Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

14 Jun

10165761Title: Quintana of Charyn
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 528

There’s a babe in my belly that whispers the valley, Froi.

I haven’t written a review for a long time. The reasons for this have been many, and by many I mean two: I’ve been really busy and kind of lazy about my writing, and I kind of fell out of love with YA for a while after reading quite a few duds. I’d love to say that the much anticipated Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta would undo that funk, but it didn’t. Not because it was a bad book – I really liked it – but because to be honest, I don’t really think it’s a YA novel.

This book is going to be more or less impossible to sum up since it took me a couple hundred pages to even figure out what was going on, but I’ll try. Quintana, the mad princess of Charyn who was systematically raped for much of her young adult life, has been smuggled out of the Citavita and is hiding with Charynite refugees in a cave by the border of Lumatere. She is pretty damn pregnant. Froi is searching for her and unraveling more clues about his past while working towards stabilizing Charyn for his and Quintana’s child, who will be king/queen if they survive. Isaboe is also pretty damn pregnant and trying to figure out what has happened to Froi, the spy she sent into Charyn many months before to assassinate the king. She’s also really grumpy about these Charynite refugees. In fact, everyone is grumpy. Lies. Treachery. Surprises. Grumpiness.

First sentence: good, and also perfectly evocative of Quintana’s lyrical voice.

I will start by saying that I really, really wish Marchetta had inserted some sort of mini synopsis into the first fifty pages or so, because I had to spend the first couple hundred pages alternating between reading and looking up different characters’ back stories on the Internet. These novels are so convoluted in the very best way that there is no way to keep it all straight in the year that has passed between the publication of Froi and Quintana. I couldn’t remember who was whose dad, who killed whom, who was a spy for which nation, etc. etc. etc. I was totally baffled. Thank god for the angel sent from the heavens who created this Lumatere Chronicles wikia.

Now, in summation, I really liked this book and found it to be a good, emotionally satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Instead of a real review, I’m going to tell you why I don’t think this book is YA at all.

For one, the only characters who are actually young adults as in teenagers are Quintana and Froi, but they don’t behave like teenagers at all. This isn’t a complaint. Both characters have been through a lot of trauma and gotten through more or less whole (aside from Quintana being bonkers), so it would be really weird if they were all melodramatic and moody. Well…I guess Froi is pretty angsty. Whatever. My point is that none of the other characters are teens. They are all grown ass adults with grown ass adult problems, from miscarriage to whether or not to allow your child to cosleep with you. In fact, a lot of the adult issues explored here have to do with parenting and/or becoming a parent. Which is fine and I really enjoyed reading, but the perspective that it was coming from – that of adult women looking to either start or build a family – didn’t feel teen-y to me at all.

Two, SEXY TIMES. There is a LOT of penetration going on for a teen novel. I don’t just mean that there’s sex – there’s fairly graphic sex. Steamy shit. Haha. I didn’t mean to write about steamy poop but hey Freudian slips are cool sometimes. Anyways. The moment when I was like “OK, this isn’t being written for teens” was when Finnikin and Isaboe have uber pregnant sex in a bath tub. And don’t get me wrong, it was hot, but haha. There was actually a lot of fetishization of pregnancy that I found interesting – Quintana and Isaboe were forever being referred to as ripe as their pregnancies progressed, and they were always depicted as extremely sexually attractive, big ol’ pregnant ladies. Which wouldn’t be remarkable if it weren’t in a book marketed for teens.

Overall, this is a really enjoyable book, but to be honest neither of the sequels in the Lumatere Chronicles can hold a candle to Finnikin of the Rock. That book was so self-contained, and every single revelation felt perfectly placed and, well, revelatory. While there were tons of surprises and twists and turns in both Quintana and Froi, neither of them felt as satisfying or cohesive as Finnikin. I know there are a lot of people who feel differently but hey. This is just one girl’s opinion. I still maintain that these are among the best contemporary fantasies being published for young people right now. Even though Quintana isn’t really for young people. Whatever.

Music is EASY. David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” for the biggest bitchy queens of all, Quintana and Isaboe.

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