In Froi of the Exiles, we discover one of the characters has been flayed and branded. My heart feels a bit like that character: wounded, aching, but somehow distilled down to a sadder, wiser version of itself.
Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana was the first book that made me weep for the characters’ pain and sacrifice for those they love. Finnikin of the Rock was the second. In Froi, Melina has taken a difficult, abrasive, arrogant, violent main character and made him the truest, most stubborn of everyone.
She also takes a Queen and makes her into a crazed, mad, thing that somehow is exactly what Charyn needs to survive the destruction of its royal house.
Finn and Isaboe are busy rebuilding Lumatere. Meanwhile, they send their orphan street-boy friend, no grown into a soldier, into Charyn to assassinate the mad king that supported the false Lumatere king that broke both those imprisoned inside Lumatere and those exiled outside.
Only Froi will discover not the Charyn king, but a pair of broken brothers: one god-touched, the other the epitome of sacrifice, and uncover a complicated tale of prophecies and last-born children.
For Charyn has been cursed and its people bear no children. Only the last-born from each province have a chance to heal the curse.
Marchetta is a master at making us love her broken creations, and then she tortures them before our eyes with misunderstandings and the mistaken withholding of love. The book ends on a cliffhanger– Froi and the Queen’s fates are in doubt and there might be a war coming even and Finn and Isaboe can not stop.
There is some meandering in this book, especially between the time Froi and the Queen reach an agreement in the Palace and when the Palace falls. I can forgive Marchetta because I am aware each page turned is one less to read and despite the heartache, I am loathe to withdraw from the noble suffering and practical courage of Lumatere.
But it will take a bit of time to recover before I can read the next book.