November 1-3, 2019
With the release of Vardaesia earlier this month, the final novel in Lynette Noni’s Medoran Chronicles, we look back on what separates protagonist Alexandra Jennings from the rest.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers up until and including book four, Graevale. There are no spoilers for Vardaesia.
Described as Harry Potter meets The Chronicles of Narnia, and written by Australian author and Supa-Star guest Lynette Noni, The Medoran Chronicles follows 16-year-old Alexandra Jennings’ journey into a magical new land as she tries to understand it whilst also trying to get home. With five novels and a book of short novellas, the series is a must-read for any fans of young adult fantasy.
The Medoran Chronicles stands on its own as something completely different in the YA genre, and a large part of that comes from the characterisation of Alex. Looking into the tropes that are commonly found in young adult novels, she proves she is not your typical protagonist.
The first time Alex is introduced in The Medoran Chronicles is in the first book, Akarnae. We meet a young woman heading to a boarding school, who steps through a doorway into a land called Medora. Not much more can be said about Medora without giving away major plot points, but there she meets Aven Dalmarta (who is later revealed to be the antagonist of the series) before ending up in the magical school of Akarnae.
Akarnae trains gifted humans before they end up working in Medora. Gifts include things like shapeshifting, invisibility, and compulsion. All gifts are different and everyone who comes out of Akarnae has a gift.
One of the better things about this land is that, as much as Alex likes to say that it’s magic, everyone else keeps telling her that it’s just science, and with their explanations Alex gets to see that they’re right. It’s not magic, but rather technology adapted over centuries. Alex is a character with a wild imagination set free in this land. As she learns new things, the reader laughs with her, and even feels some of her embarrassment.
In young adult novels, the ‘Outsider Protagonist’ is quite common. We see it in Katniss from The Hunger Games, Tris in the Divergent trilogy, and Hazel Grace in The Fault in Our Stars. It seems like the only way to be special is to isolate yourself wherever you can – Alex doesn’t do this. When she arrives at Akarnae, she befriends two individuals called Bear and Jordan, who become her core support. Later on, after the first showdown with Aven, Alex befriends D.C., her previously cold roommate.
Throughout everything, Alex leans on her friends. Coming into a new school is never easy and that makes Alex briefly an outsider, but she’s eventually accepted by everyone and properly integrated as a student.
Kaiden and Declan are introduced as simply fellow students in one of Alex’s hardest classes and have been training since their first year. In Akarnae and book two, Raelia, the boys are both minor characters who support Alex in her learning and they do not appear in book three, Draekora, at all. But by book four, Graevale, the reader is introduced to more of Medora through their pasts and their gifts. Once the reader starts to learn more about Kaiden and Declan’s gifts, they get an insight as to why the pair are so important. They are characters who both play vital roles in the final two books of the series, both being considered main characters in Vardaesia.
Alex asks for help when she knows that she needs it, rather than bottling up all of her feelings. Though there are times in which she keeps secrets to protect certain people, Alex often does what is best for her mental health and uses her friends as shoulders to lean on, and they do the same in return.
With the loss of a close friend in Graevale, Alex could have broken down and decided to stop fighting. The guilt she feels can be felt as everything unfolds, but Alex doesn’t let it get to her too much, she still has a villain to defeat. If anything, the loss brings Alex closer to the friends that she still has left and motivates her to not lose them too. It also encourages her to be completely open and reveal truths that others might have kept hidden in trying to protect people.
One of the most common tropes that we see in young adult novels is the ‘The Chosen One’ – the one person who can stop the darkness from winning – something J.K Rowling made even more popular with Harry Potter. To a degree, Alex is ‘The Chosen One’; she’s chosen by The Library, a sentient building where time passes differently, containing portals to other worlds. However, Alex isn’t the first person that The Library has chosen, nor will she be the last. She is one of the few who has full access to The Library, but that doesn’t make her ‘The One’.
There is no love triangle in The Medoran Chronicles and that is a brilliant thing. A love story isn’t needed to drive the narrative, and one only really starts to develop four books in during Graevale.
When someone is worrying about saving the world, the last thing they would generally think about is two other people fighting for their attention. We see this quite a lot in other releases, such as The 100, The Hunger Games and more.
We don’t see any of that in Alex’s story. Most of her time is spent trying to master her classes or trying to figure out how to get back to her home world. The idea of love and romance is tossed to the side and is used in the background.
Something we don’t see a lot of in young adult novels is both parents being alive and well, but this is the case in The Medoran Chronicles. Alex’s parents are alive from the start, and though she is separated from them in the first book, they become more important throughout the novels when they come to Medora. Alex loves both of her parents even if they don’t understand her at times, and there is no pushing them away throughout the novels.
When Alex arrives in Akarnae, she finds herself sorted into classes more advanced than she thinks she should be, and to begin with, she is right. She isn’t as good as everyone who has spent years in training, and she might never be. But she tries her hardest, and over time, she starts to become a contender. This isn’t something that happens overnight at all – which we often see in other releases.
In fact, in Raelia, though it is her second year at Akarnae, Alex still finds herself losing to her peers. It is mentioned by another student that the loss isn’t as bad as it was in her first year, so she is slowly getting better. By the end of the series, after a sizable amount of training, Alex is up to the level of everyone else. Her hard work is shown, and the skills she gains from it don’t magically show up overnight.
Alexandra Jennings is the hero that young adult novels need. She is loyal and kind, yet ready to fight if needed. There is no moral grey area — she knows what she is willing to do and will not budge on any of it. Alex is a well-written young adult, in a beautiful fantasy land for readers of all ages.
Lynette Noni will appear at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming – Melbourne (6-7 April) and Gold Coast (13-14 April).
Lead image: The cover of Vardaesia