My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Update 2: And isn’t this sorta like Beauty and the Beast? Only the roles are reversed. A kingdom is cursed instead of just a palace(or whatever the hell was damned). A beast festers inside(Quintana). And along comes the beauty(Froi) with no intentions whatsoever of helping or falling for him. Man, this sounds so horrible now that I typed it out. Gah, I should just stop thinking already!
Update 1: I just realized that Qunitana is like a more grisly and tortured version of Rapunzel. Not to insult Quintana but look at the facts- she has long, long hair; kept in captivity because she is special and then she has to cut off her hair to save herself. I hope no one else figured it out because then I’d just feel stupid.
Once upon a time, a boy went into a forest. This forest was forbidden to him and could be entered through a locked gate in his backyard. So he stole the key from its peg in his mother’s room when she started trusting that he was old enough to heed her warnings and wouldn’t try to defy her.
The world beyond the door was horrific. And it was alluring. There were flowers snapping at butterflies and tendrils of ochre smoke coming out of birds’ nests. The birdlings were themselves burning and screaming in the nests whilst the adult birds looked upon with aloofness. A koala was literally scratching out his brains and another one was crushing one chameleon, to chameleon and three chameleon. It was terrifying and repelling. But the colors were so pretty and bright. And the screams sounded like the tinkling of wind chimes in a storm.
The boy ventured on and started to feel like he was invisible. Nobody seemed to notice him and he was glad. He’d rather the attention of these savages was on the destruction of their own selves. But then a violet-horned bull in the middles of interlocking his nose ring with another one of its kind glanced at him momentarily. The boy realized that he was just insignificant and the savages were simply ignoring him. It made him sad and he decided that his mother could come back at any moment and he should return.
Then there was a snap and the boy screamed louder than he ever had because in front of him was a monstrosity, a living, talking monstrosity who was trying to convince a little golden chick to try a guava. The person, no creature, was frightening indeed and the left side of his face was marred with vicious scars that were protruding out and looked like it had almost melted off. It was the most disgusting thing the boy had ever seen. He- for he vaguely resembled a boy- was now looking at the boy with a resigned yet curious expression.
The resignation was at the boy’s reaction and the curiosity was at seeing someone his own age. His name was Rawr, like the noise, the boy found out later. For there was a later and the boy did go back after his first time when he’d run away. Rawr was a mystifying creature. He’d always lived in the forest and he hated it. He was ugly and repellant but he was the boy’s closest friend and his scars were always partially covered with banana leaves, so the boy never again had to look at it. It helped that there were so many other things for the boy to feast upon and he was just fine with hearing Rawr’s voice.
Days went by and many a lakes in the forest were dirtied by the two boys. They climbed trees and feasted upon green hares. However, there came one night as he was sneaking back home that his mother caught him. It had been a fateful day and it was about to become more interesting. Earlier, Rawr’s face-leaf had fallen off and the boy has almost recoiled out of reflex before realizing it was just Rawr. But Rawr didn’t miss it and he had run away without a word and a mask of detachment covering his ever animated face. The boy had looked for him for hours before giving up for the day. So, naturally, he wasn’t in the most humorous of moods when his mother caught him. But to his surprise, she just looked at him and asked a simple question.
“How do you survive all that ugliness?”
He answered in the most defeated of tones,”You can easily ignore it.”
The next day, there was no key. So the boy tried to open it with his mother’s hair pins but he didn’t know how and the only thing it yielded was ruined pins. But he practiced for a few days and he finally got the hang of it. He ran into the forest and met with a sight that would haunt him till he was shriveled shell of a man on his deathbed.
It was Rawr and he was bloody and he was dying. But he was not dead yet. The boy moved towards him slowly, not daring to believe his eyes. But there it was, Rawr with a knife in his hand and the skin of his left face hanging loosely. The boy took Rawr’s face into his arms and whimpered a single word, “Why?”
“Because then you’d love me. I wouldn’t have any ugliness left,” Rawr replied with his last breath before sputtering and losing the the light in his eyes that makes a person alive.
And the boy wanted to shake him and hurt him but he was already gone. So he turned to a banyan tree and banged his head till his mom, frantic with worry came and took him back. Because the boy had realized at the time when it didn’t matter anymore that he’d lied. He didn’t learn to ignore it; he’d learned to love it.
This is how I was with Froi of the Exiles. I thought that I loved it because the story and writing were so beautiful but I realized the ugliness of the book was important too. You can’t separate it. And it wasn’t till the book ended that I learned that.
Marchetta’s books develop a S&M relationship with her fans. We find pleasure in the pain. And she just doesn’t spare anyone in her stories. Every bloody person has to be scarred. I tell you, if you pick even a pebble from the coasts of Charyn and ask its story, it’d tell you that it’d watched as its whole cluster was crushed and how he had been accidentally kicked so he’s rolled of and smoothed and become a pebble to continue the rest of its terrifying existence with survivor’s guilt. ‘Cause this woman is just that sadistic.
With a lot of characters. A lot of miserable characters who have all suffered a thousand times worse than that pebble. And you suffer along with them. I can honestly tell you that excluding one (view spoiler) I could find not one person to shit on. Every time something happens and I think Get real!, it shows me that it is real and I’m just a fool to not believe it.
And Froi and Qunitana. Just madness and heartbreak, I tell you. Froi has now officially dethroned Jonah Griggs as my Marchetta boy. But the person that caught my attention most was Phaedra. I am shamed to admit that I really was looking forward to reading about her but dayuum… God it broke my heart when shit went down.
But… Quintana, oh Quintana! She’s a… fish*.
Quintana of Charyn’s body was a map of hatred.
I don’t know what else to tell you. Oh wait, I do:
There’s nothing like a bit of patricide and regicide to convince me of someone’s worth.
I want to sing praises and dance around in circles and I would, had I not been saddened beyond logic by this book. It does not lack in anything but it does indeed have a surplus of grief and scarring. The book sings to my heart which I have found out resides in my stomach and sometimes jumps to my throat, and that is why I feel so sick and I can’t speak.
After all, Froi of the Exiles is the screams and whimpers of night.
*Fish->Opposite of pathetic.