Melina Marchetta’s “Froi of the Exiles” is a great book: it is packed to the brim with adventure, complex characters, nasty curses, aloof gods & horrid magic. The story is so compelling that I bought the next book in the series the minute I got an inkling that this one was ending on a cliffhanger.
What I most like of “Froi of the Exiles” is how cleverly it is written: under the adventures’ layer that keeps you glued to the page sits a kaleidoscope of stories that talk – with compassion – about refugees, war crimes, rape and brutality and the lasting effect that violence has on people. The genre is fantasy but the themes come straight from current affairs. Despite the horror of war and what war brings into people’s lives, the book is laced with the most magical of all potions: hope.
Like Margaret Atwood in the “Handsmaid’s Tale” and P.D. James in “Children of Men”, Marchetta explores the theme of reproductive power: like Atwood and James, Marchetta invents a world where reproduction is challenged, which amplifies the violence (organized and not) that is unleashed on women to gain control of what is left of fertility. Like in Pat Barker’s “Regeneration”, despite the horrors of war and despite all odds, the characters’ bodies and hearts slowly heal.
It is no surprise that “Froi of the Exiles” is the brainchild of an Australian author. A country that imprisons boatpeople in refugee camps and drives them to despair to the point of self-harm, where no political party has articulated the case for compassion and the media focuses on people’s smugglers because we are collectively too ashamed and scared to debate the real issue of refugees sorely needs a reminder of what we are doing to the most vulnerable people in the world. This book does that brilliantly.
“Froi of the Exiles” is a feminist pacifist book that your teenage boy will LOVE reading. Make it his 14th birthday’s present.