The first three (Finnikin, Froi, and Quintana), are part of a series called the Lumatere Chronicles. They are right up my alley because they’re fantasy and romance all mixed together. Here’s a blurb for Finnikin from Amazon:
Finnikin, son of the head of the King’s Guard, has been in exile for a decade, after the violent takeover of his birthplace, Lumatere, by a usurper, followed by a curse by a priestess that has effectively shut the kingdom off from the outside world. He meets a mysterious young woman, Evanjalin, who claims that Finnikin’s friend Balthazar, heir to the throne, is alive, and sets in motion a complex and stirring series of events that lead Finnikin to confront his destiny. Evanjalin uses her ability to “walk the sleep” of others, or share in their dreams, as well as her own boldness and sense of purpose, to push events to a climax so that Lumatere can be freed. This novel begins at a slow burn: there are many details to absorb, and the well-drawn maps are a necessity. Then, suddenly, the action turns white-hot and the intricate plot plays out at a pace that keeps readers mesmerized. This is fantasy grounded in a kind of realism seldom seen in the genre.
Froi is one of the more minor characters in Finnikin, but his story is still intertwined with all the main characters in Finnikin. Froi’s story is both tragic and tender, and the book is wonderful. Quintana, the other main character in Froi, is the conclusion to the trilogy (as far as I know), and I truly can’t wait to read it.
Jellicoe Road is an entirely different kind of book — at least on the surface. It’s a contemporary story about high school aged kids that all come together every summer. Here’s a blurb from Amazon:
Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn’t a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.
In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.
Ok, honestly, I’m just impressed they could compress the entire book into those two paragraphs. But in all honesty, this is an incredible book. Emotional and heartbreaking.
Now, I said Jellicoe was a completely different kind of book. And it is, on the outside. But here’s where Marchetta is just brilliant. Her books tell stories of people, of human emotions, and despair. Jellicoe may be more contemporary, and the Lumatere Chronicles more fantastical, but at their heart, they tell stories about people. You will love the characters, cry with them, and ache for them. The next chapter you will want to strangle them, to yell at them what they should do — or shouldn’t do. And you will truly want them to succeed. Sometimes you will understand why they react a certain way, sometimes you won’t. But it’s ok because it’s real. It’s how people are. It’s how we’re made. And that’s why I think Marchetta’s books are so popular. They tell truths. Sometimes hard truths, sometimes hurtful truths, but truths.
So now that my fan girling is over, I do have a few caveats. First, with Jellicoe. I have a number of friends who have given up early. I totally get that. The book is very confusing at first. There are characters from the past and scenes with them, and then there are a group of characters in the present. Sometimes it’s hard to keep them and their histories all straight. I kept having to turn back pages to remember who did what. If I knew someone was picking this book up for the first time, I’d recommend keeping a list of the characters and one thing that will allow you to remember who they are. If I remember right, during the first part of the book, you don’t even necessarily know which group is past and which is present. Just write the names down and then add past or present later. And sort the characters into the two groups they interact in. It will make it a lot easier. But my best advice for this book: perservere!
As for the Lumatere Chronicles, the caveat is for my more conservative readers. Sex is a theme in both of the books I’ve read. It’s not that it’s an erotic book or has sex scenes strewn throughout (I think one in each book without a lot of detail), it’s just that sex is a reality in Marchetta’s world. In Finnikin, it’s a kingdom struggling to go back to their homeland. They’re exiles. They’re lost. They find love where they can. And the love story in the book is truly magnificent. In Froi, it’s even more than that. There, the kingdom of Charyn has been under a curse for 18 years. No child has been born during that time. It has been prophesied that Quintana (a last born) will bear the next king and the father will be another one of the last borns. You can see where that might go. Added to that, in both of the books, there are characters who were raped or “kept” by the king. So you can see how sex is a theme. However, there is nothing too graphic or descriptive. I just wanted you to know going in.
I love all of these books (enough that I have an actual hard copy of them all). I think the stories are amazing, the characters are so real it hurts sometimes, and the love stories are beautiful (and hard and fought for).