Author: Melina Marchetta
Read: April, 2016
Marchetta builds on the world she crafted in this book’s predecessor Finnikin of the Rock, creating an exciting adventure centring on the character of Froi as he undertakes a mission into an enemy kingdom, Charyn. However, I felt that this instalment lacked the same focus that drove Finnikin of the Rock – at times, it felt like we were meandering before continuing on with the actual plot.
I was surprised by Froi’s character in this book as well. After the events of the first novel his character had left a bitter taste in my mouth. I understood that he’d had a difficult childhood living on the streets of another Kingdom and that this has irrevocably impacted his behaviour, but the manner in which Marchetta used his character’s attempted rape of another character as a mere plot device in the first book left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable. Part of the reason why is that it felt, even more so now after reading Froi of the Exiles, out of character – yes Froi is harsh and violent, but he does seem to have some form of moral compass. Which is why the attempted rape in Finnikin of the Rock bothered me so much; if Marchetta had been consistent with his character’s actions, whilst I would have still found them unpalatable, they would have at least seemed less like a gaping plot device. Furthermore, how she depicted the other characters’ reactions to rape was also lacking in depth and emotional consequence.
To be honest, Marchetta’s handling of such a sensitive subject as rape remained problematic for me in Froi of the Exiles. I do believe that the issue of rape/consent deserves to written about and discussed, but in a sensitive, well thought out and accurate manner. At times, you see glimmers of emotional insight, but there remains instances when the whole thing feels contrived and solely there to add shock/disgust. Unless you’re trying to express something significant about the issue of rape, please don’t use it, repeatedly, to elicit some kind of response from a reader and/or move the plot along.
On the other hand, I did enjoy the way Marchetta continues to portray the ideas of identity and belonging through analysing the importance of family and blood, as well nationality. It’s probably what bothers me even more about these books – there are parts of them I greatly admire, and Marchetta’s writing style itself is very readable and engaging, but how she portrays other issues with such a lack of depth leaves me feeling really conflicted.
“…the greatest weapon against big stupid men was a sharp mind.”
“‘Are you an idiot, or an idiot?’ Gargarin hissed.
‘The first one. I really resent being called the second.’”
If you like this, try:
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder