painstakingly grown and tended to like a beautiful garden. In Quintana of Charyn, the stunning conclusion to The Lumatere Chronicles, she weaves a powerful story that is equal parts adventure, fantasy, self-discovery, romance, and so rawly human. Not many series are able to uphold a strong story throughout their entirety; there’s almost always a weak link somewhere in the books. But Marchetta once more surpasses all expectations, bringing the beloved story of Lumatere and its neighboring Charyn to a close with equal amounts of tears and laughter. (Thankfully, though, there’s more of the latter.)
Quintana of Chayrn picks off right after the events of its predecessor, Froi of the Exiles. It’s connected by six different narratives, some appearing more often than others, but all equally important and interconnected. There’s Quintana, who is hiding from those who wish to steal her and her child, or worse. Froi, last seen pierced by eight arrows, is recovering with the help of Arjuro and determined to find his beloved. We have Lucian, who is still in mourning over the supposed death of his Charynite wife, Phaedra. In actuality, Phaedra, along with a small group of women that she can’t seem to get along with, faked her death for a larger purpose. Meanwhile, Finnikin is sent by Isaboe (who is most vexed with him) on a mission for vengeance. The beauty of all these different points of view is not just that we get to see several sides of the same story.
Six narratives may seem like a bit much, but Marchetta pulls it off with her usual finesse, giving each of them a powerful voice that is distinctly their own. We’re shown that even our most beloved characters have flaws and stubborn prejudices that they refuse to realize. One of the most beautiful things about this series is that characters are not boringly static, but constantly growing. For instance, queens are not merely kindhearted souls, they are filled with a need for revenge and retaliation for the wrongs committed against their family. When the characters’ stories fuse together (and then apart), it’s a beautiful thing to see. By the end of the book, the journeys that all of the characters have undertaken are simply incredible, and they come out stronger and even more beloved to us than they were before.
In Froi of the Exiles, Marchetta was able to pull off what so many authors nowadays are attempting to achieve: with the exception of a few, most characters are morally grey; there are rarely purely good or purely evil people. Most writers who try to make their characters seem morally ambiguous end up with pathetically ho-hum caricatures, but Marchetta masterfully proves her point character after character.
In Quintana of Charyn, there are a number of characters who may be irritable or incredibly frustrating to the protagonists, but gradually we come to see that they are their own people driven by their own ideologies and cultures. A wonderful example of this is Florik, who at first appearance seems to be nothing more than a brutish bully. For a while, he simply lives up to the stereotype, doing all sorts of nasty things that just paint him as an unpleasant person. Even though Froi understands some aspects of why Florik acts the way he does, such as his culture and upbringing, he is still frustrated by the other’s exasperating behavior. Florik doesn’t remain confined by his archetype, however, and not only does he undergo changes as a character, he becomes someone we root for later on. There’s a message here: that we are all human, equal parts beloved and wretched in our own way, separated in our depiction only by who tells the tale.
This brings me to another point: that in most stories, minor characters are nothing more than that: a wisp in the background that we have trouble recollecting. In Quintana of Charyn, not only do previous minor characters such as Lucian and Phaedra become focal narrators, several of the side characters resound strongly in our minds as fully fleshed out and interesting in their own right. I know I keep on waxing on about Marchetta’s uniqueness as an author and all of her incredible writing skills, but it’s just so true. In all of her books, the background characters foster feelings that we typically might only give to the main ones. It’s not just the characters that serve as the sidekick or best friend, it’s the people in the back: we wonder about their motivations and yearn to know more of their story.
Some people may say that the closure and happy endings that occur at the end of the book don’t fit with the dark tone of the series or are too Disneyfied. However, haven’t the dear characters that we have watched go through numerous horrors and heartbreak been through enough? Do they not deserve happiness? Besides, it is not all just marigolds in one’s hair or evenings of contentment in cottages. Even though the characters may be enjoying peace, there is still a lot of work to be done. We see them dealing with the daily problems in their lives that come from having to rebuild a kingdom and start a peace and understanding between two healing nations.
In Quintana of Charyn, Marchetta has crafted a thoroughly absorbing finale to The Lumatere Chronicles, which is a vastly under appreciated fantasy series that isn’t afraid to show the ugliness of human nature. In turns savage, beautiful, cruel, and dismal, these books are not just about fantasy, but speak volumes about human relationships and realities. Many of the stories that occur could easily have happened in history, or even today. Marchetta shows us some of the worst atrocities that people can commit, but also demonstrates that there is kindness in the land of the tyrant and betrayal in the kingdom of the benevolent. Turning that last page of Quintana of Charyn is a bit (okay, a lot) bittersweet: you want to know what happens, but when it’s over it’s like saying farewell to a good friend. Of course, there’s always rereads, but there’s not quite anything like experiencing this series and its frequent twists and turns the first time ’round: equal parts heart-pounding, exhilarating, and incredibly moving.
From the lovely 132 Minutes, we bring you the cover reveal of the US version of Quintana of Charyn:
Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Pre-order: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Book Depository
“The climactic conclusion of Printz Award winner Melina Marchetta’s epic fantasy trilogy!
Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi and his companions travel through Charyn searching for Quintana and building an army that will secure her unborn child’s right to rule. While in the valley between two kingdoms, Quintana of Charyn and Isaboe of Lumatere come face-to-face in a showdown that will result in heartbreak for one and power for the other. The complex tangle of bloodlines, politics, and love introduced in Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles coalesce into an engrossing climax in this final volume.”
ETA: Our review got mentioned in Melina Marchetta’s first post at her new blog. Check it out! 🙂