Book Review: Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Endings are incredibly important. It is those last few pages that stay with a reader, rewarding or devastating them for their investment of time, energy, and emotion.

Perhaps the stakes are never higher for a book than when it is the final instalment in a series. The ultimate ending. At such a point readers are devoted to the characters, and have invested anything from weeks to years in their journey.

Quintana of Charyn is a perfect ending.

It is the third, and final instalment in Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles – following Finnikin of the Rock, and Froi of the Exiles.

It is not without its share of devastation – life in the pseudo-medieval world of Skuldenore is anything but easy. The country of Charyn is on the brink of war. The king is dead. Street lords have taken over the capital. The princess and sole heir, Quintana, is on the run, and carrying in her womb the babe that is foretold to break the country’s curse of barrenness. However what makes Quintana of Charyn, like its predecessors, so engaging is not the large-scale politics at play, but the triumphs and torments of individual characters. Froi of the Exiles left readers with many unanswered questions - Will Finnikin and Isaboe find Froi? Can Froi protect the people he loves from Lumatere’s hatred for Charyn, and still be loyal to Lumatere? Can the future hold any happiness for Lucian? Beatriss and Trevanion? Tesadora and Perri? Lirah and Gargarin and Arjuro?

If you haven’t read any of the series and are now feeling lost in a cloud of names, rest-assured it all makes sense once you start reading. Marchetta is a master at multi-perspective, and one of the beautiful things about her books is that there is no lead character. Every character, regardless of their “page time”, has their own unique voice and personality (and flaws!). There is such a depth and sense of life to them all – as if Marchetta is merely reporting on real history. This is also why the books are so darn thick – because there are just so many characters to know and love.

Skuldenore is not a world of elves and orcs, instead more closely reflecting our own world and its troubles. Marchetta explores themes of belonging and displacement, issues of refugees and crimes against humanity, with the most beautiful language and phrasings, and pleasing bursts of humour.

What makes Quintana a perfect ending is that it is satisfying. The questions are answered, and even when you don’t like the answers – when terrible events befall favourite characters – they are entirely believable, because this is a world with real people, who make real mistakes, commit real crimes, and face real consequences. As a reader you come to believe that such things had to happen. That something will grow from the tragedy. The world will continue, and, thanks to Marchetta, I believe that it will have moments of pure wonder.

Penguin

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