Quintana of Charyn

I finished this third volume of the Lumateran Chronicles about half an hour ago, and I’ve been struggling to figure out what to say, since I can’t just weep all over the computer screen. The manufacturer recommends against that, actually.

If you have not read this high fantasy series by Australian writer Melina Marchetta, run— do not walk— to your nearest library or bookstore and obtain the first volume, Finnikin of the Rock. The second is Froi of the Exiles, and it is just as wonderful. Quintana of Charyn is the third and final volume in one of my favorite series ever—which is why I’m weeping, of course.  If you have already read the first two, I am sorry to say that you will have to wait a month to read Quintana, but don’t worry! It is so worth the wait.

Since anything I say would be a spoiler, I’ll speak in general terms, but if you haven’t read the first two, it may be dangerous to continue beyond this point. When Melina Marchetta, who had won awards for her contemporary realistic fiction, announced that her next book would be high fantasy, the entire litosphere was rocked. Book critics in general have a low view of fantasy; you may notice that it is rarely on any awards list, except for awards specifically for fantasy or science fiction. It is considered fluff and not worthy of serious literary types. The Lumateran Chronicles are very serious literature.

The people of Lumatere have been exiled from their homes since the Day of Weeping a decade ago, when the royal family was assassinated and the residents of the peaceful country were slaughtered. The neighboring kingdom of Charyn, in turn, has been cursed with barrenness, and no children have been born there in almost a generation. This is the story of their suffering and healing, their hatred and forgiveness. Oddly enough, although it is marketed to teens, most of the characters are married, and bearing children is a major theme. Not many teen books explore the marital problems that can be caused by attachment parenting. There are a half-dozen or so major characters and a score or more minor characters, and all of the stories fit together harmoniously. Quintana herself is a bewilderingly complex character, one who will stay with me for a long time. Strangely, Marchetta’s male characters are much easier to love than her strong female characters, who are often maddening—or just mad.

What makes it all work, though, is Marchetta’s incredible writing.  Some of her scenes were so searingly beautiful that I had to flip back a page or two and read them again. The war scenes are cruel and the poverty grueling, but the fierce love between the couples who have endured unimaginable pain shows a deep understanding of human relationships. But it’s not all dark and difficult! There is joy and beauty, as well as humor and teasing.

If you have not read the first two, you are lucky, since you will be able to read them all at once! I had to wait a year or so between each volume, and Marchetta does not provide a little “Previously, on the Lumateran Chronicles” summary, as your weekly TV shows might. She just plunges right in, which is probably a good thing, considering that they already run about 500 pages each. The only series like it is the Queen’s Thief series, by Megan Whalen Turner. I might even like this one better—at least until Turner’s next volume.

Oh, so highly recommended.

Note: I read an advance reader copy of this book, obtained because I begged the wonderful Jill Faherty and Erica Karcher of Baker & Taylor’s Children’s and Teen Services, who also sent CATS lip balm. 🙂  Opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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