Sunday, April 7, 2013

Quintana of Charyn, by Melina Marchetta: Can't we all just get along? Call me, maybe?

Quintana of Charyn (The Lumatere Chronicles)
Melina Marchetta
Candlewick: Somerville, 2013. 
ISBN: 9780763658359 (ARC reviewed)
Available in the USA/Canada April 23, 2013. 

When last we left them, the titular characters in Melina Marchetta’s Chronicles of Lumatere trilogy had left their readers on the edge of a gravina (aka a cliff). Not literally – it was just the bestworst kind of cliffhanger.  What a way to leave the readers hanging, with our two favorite nations, Charyn and Lumatere, on the verge of letting misunderstanding and deep-seeded grudges steer them in a course of hasty war!   We pick up where we left off, and though the action thankfully shifts, there are several dozen pages of will or won’t they agony, coupled with the fear of the survival of both Froi and Quintana.  All these important questions, plus some you didn’t even realize you had, are summed up in Marchetta’s presumptive finale to the series.  Characters travel great distances, searching for answers and for each other, and prejudices and fears must be tested and unlearned.  Politics, family, forgiveness, and love are the powerful and pensive themes in this title.  Though the course is agonizing, and to go into detail would be to spoil SO many of the myraid plot points, Quintana of Charyn is a deeply satisfying read.  Deep breathing technique practice is optional, yet encouraged.  It is a strongly recommended book for older teens and adult readers, and for all libraries with a vested interest in smart, well-crafted fantasy.  If you own the first two and are reconsidering, what are you, monsters?  

I, being a Melina Marchetta fangirl, loved this title.  Big thanks to Carter at Candlewick for reuniting me with the words of my author-crush!  I, however, have taken forever to get around to summarizing my thoughts at all, let alone in review form, and apologize in advance if what happens after this point is a hot mess.   Fellows (as my 89 year-old grandmother says), I got sick.  Chest cold sick.  As we say in Boston, wicked sick.  Let’s just say that my memories and notes were directly affected by the power of my maximum strength cough they’re a little top heavy and there’s not a lot of junk in the trunk.  Delightful, right? Anyways, thankfully publishing was delayed in the States or something, so I feel okay about this review taking longer to write than a molasses spill in Antarctica.   As to feeling confident I totally know what happened, I’ll just have to read it again.  HOW TERRIBLE.
First things first:  I picked up my copy, read the first two pages and realized I had no idea what was going on.  A reread of Froi, maybe even Finnikin and Froi, is strongly recommended if you haven’t done so since it came out!  On my second reread, I picked up on so, so, so much that I’d hopscotched over at first, when I was busy being distracted by intense, fast-paced plot twists and like, rebellions and stuff.  Details, man!  As a warning, I struggled at first with Quintana.  HOWEVER, I have come to believe that what frustrated me is that a lot of what was initially going down seemed rashly out of character for such heavies as Isaboe and Finnikin.  But! But! I’ve come to see, as you will (and this is not a spoiler) that this is actually a misdirect.  It’s a great demonstration of Marchetta’s ability that she almost made me forget I love her and nearly stage a four points mutiny, especially because I developed deep fears that things would be tidied up a bit to tidily, or that someone would die (hard).  Spoiler but not alert: I cried, but was ultimately rather happy, though uncertain about a lot of my less than positive feelings about a certain Lumateran toddler.  

My favorite of the only five post-it’s I managed to successfully stick in the book in the first 150 pages portends high anxiety and excitement, Quintana readers-to-be!  It goes a little something like this:  “nonsensical sounds - like sucking habaneros naked on the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.”  What does that even mean?  I mean, other than clearly that things chillingly heat up in chapters 8 & 9 in a way that will cause  you to speak in tongues.  Naturally.  But really, get excited.  Chapter 14 appeared to be a slightly more lucid moment of excitement for me, as this note reads “EVERYTHING IS STARTING TO MAKE SENSE!”  There’s a character name that follows with even more exclamation points, but to say anything, but that it makes the case to reread paying very close attention to details, would be to spoil this slightly major plot reveal.  I will say that it answers many questions you were distracted from having by the tricksy Marchetta!
Returning to characters that feel like old friends is always a delight.  We have seen, and continue to see great personal growth, and a growthing richness in the relationships between them.  I’m content with this series ending as it does; but was content with Finnikin ending where it did who knows what Melina’s up to!  If we hear more about one character, I’d love to spend more time with Phaedra.  Also Lucien.  Phaedra continued to steal my heart handily in this title, and while there’s no need for it, I’d like to watch her continue to grow!
Before I wrap up the worst longest, uncecessary review ever (swear I’m not still tippling on cough syrup like Lil’ Wayne), I caught myself moaning about something rather embarrassing I feel the need to shame myself publicly about.  Early on, my 21st century 1st, plugged-in brain, had this thought (as evidenced by, you guessed it, a messy post-it): “ Why don’t they just call each other and sort this miscommunication out?” Because they clearly all carry cell phones next to their swords and wine skins, while riding their horses...  It certainly says something - perhaps more so about how for granted we take the east and speed of long distance communication, more so than my higher aptitude.  But then again, if they had cell phones or the Internet, would the book even exist?  And would we really want to read it? I suspect it would be like 4 pages long.  Things would heat up because Finn, Isaboe, Quintana, Lucien, Phaedra, and Froi would be experiencing some serious signal problems, and not just metaphorically!  Everything would be eventually sorted out by Gargain making a phone call from a land-line because he hates cell phones (in fact, both brothers from Abroi would totally dislike the Internet, as would Trevanion), Lirah would be all about the Googles and probably the Twitters, and Beatrice would likely have a blog about her farm.  I suspect some texts would have started things off a little like this (in a test rewrite of this book):

Chapter 1
Froi: Q, u still alive?
Froi: Stiches from snitches, U?
Quintana: Secret Nest HQ w/some useless bitches. 4reel.
Froi: Let’s meet up.  What’s your 20?
Quintanta: My phones going to di....
Froi:  Q?
Froi: Q?  If you get this, call me?Froi: QUINTANA?

Chapter 2
Isaboe: U suck.
Isaboe: But please don’t die.
Isaboe: Finn?
Isaboe: Finn?  
Finn: Mountains.  Bad signal.
Finn: Still PO’d
Isaboe: Just shank Gargarin already.
Finn: BIG NEWS.  
Isaboe: If you say I’m a ho fo sho, we’re done.
Finn: Didn’t shank him.  
Isaboe: WTF
Finn: Not guilty.  Froi’s alive 2.  
Isaboe: WHAT?
Finn: Bestiano.  War?
Isaboe: TBD.  Call me?
DUDES.  Did I just write fan fiction? I'm unclear. But I am clear on this one thing: think how short the Hundred Years War could have been with just one phone call.  But then what would have bored English school children for centuries?  The clear moral of this epic, terrible review of a really rather good, epic book (series) is this: always read Melina Marchetta’s books, but don’t do it while on cough syrup.  And get rid of cell phones in order to have swashbuckling adventures?  Or something.    

But just read The Lumatere Chronicles, okay? Trust me, I'm not on cough medicine.  


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