Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

The thing is, I should love this book. I really should. First of all, Melina Marchetta is absolutely one of my favorite authors, and her realistic fiction, from Piper’s Son to Jellicoe Road is amazing and heartbreaking and wonderful, and I will never ever stop reading it. I mean, these are books that have undeniable altered the landscape of my heart.

And second, Quintana checks off so many of my boxes. Fantasy? Historical elements? Political shenanigans? Wounded characters? A redemption plotline? Yes, to all of them! This is seriously a list of my favorite things in fiction.

Plus, there are a lot of smart people out there, whose tastes in books are really close to mine, who have loved these books and who think they’re brilliant and amazing.

And yet, as you may have guessed, I don’t love Quintana, or Froi, or Finnikin. I was invested enough in the characters to read all three books, including all 520 odd pages of Quintana, because I wanted to know what happened and how it ended. But for me–and I want to emphasize the ‘for me’–I found myself consistently feeling disappointed as I read all three.

Actually, disappointed is too strong; it was more a feeling of having a wall between myself and the characters. I didn’t have the emotional attachment to them that I do to Marchetta’s other characters. I wanted to like this book–I wanted to love it, and I didn’t.

What makes this more frustrating is the fact that I can’t pinpoint why I have this reaction. I mean, I think any book over 400 pages, or even 350, has to justify its length, and I’m not sure that Quintana does. And there were times when I found the narrative voice a bit too self-consciously clever. But these are relatively small things–there were plenty of other passages that were beautifully written, and this is a sprawling epic populated with quite a few separate characters and strands.

So–so, WHY? Why don’t I love the Lumatere Chronicles as much as I love Jellicoe? I still don’t know. If someone else gets it, tell me. The best I can come up with is that, again for me, Marchetta’s realistic fiction has a resonance and emotional depth that I did not feel in Quintana, or the two books preceding it, despite all the elements of love being there. And, you know, that’s okay. There are plenty of people who will love these books, who will feel amazed and healed by them. I’m not one; it doesn’t mean that they are bad books, or that I am a bad reader (a conclusion I was beginning to come to last night). There are simply some books that don’t work for a particular reader, however much they ought to.

Recommended for: high fantasy fans, especially those who like political drama and personal angst
Book source: public library
Book information: April 2013, Candlewick; YA

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