It’s been a few months since the Charyn king was killed (see Froi of the Exiles), and Charyn is in upheaval. Froi is recovering from his wounds (to put it mildly) and Quintana is pregnant and in hiding, in the valley bordering Charyn and Lumatere. Isaboe and Finnikin are fighting, mostly because Isaboe, who is expecting their second child, is obsessing over Froi (he hasn’t returned from his assignment to assassinate the Charyn king). It’s all very complicated and political. As the book progresses, it doesn’t get any less so: the setting up of a country (or re-setting, I guess) is a messy affair. There are fits and starts, miscommunications and offenses, second guesses and traitors. It’s not a pretty story, laid out in nice, neat rows, but rather a realistic one: in this political game, where the futures of several countries are at stake, the question is how many lives is it going to cost?
Because I’ve been reading this series as it comes out, it’s been more than a year since I visited this world. I do think the book suffered for the wait, because it took me a while to get into the characters and the world again. But, thankfully, Marchetta remembered that and helped me remember the important bits as we went along. While it’s not as dark as the previous two books, it’s still an intense ride. Marchetta keeps us on the edge of our seat the whole way through (which is a considerable feat, seeing as the book is 500-plus pages long), wondering if the outcome will be what we want, and wondering how she is going to get there. I loved this book for many reasons, but two stand out: first, that it was a messy book, which made it more real. This isn’t a fairy tale. This is a political drama, and I appreciated the mess. It kept me interested. The second thing was that the relationships were so complex. All of them. Marchetta has a gift when it comes to writing relationships. And not just romantic ones. Friendships were complex. Parent-child relationships were complex. And loves were complex, deliciously so. And because of that, everyone had a growth arc. There were no simplistic characters. I can’t tell you how happy that made me.
And the end, oh the end. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t, and it was perfect in so many ways.
Which means the only thing wrong with this book was that it was over, and there are no more stories to tell about these characters. And that makes me impossibly sad.
Rated: Moderate, for violence, some instances of mild swearing, and some allusions to married sex.