The Fantasy genre is a road less-travelled in my quest to conquer the literary world. I’ve tried and tried on many occasions to enjoy them only to get lost in the process. And I mean, literally lost. So when I find a series that I wholeheartedly love, it’s a big freaking deal. Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles is that series. For the last week or so, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. So I re-read them for at least the 5th time. It’s still as heart-wrenching as I remembered it to be. As empowering and inspirational. Today, I want to talk about all the reasons why these books have the most powerful, strong female characters in the history of feminists in the fantasy genre.
The Women of Lumatere
Nowadays, there aren’t any shortage of strong feminine influence in the genre. At least, that’s what I hear. If that’s the sort of thing you like, then you will most definitely love the women of Lumatere. Queen Isaboe is the last bloodline of the royal crown. Her ascent to the throne was not as easy as recognizing her DNA, however. Ten years before Finnikin of the Rock, the kingdom was invaded by their neighboring Charyn. They slaughtered the Royal Family in the most despicable way possible. Barely escaping the horror were siblings, Balthazar, and Isaboe. Balthazar was mangled and killed by a wolf trying to hide his sister, Isaboe. When the impostor King ordered the killing of the High Priestess of Sagrami by way of burning at the stake, she placed a curse on the kingdom that imprisoned everyone inside the gates of Lumatere. Families were separated, many became exiles. The ten years of suffering, torture, and rape of the people of Lumatere began. Isaboe, the heir to the throne was lost. And she, along with Finnikin of the Rock, are the only ones who can break the curse.
It’s hard to enumerate all the instances by which Isaboe showed incredible strength and courage. But if there’s one thing I admired from her is her staunch ability to never lose hope. Hope in the human race that failed her time and time again. Hope that she’ll find the strength to keep going and raise her kingdom again. She speaks with the gods and walks the sleep of her people inside Lumatere. She loves with all her might and
literally feel the pain and suffering that her people endured.
Lady Beatriss was one of those who were trapped inside the gates. Because she was the Captain of the Guard’s wife, she was made an example by the impostor king when the Lumaterans would start a revolt. The sacrifices she made for her people is enough to give you night terrors for days. But she did it over and over again if only to save her people.
Tesadora is the high priestess’ bastard daughter. Growing up, she was always hated and ridiculed even by her people because she was born a bastard. As a child, she suffered the torture handed down by a childhood enemy, Perri. But for all the reasons she should hate her countrymen, Tesadora saved the girls of Lumatere from their certain deaths. Not to mention what she had to do to protect a child from living the nightmares Isaboe lives through every time she walks the sleep of her people.
The Women of Charyn
Not to be outdone, Charyn, Lumatere’s rival kingdom is also cursed. Its people and land are barren. As in, no child has ever been born since the Day of the Weeping. Charyn’s curse is a bit more complicated than that of Lumatere – which will be discovered on the last book of the trilogy. The same king who ordered the slaughter of the Royal House of Lumatere disrespected the gods by raping the Oracle Queen and getting her pregnant. She died giving birth. Ever since then, the last borns of Charyn were held in equal parts regard and contempt. Because it was prophesied that the last born of Charyn will born a king.
Quintana of Charyn is the daughter of the king, albeit a disrespected royal. She is a mad one. Schizophrenic, child-like, and with an existence full of sorrow and heartbreak, it bears no repeating. So mad that she tricked the entire kingdom into believing that she and only she could break the curse (which is true, of course). Why? Because in a preemptive measure in the hopes of saving the girls from suffering the same fate, she sacrificed herself by bedding all the male last borns in the kingdom. Otherwise, rape will be rampant in an already lawless, savage land.
Lirah, the Serker
When she was twelve years old, her mother sold her to the king. She became his whore. What was her sacrifice? Her own child. Whom she knew was thrown down the gravina by the king’s orders. Knowing the bleak future ahead for her and Quintana, she tried to end both their lives. She failed and was then imprisoned for the rest of her life. Years passed and her loyalty to protect Quintana never wavered. She would do everything to make sure she lives to see the end of the sufferings they all endured in the hands of the king.
Phaedra of Alonso
In an effort to save her from the lawlessness of Charyn, her father, the provincaro of Alonso made a pact with Saro, the leader of the Monts to marry her off to his son, Lucian. It was a challenging agreement to uphold considering Saro died at the hands of Charynites while they were trying to take back Lumatere. Consequently, Lucian could only feel indifference and cold contempt for his so-called wife. Phaedra is meek. But weak, she is not. She would do everything for Quintana, and would sacrifice her happiness for the sake of the people of Charyn.
There are a number of reasons why you should read this trilogy (aside from the women of this series, that is). The least of which are the men in their lives. Despite the bleakest states of each of their circumstances, there lies a brilliant and romantic notion that these women sacrificed themselves so they would have a future that include the men that each of them so loved. But they didn’t do it all for them first and foremost. They did it all for their kingdom. Sometimes, I question why they did what they did for their cursed kingdoms. Because sometimes, it doesn’t seem all that worth it. It’s hard to silence the cry of their people wanting their blood; wanting someone to suffer for their suffering. People, as I know them to be, are naturally an ungrateful lot. But that’s because fear ruled their lives.
Melina Marchetta didn’t leave a stone unturned or a thread of a story frayed. Every minute and consequential detail of the story are bound tight like a rope. With every re-read, I discover details that I’ve missed and never paid attention to when I read it last. And that’s the beauty of her novels. It’s never quite the same each time. I’m never quite the same reader. I somehow find something more to love about the books.
On a side note, Ellen, my dear. If you haven’t read these books yet, I will personally send you my extra copies.