|Australian cover, but I prefer this one!|
"Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...
Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.
And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen."
First and foremost, I love great settings. And clearly, so does Melina Marchetta. All the places in this book are beautiful in their own way. Every single place in this book enhances the story. It wouldn't be the same book without these exact caves and palaces and forests and streams.
And the plot. Once it gets going (which doesn't take long), there's barely a second to breathe because things are just happening. Constantly. In a good way. I never knew how to feel about anyone. Their histories and motives and plans are revealed piece by piece, constantly evolving, and I was as confused as poor Froi about who could be trusted.
When I started reading this, my biggest worry was that I wouldn't like it because of Froi. He's the main POV character, as you can guess from the title (although, don't worry! There are bits from other POVs, too; Finnikin and other beloved characters from Finnikin of the Rock still have roles). Froi was a character I did not find quite so beloved in the first book. If you've read it, you know why. But in this book, I very much liked him. He struggles, but his heart is in the right place, and he does a lot of things right. I felt like I understood him.
The other new characters are wonderful, too. Especially Quintana, the Charyn princess. She's had it very rough, and it shows (the book summary is not joking when it refers to her as "half-mad"), but I really felt for her, and even liked her. The book summary also refers to the Charynites as "a damaged people" and that does pretty much sum up every single character in this book.
Which leads me to the only thing about this book: it's dark. Really dark. There is a lot of murder--or probably slaughter is more accurate, in some places--and a lot of rape. A. lot. To be fair, most of the rape that comes up happened in the past and is just still affecting people (for obvious reasons), so at least you're not witnessing it as the reader, most of the time, and it definitely was relevant to the world and was well-handled, but sometimes I had to take a break from reading because the bleakness started getting to me. I don't think it should deter anyone from the book (although if you find rape triggering, it may not be a good book for you. Also if you found Finnikin of the Rock too dark for your liking, or even almost too dark, you probably will want to skip this one), but it's a book to go into knowing that you'll be reading about more darkness than light. All in all, this book is wonderful, beautifully written, and well worth your time.
Sidenote: we are having a Highway Cafe chat tonight! See this post for more information, and hope to see you there!