The Lumatere Chronicles April 12, 2013Posted by ccbooks in Analysis.
We have discussed my great love for Melina Marchetta on this blog before. However, I’ve had an interesting relationship with her trilogy The Lumatere Chronicles, which just wrapped up here in the U.S. with the publication of Quintana of Charyn. I read the first book in the trilogy, called Finnikin of the Rock, around the same time as Frances Hardinge’s The Lost Conspiracy, another book which used a fantasy setting to explore some real-world social issues. Hardinge tackled colonialsim, while Marchetta depicted the devastating conditions faced by refugees in Finnikin. The book has a really wide scope, giving the background of a country in the grip of not just an invasion but also a magical curse. following the main characters as they gather the leaders of their country from various places to go back and defeat an imposter king. Add to that the divisions between different tribes/families of people, the curse and women who can walk the sleep and dreams of others, as well as a whole set of other countries with their own political ambitions and struggles. I liked the book, but didn’t return to it very often, telling myself that maybe Marchetta was just better at realistic fiction than fantasy.
Then I read the second book of the trilogy, Froi of the Exiles. It took me a long time. I didn’t have the patience for it when it was first published in the U.S. last year, but when I was handed the ARC of Quintana, I couldn’t bring myself to read it out of order, so I went back to Froi. And couldn’t put it down for three days straight.
Marchetta’s greatest strength is the relationships between her characters and it’s on full display in these last two books. Every single connection between characters is incredibly specific and compelling. Even the smaller characters get large roles to play in the many twists and turns of the plot and while the majority of the action takes place in one country–Charyn–it’s a country with so many varieties of landscape that we never get bored. We also hear more about the different areas of Lumatere (the Flatlands and the Mountains, in particular) which made me feel like the custom of characters using their home as a last name (Finnikin of the Rock, Lucien of the Monts) was less a fantasy cliche and more of a window into the history of this kingdom.
The trilogy as a whole still has some issues, I think. There are just so many plot turns, so many hidden pieces of information that get revealed, and in Froi and Quintana especially, more narrow escapes than were perhaps necessary. I kept getting lost trying to remember who knew which part of the history of various characters. It’s a story bursting at the seams, which made me wish that Finnikin and Isaboe had each had their own book, similar to Froi and Quintana. By the end of the trilogy, I felt that I really understood those two as characters, whereas the queen of Lumatere and her consort were not quite as shaded and detailed.
These are quibbles, however. I give Marchetta great credit for not shying away from the real-world depictions of how exile, plague, class divisions and betrayal affect humans and their nations. Yet even with all the difficult moments and devastating discoveries and sharp conflict between people who love one another, I had hope by the end for the future of the countries of Lumatere and Charyn. If you are looking for a fantasy series to suck you in, in the same way that Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series does or Tamora Pierce’s Tortall, I recommend you take a look at The Lumatere Chronicles.