Kith and Kin is the first official novel inspired by the hit streaming show Critical Role and is a prequel of sorts to the Vox Machina campaign. The same campaign is also getting it’s own animated TV show next year, so it seems that the mythology and world of Exandria is finally becoming accessible to those who don’t have hundreds of hours to spend watching Twitch.
It's a rough and tumble fantasy crime story, that then evolves into a tale between two factions. Initially we see the Vex and Vax, the two half-elven siblings, pull the tricks and cons they need to get by. The themes of duality are a little obvious here; city vs country, human vs elven, practicalities vs morality etc. At its core this is a story that takes an adventuring duo and splits them up so the reader can see both sides of story.
We also get some nice insights into the siblings and learn a bit more about Vex’s bear friend, Trinket.
This is a light and frothy fantasy story, the sort of thing that could easily be an episode of a long-running TV show or comic book. The writing style is steady and the pace is very accessible; this is the sort of thing you can get away with reading on a commute. Most readers will find it over much too quickly, despite it being a substantial story.
Fandoms that haven’t been around very long tend to be voracious in consumption of stuff related to their thing. Fans of Critical Role (charmingly called Critters) have poured through hundreds of hours of the show, multiple rulebooks and the like already, and no stone has gone unturned in terms of fannish speculation and dedication. Author Marieke Nijkamp has very cunningly scattered the book with references to existing storylines as well as laid the groundwork for future books.
This is an expertly done opening to a franchise that is going to run and run. There’s plenty here for anyone who doesn’t know the series with just enough to tempt those readers to seek out the other media. It’s almost surgical in it’s precision; it’s an excellent read that delivers just enough to keep the fans happy whilst also carefully bringing in new readers. Nijkamp has perfected the art of tie-in fiction as both a way to promote and elevate a franchise.
Kith and Kin is a solid fantasy novel. It’s not going to win any awards, but it is a lot of fun to read and if you like high fantasy with more than touch of crime and grime, this is worth your time.