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Audiobook Review – Critical Role: Vox Machina – Kith & Kin by Marieke Nijkamp

What is Kith & Kin by Marieke Nijkamp About?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Explore the past of Critical Role’s daring half-elf twins, Vex’ahlia and Vax’ildan, in this original prequel novel to their adventures with Vox Machina.

Vex and Vax have always been outsiders. A harsh childhood in the elite elven city of Syngorn quickly taught them not to rely on others. Now, freed from the expectations of their exacting father and the scornful eyes of Syngorn’s elves, the cunning hunter and the conning thief have made their own way in the world of Exandria.

The twins have traveled far and experienced great hardship. But with the help of Vex’s quick wit and Vax’s quicker dagger, they’ve always kept ahead of trouble. Now, unknown perils await them in the bustling city of Westruun, where the twins become entangled in a web spun by the thieves’ guild known to many as the Clasp. Trapped by a hasty deal, Vex and Vax (along with Vex’s faithful bear companion, Trinket) set out into the wilds to fulfill their debt to the infamous crime syndicate.

As the situation grows more complicated than they ever could have imagined, for the first time Vex and Vax find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict that threatens the home they have carried with each other for years.

Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp, Critical Role: Vox Machina— Kith & Kin follows a brand-new adventure that delves into the twins’ unexplored history, and returns to some of the iconic moments that forged Vox Machina’s most unbreakable bond.

Review of Kith & Kin by Marieke Nijkamp

KITH & KIN by Marieke Nijkamp is a spin-off novel from the incredibly popular Critical Role streaming program that has since gone on to create comics, an animated series, and multiple spin-offs. Fans of THE LEGEND OF VOX MACHINA will certainly get the most out of this story but it is a decent fantasy novel on its own for those who haven’t much experience with Matt Mercer’s strane world or his players.

The premise is that Vex and Vax are twin half-elves that grew up in a rural village in the middle of the continent of Tal’dorei. Plucked from their living mother’s arms by their rich and racist elven father, Sydor, they have since gone on the run together. They live in either the woods or traveling from city to city, surviving via either Vax’s skill as a thief or Vex’s skill as a Ranger. This is before the events of either the animated series, comics, or the campaigns themselves. They only have each other and are mostly content with such.

What follows is an interesting story of Vex getting in trouble with an arrogant nobleman who decides to have her killed when she rejects his advances. Unwilling to let his sister be in the crosshairs of the fantasy mafia, called the Clasp, Vax sells himself to the organization and is dispatched for what should be a simple heist. Instead, it turns into caper between a feuding group of miners and a local town with a bunch of undead horrors between them.

Vex and Vax are the two most protagonist-like of the original Vox Machina crowd with the possible exception of Percy. Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien team up with Robbie Daymond to do the audiobook version and I’m inclined to think that this the best way to experience this novel. The text version is fine, though, and incorporates the backstory spread across all of the original Critical Role campaign to good effect.

The central moral conflict of the story being the townsfolk under siege by the undead versus the miners who’d unwittingly woken them up before being exiled for it isn’t one that I really gelled with, though. Bluntly, I think the miners are 100% at fault for the disaster and really didn’t deserve all the sympathy they got. I was much more interested in Vex and Vax’s history of growing up half-elves in an all-elven city.

Unsurprisingly, Kith & Kin feels very much like one of those Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms books that were published in the Nineties. I remember a lot of the side books were self-contained stories where Kitiara and Sturm went to the moon or Raistlin met with the King of Cats. There’s very little in this story that adds to the overall world of Tal’Dorei but it doesn’t have to. The tail is interesting in its own right and has a kind of “village of the week” feel you’d see in Avatar: The Last Airbender or other serialized narrative.

Do I recommend Kith & Kin to anyone not familiar with Critical Role or The Legend of Vox Machina? Eh, not really. It’s an okay fantasy story but I’d say that it’d be about three stars or three and a half stars. Fans of the series are going to get much more out of this and the audiobook version I’d go ahead to give four stars. I’ve liked everything Laura Bailey has been in since Bloodrayne, though, and that’s a bias I freely admit to.

Available here

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