There is a lot in this book. I remember getting to the half way point and feeling like my head was going to explode from copious amounts plot. I've never seen so much plot in one book. There's plot enough for three books, no five, all in one massive volume. I can see the appeal with a book full of plot like that where the writing is flawless and the plot poetically gripping, but alas, poor Froi is neither of these.
Now, I'm not saying it's not a good book. It is. Perhaps even a very good book (almost). It's just that everything is a bit too 'almost'. The characters are almost complexly realistic. The plot is almost believable. The twists are almost very clever. Sensitive and thought-provoking issues are almost dealt with in an engaging way. At the end of the day I think there was just something behind it all that felt a little bit forced. Let me explain.
So, three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted we find our new hero, Froi. The once street-rat rapist has now found himself bonded to the queen and has become a much better person with the love of a family (aww) and while also being trained as an assassin. Froi then finds himself being sent into Charyn on a mission to kill the king and do absolutely nothing else because that's a part of his bond. He is to use minimal initiative and is barely trusted to do the job at all. At the same time Queen Isaboe is being to clingy with her daughter, Lady Beatrice is having her virtue called into honor, Lucius is apparently a callous pig who sent back his wife because she cried to much, and, and, and, and.... there's just so much side plot and twists and turns and dragging on and on.
And then there's the racism. It boggles my mind that the heroic queen of a nation that's supposed to be wise and sensible would be so ignorant as to assume an entire nation of people were worthless and evil. It doesn't sit right with me that Isaboe's character would feel that way. I see the point Marchetta is trying to make here and I kind of wish I didn't. It should feel more organic and less uncomfortable.
BUT... and this is a big but.... the last 200 or so pages of the book really pulls everything together. I don't know how she does it, but what for the longest time felt like the hardest work to get through now feels like something I might one day read again. Marchetta's trademark is that she always attacks the complexities of relationships and social issues so poetically. I'm torn here because on the one hand I feel like if she had kept the book (and indeed the world it's set in) simpler and smaller she could have kept me interested for the whole book and not just the end. But on the other hand I kind of like that I got so frustrated because it was almost like my emotions matched the flow of the book.
It cannot be denied however that much of the book's plot seems to be forced, conversations with unnatural endings, and arguments with unrealistic resolutions.
The best thing about the book however was Quintana. I loved her as a character (she really carried the book for me) and while everything else wasn't perfect, it still made of an overall engaging read.
I'm going to be harsh. Three stars. I would like to be kinder based on how much I enjoyed it, but at the end of the day there is just too much wrong with it to warrant a higher rating. I would still highly recommend it to any fans of both Melina Marchetta and the fantasy genre. Anyone else I think would get fed up and just walk away.