Any young adult fantasy novel will inevitably be compared to the Harry Potter series and Arkanae is no exception, although it’s with good reason. There are many surface similarities: lost youth finding a place in a seemingly magical world, finding friends with amazing families, and facing the darkest foe as the Chosen One. Yet having acknowledged that, the similarities end there.
Arkanae is a refreshingly enjoyable debut novel by Lynette Noni and the first in a multi-book story called The Medoran Chronicles. It centres around 16-year-old Alexandra Jennings who accidentally finds herself in a parallel world known as Medora. Unable to find her way home, Alex is enrolled in the Akarnae Academy, a boarding school for teenagers with special powers. There she befriends Bear and Jordan, two mates who guide her through this seemingly advanced and magical realm. Discovering that her arrival was anticipated, Alex struggles to find her own special talent while an exiled super-being plots to use her to return home, seize power, and commit genocide against the human race.
The real strength of Noni’s writing is in her characters. The adults and teenagers alike are all people we know; people we can relate to; with idiosyncrasies that matter, fleshing their personalities out to the fullest extent. There are the predictable clichés of the caring fatherly figure, the fiercely loyal friends, the difficult roommate, and the smooth, slimy villain, but even these characters find their niche as people we can believe in and either love or love to hate.
Her imagination runs rife, launching into the fantasy adventure almost immediately and drawing the reader into this new world through the eyes of the protagonist. Noni never seems to run out of ideas, bringing new surprises with each chapter. More than that, she explains the magical elements with science and technology, insisting that each gift and illusion is based in the physical laws of Medora.
It’s great to read of worlds that are far from the dystopian visions we are more commonly fed. Through it all, Noni’s novel focusses on important teenage issues, including friendships, the need to fit in, and the desire to start finding your place in the world. Her tale is an exciting page-turner and an impressive debut to a thrilling new YA fantasy series.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
Publisher: Pantera Press
Release Date: February 2015