Akarnae: The Medoran Chronicles Begin
Pub Date: 1 February 2015
When I first started reviewing more books on this site, due to my NetGalley membership, one of the first people to like one of my updates was a lady called Lynette Noni. Indeed she became the first of several authors/writers that have since followed me and/or ‘liked’ posts [Thanks to all of you by the way]. In some ways it felt a little odd. Why are they following me, I thought? Do the want me to review their books? None have suggested it, thankfully, but of course I have at least become curious about what they are writing. Take Lynette for example. A first time author – and you’ll know if you’ve been following my book reviews that I am a bit of sucker for first time authors. I saw her book come out, and though: YA fantasy book. Hmm. I don’t read much fantasy fiction these days, but I have always had a soft spot for it –misspent youth – so I thought why not give it a go.
So, what’s it about?
In a nutshell, Alexandra (Alex) Jennings is a sixteen year old girl with jet-setting archaeologist parents, who finds herself set to spend a year at a well regarded ‘boarding school’ – The International Exchange Academy – whilst her parents are off the communications radar on the other side of the planet. Only, when she arrives, her welcome is not a warm one – it’s quite wet, in fact, and her sense of dread starts to set in. That is until she walks through a doorway to ‘register’ and finds herself stranded in own little Narnia, in this case a strange fantasy world called Medora. Several handsome men later – including one who says their destiny’s are entwined – she finds herself with two new friends Bear and Jordan as well as becoming enrolled in Akarnae Academy, Medora’s boarding school for teenagers with extraordinary gifts. Were that not odd enough, she is told she is a ‘chosen one’ and several of the teachers at the school already know who she is. This including the headmaster – Professor Marselle – only, he is missing, which is bad news for Alex as he is apparently the only person who knows how to get her home…
What follows is a voyage of personal discovery for Alex, as she tries to: find out what her ‘gift’ might be; blend in her new surroundings; discover what it means to be chosen; work out why she is so attracted to someone called Aven; and find her way home.
It’s a lot of fun.
Noni’s starting point is clearly as a fan of the genre, and so the book nods back to YA fantasy genre staples: Boarding School (Harry Potter) Secret passage into strange other world (Narnia) etc, but like the Hunger Games, and Divergent series it also excels by having a strong female lead. As the father of a young girl I am always pleased to see books that have strong female characters – not just the ‘side-kick’/ love interest. Alex is funny, vulnerable and possessed of inner strength. As a reader you warn to her immediately and as a result are onboard from the opening pages.
The book is well paced and accomplishes its task of being an engaging stand alone book, but also the introduction to a series. Readers of fantasy fiction will know that these are very rarely standalone affairs, and Akarnae is set to be no different, as it is billed as the first of a planned five-part series called The Medoran Chronicles (I believe book two is already finished). Because of that were are introduced to a lot of characters who you suspect will become stalwarts of the series, both teachers and pupils. All are well drawn and developed enough that, in reading the book, you care about more than just Alex. But the large cast of characters doesn’t get in the way of the action and adventure, and there are a few twist and turns in the plot – which older readers will probably see coming – that should still surprise younger readers.
What made the book stand out from many I’ve read in the past in the genre is that Noni has as a nice comic touch to her writing. There a few books that don’t benefit from the odd injection of humour, and this kind of book usually cries out for it. Thankfully, not only is there quite a lot of humour in the book, but it comes across naturally and unforced. I smiled a lot. Also I’m a librarian, by training, so any book with a magic library in it (a character in its own right) is always going to appeal to me. I’m easily pleased.
I enjoyed the book and hope it finds its audience, young and old. Yes, it’s pitched as a YA book, but even if you’ve long passed the YA threshold, you’ll find enjoyment here too if, like me, you have a soft spot for fantasy fiction.
I, for one, will be more than happy to return to Medora for another helping of Alex’s adventures.