Nikky Lee’s debut novel, The Rarkyn’s Familiar, is a high fantasy YA adventure that follows themes of revenge, redemption, anxiety, and acceptance. When she was a child, Lyss’ father was murdered at the bidding of the Illredian Empire. Lyss is on a journey to exact revenge against the person who murdered her father, but in a magical accident becomes bound to a rarkyn, a creature half-person and half-bird that draws its dark magic from the Otherworld. Lyss knows that being bound to the creature will slowly erode her sanity, its forbidden magic seeping into her and poisoning her mind. So she begins a quest to search for a cure to dissolve the binding before the rarkyn’s presence drives her mad, derailing her quest for revenge for her father. Can she dissolve the bond and find the person who tore her life apart? Or will being bound to the rarkyn drive her mad before she can complete her quest?

Lee has crafted a highly imaginative high fantasy world, fleshing out the strange magical rarkyns, the mysterious and dangerous Otherworld, and the ruthless soldiers of the crumbling Illredian Empire where Lyss lives. There is a rich history and backstory to the setting, the characters are fully-realised and fleshed out, and the pain and urgency of Lyss’ journey is present throughout the story. The chapters are told between Lyss and the rarkyn’s points of view, giving both of them distinct backstories and motivations, clear voices and personalities, and drawing the reader into their individual struggles for freedom, both from others and from their own trauma and pain.

I would recommend this book to lovers of high fantasy and YA fantasy, those who enjoy imaginative and thorough world-building, and also anyone interested in well-executed representations of mental health issues through the tools of the fantasy genre.

The Rarkyn’s Familiar is a well-rounded story on its own, but it is only the first in a series, so keep an eye on this author as the other books are released and the series continues!

Lee has also written extensively about the creation of Lyss and the world of The Rarkyn’s Familiar; she has blogged about the creation of the protagonist Lyss, about designing the magic system in the story, about the crumbling Illredian Empire, and about anxiety and magic and the parallels found in the eroding of Lyss’ sanity at the presence of the rarkyn’s magic. Visit Lee’s blog to dive deeper into the world of Lyss and her story!

I was provided a free copy of this book by the author in return for an honest review.

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