The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

I Am Not Yet Born; Forgive Me (review: Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta)

Quintana of Charyn (Lumatere Chronicles, #3)Quintana of Charyn
Melina Marchetta
Viking Australia 2012

Quintana of Charyn is the third and final book of the Lumatere Chronicles and this review contains spoilers for both Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles. You have been warned.

Shot through with arrows, Froi of the Exiles awakes to find that he has lost that which he loves most. Frightened and alone, Quintana of Charyn clings desperately to the hope she carries within her and journeys towards people she has never met, believing that she may find kindness within them. Isaboe of Lumatere fights the bitterness in her own heart and faces decisions that she feels ill equipped to make. Elsewhere, Lucian of the Monts grieves in his valley while Finnikin of the Rock battles with hubris and confusion. Finally, in a dark cave, sits Thaedra of Alonso fighting not only for her own survival but for that of Charyn. The ultimate fate of Lumatere lies now in the hands of them all, but most particularly in the hands of Froi who tries again and again to do what needs to be done, fighting through a sea of old lies and fresh rivalries to bring together two lands and more importantly, two women who have yet to realise that they need each other to truly survive the horror of their respective pasts.

Of all the characters who appear in the Lumatere Chronicles, the most compelling has always been Froi. From the repugnant thief first encountered in Finnikin of the Rock, to the confused, often immature young man in Froi of theExiles it is his story that has been most arresting, his passages that have seemed most truthful. The Froi of Quintana of Charyn is still growing, still learning and sometimes still confused but what matters to him has crystallised, hardened to create an immovable moral core. He's extremely principled, unerringly loyal (even when, as is seen repeatedly in this final book, his loyalties are split) and entirely focused. He's also heartbreaking. His slow realisation that he will have no part of his son's life and his acceptance that this falls under the banner of Things That Need to Be Done is extremely moving. Of all the characters in the book, he is the one most inclined to optimism – something that is quite extraordinary and which characterises him best.

Considering that Quintana of Charyn contains sections from the point of view of almost all the main characters, each individual in beautifully realised. Isaboe gets a little more page time here and it becomes clear that Evanjalin of the Monts is never far away – something that seemed to get a little lost in the second book. She's another strong character (all of them are, but particularly the women) but is continuing to battle the loss of her family and the anger and grief this engenders. She is rather beautifully contrasted with the erratic and terrified Quintana, who remains as feral as ever yet emerges as a force to be reckoned with. Quintana loves as fiercely as she hates and, at her core, is extremely vulnerable yet never shies away from a good fight. A character who was hard to get a bead on in Froi of the Exiles, she emerges as one who is strange but incredibly admirable. She also has a stunning narrative voice, written almost in iambic pentameter. She sings out to Froi, and if the song be painful, it is nothing if not beautiful, imbuing Quintana with a softness that tempers her more jagged edges.

Finnikin continues to struggle with his role in life, something that Marchetta refuses to drop and rightly so. His pride continues to get in the way of his personal life and his inner struggle and stubborn nature lend believability to his character. Lucian is another who has matured over the course of the story of Lumatere and his arrogance continues to ebb as he becomes a worth leader of his beloved Monts. Thaedra of Alonso remains one of the more striking characters, a quiet woman with incredible strength and a true understanding of sacrifice. Elsewhere, the story of Perry and Tessadora is finally told, old hurts sting less and lies crumble in the face of truth. And each and every character gets a satisfying and believable conclusion to their story.

As one has come to expect, Melina Marchetta's writing is arresting and holds a quiet truth. This can be seen in all of her work, but the scale of the Lumatere Chronicles highlights her skill in a way not seen previously. The story contained within Quintana of Charyn is one of hope, of the belief that life can be better – that it should be better. The horrors of Lumatere and Charyn's pasts have left scars that will never fully heal, but Marchetta has created a group of characters, in all their flawed glory, who attempt to see past their personal pain to a future that leans, as she so beautifully puts it, on the side of wonder. The story of Lumatere is written in blood, tears, fear and loss yet it carries a message of rebirth that is fantastically moving and if the ending thrills with high sentiment it is more than welcome in the conclusion of a story that has so often screeched of the evil that men do.

Each year, for three years now, a Marchetta book has made the top ten here at The Mountains of Instead. 2013 will be no different. Pick up any of this author's books but make sure that you get around to Finnikin of the Rock before too long – it's the start of an utterly mesmerising, startlingly relevant and awesomely beautiful story that ends entirely perfectly in this, the final chapter.

This review was brought to you by Splendibird who would like to point out that while Quintana of Charyn is available via Fishpond now, it's has yet to be picked up by a UK publisher - as has the majority of Melina Marchetta's work. UK PUBLISHING INDUSTRY - GET TO IT.


Anna Scott said…
Excellent review - she is one of my favourite authors and it's a mystery why she isn't published over here. The Lucien and Thaedra story made me go weak at the knees!
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