A nail-biting end to a saga of betrayal and revenge

TITLE = QUINTANA OF CHARYN

AUTHOR = MELINA MARCHETTA

GENRE = FANTASY, POLITICAL INTRIGUE, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 11, 12

Having left readers on a cliffedge at the end of book 2 in this series (“Quintara of Charyn”), from the opening page of this final instalment, Melina Marchetta steps back into the same sense of dread and doom that permeated the middle section of this intriguing series. In book 2, the only glimmer of lightness came when we visited the Queen of Lumatere, Isaboe and her beloved husband and child, Finnikin and Jasmina. Yet book 3 opens with the couple fighting. What does this mean for the happy couple and the future of their land?

Isaboe has been hell-bent on revenge, having lost her entire family to assassins. But as the reader knows, this means she has unknowingly sent her husband out to kill the father of Froi, the young man whom Isaboe and Finnikin cherish as a friend.

Book 1 in this series was about displaced persons and the need for a homeland; book 2 was about betrayal and loyalty on both a personal and national level. Book 3 builds on both themes, for much of this novel is about choices; in particular the choices we make in the name of family loyalty and love. So many of the characters have experienced pain at the hands of others, yet so few of them seem capable of getting past this pain, in fact, many seem determined to inflict pain on others in the name of justice. It seems rare for many of these public figures to show kindness and compassion.

Cleverly, the comparisons between the lives of Quintara and Isaboe are sharply drawn in this third book: both women are pregnant, both imagine they are having sons, both carry the babes of men who love them, both are queens but here the similarities seem to end. Whilst Quintara seems cruel and crazy and hated by most of her kingdom, Isaboe seems the model diplomat and rational ruler. Until they cross paths. Will Isaboe take revenge on her “rival” simply because she is linked to the assassins who destroyed her family? And if so, at what cost to her own sanity? And could such action put Lumatere at risk? Or will Isaboe learn some hard lessons about the ugly side of revenge?

Another compelling novel in the Lumatere Chronicles which is sure to leave readers satisfied and amazed with Marchetta’s craft at tying together the complex and thoughtful strands of this fascinating saga.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A compelling and moving read

thirteen reasons whyTITLE = THIRTEEN REASONS WHY

AUTHOR = JAY ASHER

GENRE = MENTAL HEALTH, DEATH, GRIEF

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 1O AND UP

This is an absolutely compelling novel which has been very cleverly constructed. It is almost like reading a suspenseful mystery novel where we are trying to discover the murderer. We know at the beginning that a teenage girl (Hannah) has killed herself about 2 weeks ago. And we learn that prior to this she compiled 13 tapes, which explain the reasons why she died. Each of the 13 people whom Hannah felt was responsible for her death is meant to listen to the set of tapes and send it along to the next person on the list.

Hence the mystery. For as in any crime novel, the reader wants to unravel the causes of Hannah’s death. But there is a second layer of mystery, too. For the young man who opens the tapes at the opening of the novel, is Clay Jensen and he is both horrified and perplexed that he should be on Hannah’s list. He tells us that he loved Hannah from afar, too shy to ask her out – he meant her no harm. So why is he on the list?? This is a question for both Clay and the reader to unravel. Is he really a nice guy, as he says?

And so the novel unwinds: alternating between Hannah’s voice on the tapes and Clay’s reactions to her words. The blend of the 2 voices allows the reader to get a fuller picture of how events unfolded and the truth behind her story. We see both Hannah’s pain and the pain of those she left behind. And this allows the novel to end on an upbeat note, despite the circumstances behind the story.  Suicide is never an easy topic for a YA novel but woven into this story is a central message about truth and honesty, about friendship and betrayal but most importantly about seeking help when we need it and about reaching out to those we think are in pain. A compelling novel for older teens.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****