Akarnae is the debut novel of Sunshine Coast author, Lynette Noni. It’s the first novel in the Medoran Chronicles: a five-part series. Fitting comfortably in the YA fantasy genre, Akarnae follows the story of 16-year-old Alex as her life changes dramatically. The story begins with Alex arriving at her new school. On her way to enroll, Alex finds herself stepping through a peculiar door that leads out into a forest. The door, of course, is a portal leading her to an entirely new world. Alex finds herself in Medora, which is much like a parallel earth – but far, far cooler. Alex finds her way to Akarnae, which is a boarding school for the gifted, and learns that for some strange reason she was expected there. Not only is she to be enrolled, she will also be divided into classes where she will hone her skills: both intellectual and physical. Alex soon grows fond of her new friends and new world, but strange things are beginning to happen at Akarnae and Alex can’t help but fear that something unexpected is looming. Desperate to find her way back to earth, Alex learns that her only hope in getting home is through the headmaster of the school, who is actually away. Alex learns that she has to wait a few months until he is back, so in the meantime, she has to stay in Medora, study at Akarnae, and continue to try to understand this strange new world.
What follows is a kind of bildungsroman where Alex goes on a journey to discover who she really is, and why she is so valuable to Medora. Although Medora is described as a beautiful and lush place, full of magic and impossibility, we don’t really see much of that in the world building (yet). The world building is basic, to begin with, but I believe it will expand as the series moves forward. It may not be to the same level as Erilea, Narnia or Middle-Earth, but there’s so much potential in the world, that some truly exciting things could be revealed. One such example is the Library. I won’t go into too much detail, as I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it, but I think the Library and what happens there is truly fascinating (well done Lynette). The concept is wonderful and adds a completely different level to the novel. I certainly haven’t read anything like that before.
“Life is full of crossroads, Alex. Full of choices. There are many paths we can take. It’s up to us to decide which ones lead in the right direction.”
Throughout the novel many themes were evident. There are the typical YA themes of identity, internal conflict, sexuality (only slightly), and the very important theme: choice. It’s scattered throughout the novel and there comes a time towards the climax that Alex’s choices become imperative. Character-driven novels are my favourite, and when the themes of a novel connect the characters to their choices, then success is due to follow. As a result, what really captured me in this novel was the relatable characters. Alex, Jordan, Bear, and D.C. all add value to the plot in their own unique way. Throughout the novel, I found myself attracted to the characters, and even when there was a lull in the action (admit it, all books have that lull), the characters kept me turning the pages. Not only are the main characters alluring, but the inclusion and mystery behind the antagonist are great, and all the secondary and supporting characters add interest and intrigue within the story. The protagonist, Alex, is a wonderful character. So many times in YA novels I read young female characters that are just too cliched. Alex is not like that at all. She’s reasonably level-headed (for a 16-year-old), she is stable, and carries a small naiveness that makes her a comforting MC. Admittedly, at the start of the book, I was a little unsure if I would like Alex, as her transition (and reaction) from Earth to Medora was a little confusing. She took it in her stride, but I did expect a little more turmoil and panic to be honest. However, as the story continued, I especially liked how she developed, and at the climax of the action, we see Alex make some difficult choices and sacrifices that truly expose who she is, and I loved every second of it.
There are some obvious connections to books such as Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, X-men, and even Percy Jackson, but the reality is, every author is influenced by books they love and authors that inspire them. I am writing a novel at the moment, and it’d be a ginormous amount of folly and arrogance on my behalf to say that my writing is not influenced by the writing of others. Of course, it is. Akarnae is still unique and has so much going for it, and I can see why young adults and adults alike are running to the bookstore around Australia to buy this novel.
As always, my reviews do not go into too much detail. The best thing to do is make up your own mind. Go buy the book. Then buy the second, and the third, and so on. Support an Australian author and put literature back on the map in this beautiful country of ours.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review. If you’re interested in learning more about the Medoran Chronicles and Akarnae, visit Lynette Noni’s website from the link below: