Quintana of Charyn
by: Melina Marchetta
I may have marathoned this series, but I still feel as if I've known these characters for quite a long time. The depth of this series is really astonishing. There are connections made between all the different characters that were meaningful and inspiring. It's such a bittersweet feeling to have reached the end of this story, but I know I'll be re-visiting Lumatere and Charyn in the future.
Phaedra: I just loved her more and more and more as it went on. Her friendship with Quintana was really wonderful. I loved seeing them go through the transition from not trusting each other to girls who looked out for each other. I teared up reading Quintana's letter to her before Phaedra entered the valley. And her dedication to watching over "the little king" was absolutely precious.
Phaedra and Lucian were just as wonderful together. I was a big proponent of their relationship in Froi of the Exiles, but in this book it actually came to fruition. I also loved their courage in the decision to put the needs of their people first, that's what they had to do as leaders. And they didn't take it personally or make it unnecessarily dramatic, they took it in stride and dealt with their separation as well as they could.
More than that, both their reunion after she had been in the caves for a while and they finally forgave each other and their reunion after Phaedra came back from the Citavita were so cute and perfect. They tugged on the heart-strings for sure.
Besides the relationships that Phaedra had being wonderful, Phaedra by herself was a terrific character. She is one of the strongest and most realistic women in the series (which is saying a lot what with the incredible number of strong and realistic women in the series).
oh wow, if I keep going like this, this review is going to be wayyyy too long. So I'm going ot start combining characters to highlight certain things.
Lirah and Tesadora: I loved as more and more parallels kept being drawn between the two of them. Thy were both gorgeous but that didn't solve all of their problems and they didn't let it define them. All of Lirah's moments with Froi in this book were precious. I loved seeing her process into fully accepting Froi's new place in her life.
We saw more emotion from Tesadora in this book. We see her actually considering (if only for a second) a future with someone else. She felt deeply for Isaboe and Quintana and Phaedra. She helped them get through their trials and kept them strong through everything.
Quintana: The follow-through on Quintana's particular types of brokenness was exquisite even in the tiniest of details. For example, how she enjoyed catching her own food in the cave because she didn't have to worry about being poisoned again or how she hated have her head put under water because of her time with the soothsayer.
I love her voice. The way she thinks is so wonderful and it's consistent with how she's spoken aloud through all the books.
Her connection with Isaboe was really artful as well. There is a moment when they first met that it mentioned that they were both pregnant and I thought, "oh my goodness, they have so much in common and yet so much separating them." And I think that's what Melina Marchetta was going for with that scene. You're supposed to realize that they aren't all that different, except in circumstance.
And I really loved seeing her change through the series. She slowly learned that while she shouldn't change who she was for other people, but that sometimes you have to, as Tesadora says, "cushion your words." She learns more than that, though. She learns to truly love her people and how to be good to the people willing to help her. This was just proved by her setting up Florenza and Grijio with each other (which was beautiful and perfect and made my heart smile). Also through her mercy to both Olivier and Ginny. She finished the series well on her way to being a great ruler.
Isaboe (and Finnikin): Speaking of Isaboe and hardship, I definitely felt for her in this book. She's gone through so much already and in this book stuff happens that just proves her strength even more. But as Yata said, "She was strong enough."
Her and Finnikin's relationship just gets deeper and deeper with each book. They had tough times what with figuring out the Froi thing and learning more about being parents and rulers. I really loved seeing Finnikin in front of the Charyn Provincari and how confident and witty he was.
Froi: And if you want to know who I think we saw the most growth and development in through the series, I would without a doubt say Froi. He went from being a boy without hope or honor and he's grown into a man who is fit to lead people. A man who takes on that role and is willing to take risks for the people he loves in the world. He learns to trust so many and is trusted by even more.
He even is wise enough to put Finnikin in his place and give him advice about how to relate better to Isaboe.
In every single way Froi has become a character who can be respected and looked up to, and that was beautiful to see.
Pieces Coming Together:
These are all the little things that happened at the end that seriously made it wonderful. Here's a list of all the tiny, perfect details.
Tippideaux: I loved seeing her helping with all the pregnant women and organize everything in the Godshouse. She was perfect for the job.
Hamlyn and Arna: Quintana asking them for help melted my heart. Then them bringing in the horses for Hamlyn to care for. I had wanted to see more of them and was so glad to.
Rafuel: I will admit that I thought that we weren't going to see any ore of him after he got dragged off, but I should have known Melina Marchetta better by now. Of course she was going to finish off his story just as well as she finished everyone else's stories.
John of Charyn: This was the one that probably got to me the most. I mean, the revelation of who he was and how Arjuro and Froi responded to it was beautiful.
As I've said before (and am about to say again), I can't fully describe how beautiful and rich Melina Marchetta's writing is. But, trust me, it is. It is some of the best writing I've ever had the pleasure of reading. She was born to be a writer and I can only hope that I can grow to be as wonderful and thoughtful a writer.
Again, I can't describe how hard some of the moments can hit you. So I'm just going to list some here.
"Failure is more of a twin to me than my own brother."
"And I'll watch you closely, as will Finnikin. You and Lord August will be our guides. So when the time comes for our daughter to be given to a useless son of a foreign king to keep this kingdom safe, I'll know how to hold back my tears because I will have learned from you"
"Froi pulled free, viciously. "Since you sent me into Charyn to create holy hell. Isn't that what you'd call it, Perri? Because this is hell enough for me."
"She told me about her shame. If anyone understood that sort of shame, it was me...and her king. But she couldn't tell her king because their curse was that he had to share her pain twofold and she will never forgive herself for putting him through that...And do you know what else we spoke about? Not that she doesn't believe that her consort is a man of worth because he is less titled than his wife, but that her consort doesn't believe he is worthy. You have no idea what that does to her, you fool. Because you're too busy being proud. What an indulgent luxury pride is," he raged. " I would give my life to be the consort to the woman I love. I'd give my life to be her footman! Her servant. Any chance to stand close enough to protect her. Yet your queen asks you to sit on the throne by her side and it's all too degrading for you. You fool," Froi said bitterly. "You will drive her away."
"All I had to do was stop the horse and say, 'I think...' and they were racing back into woods to you."
"Sometimes I think that deep down there's an idiot inside of me who wants to laugh."
"Do you want to know this morning's wondrous thought according to Gargarin?" she asked. Gargarin looked uncomfortable.
Lirah stood before Froi and held a hand to his face. "He said, 'Well, at least the three of us are together.'"
"There it was. Suddenly the strangeness of Quintana of Charyn's face made sense. Because it was a face meant for laughing, but it had never been given a chance."
"I wanted to say, 'Your face has been taken by another, so I've forgotten the malice in your eyes and the bitterness of your mouth.'"
"It's a Lumateran thing...They travel in packs and trust one another with all their hearts."
"It suits you," Gargarin said.
"You were never able to break her. She is the stone of this kingdom."
"Will you be my wife?"
She looked taken aback.
"You're asking me?"
"Well, no one else is."
"You've outdone me twice now, you queen of forgiveness. The ring's a promise of peace and I'm greedy with hope. It's a song that we sing in a tongue that we share. And though you say it's a gift from a king to a king, I say it's a sign from a queen to a queen."
"What if she's all I give you in this life of ours, my love?" she asked quietly.
"Then I'll shout at the goddess in fury," he said fiercely. "I'll beg to know why I've been given so much when other men have so little."
"Land?" Froi whispered. "You're giving them land? I'm not worth the valley."
"You're worth a kingdom," Finnikin said, turning back to the crowd."
The way every story line was wrapped up and given hope, whether it be through a single conversation (Tesadora and Perri) or by a grand ceremony (Phaedra and Lucian) was heart-wrenching and fantastic. The bond Lucian, Finnikin, and Froi made at the end that was so reminiscent of the oath made by three young boys that started this whole series.
I love Melina Marchetta's insistence on ending stories, books, and series at a place other than the "happily ever after." She firmly believes in ending them on ordinary days and moments that highlight the little things (even the little problems). It shows that even after the heroic battle or after the giant ceremony there is life that comes after that. There are both good and bad moments and that the tiny things are the ones that make life the most worthwhile.
"But mighty men have moments of great despair that common people do not want to know about."
"And if the gods were to give me the choice between living a better life, having not met them, or a wretched life with the slightest chance of crossing their path, then I'd pick the wretched life over and over again."
"All he knew was that pain placed the wrong words into their mouths."
"Let's look at the side of wonder as opposed to the disastrous."
"Do you understand the power truth has to hurt?"
"Our spirit is mightier than the filth of our memories."
"She thought for a moment. "I'll hold him tight and tell him that we'll be wrong for this world together."
"Never underestimate the power of our raw emotion."
"I'd suffer it all again just to know that moment was there in my life."
"You said to me once that you weren't what I dreamed of. You were right. You surpass everything I dreamed of. Even the rot in you that's caused you to do shameful things. Some men let the rot and guilt fester into something ugly beyond words. Few men can turn it into worth and substance. If you're gods' blessed for no other reason, it's for that."
"Death chose the powerful and the weak. It chose the seamstress, and it chose the queen. All the wealth in the world made no difference."
"The greatest prayer to the gods he could muster with a heart so broken. Don't let me outlive this woman. Don't let me exist one moment without her."