The Rarkyn’s Familiar by Nikky Lee
It is amazing what a little spark, or tweet, will do for your career. Nikky Lee found out exactly what can happen when she was awarded a publishing deal after pitching the idea through a Twitter competition. And thus, The Rarkyn’s Familiar was born.
It takes a skilled writer to create world’s that are both familiar and separate from the world we exist in. Something that is so real that it is believable yet retaining that escapist mentality that makes fantasy writing continue to be so intoxicating. Perhaps it is the fact that the world of Lee’s is not populated with the typical fantasy creatures, rather she envisages her own beings that are intriguing (although a little confusing at times).
The titular ‘rarkyn’ is a monster of Pratchett-esque proportions, but with the sensibility of one of the Victorian classics.
The story centres on the world as Lyss knows it. Complete with magic, winged creatures, telepathy and some of the other tropes of the genre, Lee constructs a quest that will stretch the duration of the trilogy. The treatment of the magical elements is fascinating, including the interpretation of the magic by the various factions.
Ultimately, the first half of the book is an opportunity for some exposition. It feels like a literary text of old where the situation and setting is explored in a great amount of depth. This gives context to the world that these characters inhabit and also sets up the narrative for the more exciting second half. Of particular note is the character of Brin, a bereaved woman who encapsulates much of what is incredible in Lee’s writing through the embodiment of the bear spirit that inhabits her.
The real story of the trilogy kicks in as Lyss is encouraged to find out more about the magic, and a release from a blood-pact. However, it is not necessarily the expected enemies that create the biggest issue, rather it is the internal struggles that she must overcome.
There is a lot of scope for Lyss and her companion Skaar to explore in the subsequent books in the series. One feels that there is much much more in the imagination of Lee that is just bursting to be explored in book two and three. One warning should probably be the amount of gore and quite visceral descriptions of death throughout the novel.
Lee allows the characters a narrative voice throughout the novel, taking the perspective of each in relatively equal measure. Even Archer, the bad apple of the novel, gets the opportunity to provide some rationale as to his plight in the environment he finds himself in.
Overall, this is one of those novels that is an unexpected thrill. For someone who is not an avid follower of the fantasy genre, it was breathtakingly refreshing to feel that sense of connection between the characters and the immersion in a world of the imagination. A thought provoking novel with wonderfully vivid descriptions and developments.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
The Parliament House