For the past three years, Froi has made his home in Lumatere, as part of the Queen’s Guard. He lives with a family in the Flatlands, working the fields. He trains and has a bond with the captains of the guard. He struggles with his past as a slave boy and thief, but for the most part he’s happy.
Then, a Charynite (the country next to Lumatere, and the one behind the false king and Lumatere’s misery; that story is in Finnikin of the Rock) makes his way across the Lumatere border and offers a chance for the Lumaterians — specifically for Froi — to see revenge and assassinate the Charyn king.
As it turns out, things aren’t all that great over in Charyn. Eighteen years ago, someone ravaged their top religious leader, the oracle, killing all the priests. In response, the king burned an entire province to the ground, killing everyone. A curse was laid upon them, and ever since then, the Charynites have been barren. The only salvation is in the princess Quintana, the last of the Last Born, who has been prophesied to bear the first child. Because of this, she is kept prisoner in the castle, having slowly gone insane.
With the blessing of Isaboe and Finnikin, Froi heads to the castle, with his bond, the only thing that he feels keeps him from returning to his baser past: he is to kill the king, and get out of there. However, he discovers that his role in Charyn, and his life, is so much greater and so much more complex than he ever thought it would be.
That summary doesn’t do this enormous, involved, intricate, intense book justice. Marchetta has taken a minor character in the first of this series and made him the deserving star. Even though Finnikin and Isaboe are still involved in this story (and are quite delightful), as are a myriad of other minor characters, the real journey here is Froi’s. And he’s quite a character to get to know: tortured, conflicted, with definite anger-management problems, full of longing and desire but without the emotional resources to handle it.
It makes for a different kind of read than Finnikin: it’s still dark (there’s rampant rape, all of it off-screen, and lots of corruption), but there is a hope in this one that I don’t quite remember from Finnikin. That somehow, maybe Froi will figure things out, and that Charyn, contemptible though it is, maybe is worth saving.
And now, to wait for the ending. I’m sure it will be just as excellent as the other two.
Rated: Moderate, for violence, one f-bomb, and several allusions to rape.