The Chronicles of Exandria Vol. 1: The Tale of Vox Machina Is the Perfect Campaign and Show Companion

Books Features Critical Role
The Chronicles of Exandria Vol. 1: The Tale of Vox Machina Is the Perfect Campaign and Show Companion

For a series like Critical Role, as it started in its weekly Dungeons & Dragons liveplay format, the stories being told at the table live solely in the minds of those playing and those watching. The characters drawn up by Critical Role cast members Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey, Liam O’Brian, Marisha Ray, Matt Mercer, Sam Riegel, Taliesin Jaffe, and Travis Willingham are embodied by their voices, but aren’t truly, fully brought to life until their dedicated audience, known as Critters, scribble their various interpretations and share them online. In Critical Role’s most recent art book, The Chronicles of Exandria Vol. 1: The Tale of Vox Machina, the company’s publishing branch Darrington Press combines fan art and in-universe commentary to provide a book that welcomes fans into the world of Exandria while celebrating the company’s relationship with those fans. 

The Tale of Vox Machina, which covers the individual characters and events that happen in the first half of the campaign (which also happens to include the events that have since happened in their Amazon Prime animated series The Legend of Vox Machina), was just recently reprinted, allowing new fans to be able to get their hands on a piece of Vox Machina’s history, as well as to provide new artistic additions. Directed and curated by Critical Role’s own Liam O’Brian and Taliesin Jaffe alongside Lauren Ipsum, The Tale of Vox Machina features 250 pages of fan-made content and in-universe observations from Exandria’s archivist group The Cobalt Soul. 

The art featured in this book is, truly, stunning. The Tale of Vox Machina displays a wide array of different styles, techniques, and interpretations of the heroes and villains we all know and love. One piece in particular feels straight out of The Legend of Vox Machina itself: Vax’s interaction with the Matron of Ravens by David Rodridgues, which captures the haunting and fulfilling dynamic between Champion and Matron. Flipping through each character’s section is a testament to why Critical Role has amassed such a fervent and dedicated audience; each artist’s interpretation of Ray’s Keyleth, for example, features the same bones, the same general markers, but each image also features a piece of that particular artist, molding the character of Keyleth to fit their style and interpretation. It’s incredible to see Critical Role as a brand embrace such variance in what they deem canon, making room within Exandria’s walls for everyone, regardless of experience or expression. And the index in the very back of the book provides social media handles for every artist featured, allowing you to find your favorites and support them online. 

The Chronicles of Exandria Vol. 1: The Tale of Vox Machina from Critical Role

While this book is filled with incredible art to enjoy, it also features an abundance of in-universe musings from the archivists at the Cobalt Soul. The copy within the book, written by James Haeck, Taliesin Jaffe, Liam O’Brian, and the cast of Critical Role, is enriching and fun, keeping with the seriousness that accompanies the mission of the Cobalt Soul while covering everything from the various NPC biographies to the recounting of the Chroma Conclave battles. Vol. 1 recounts everything that has been shown through Season 2 of The Legend of Vox Machina, but with additional information from the tabletop. If you have watched all of The Legend of Vox Machina and want more context and moments from the Vox Machina campaign without actually facing the daunting task of watching over 500 hours of tabletop roleplay, this book acts as the perfect supplement for the series. It fills in the blanks where The Legend of Vox Machina had to be cutting with its inclusions, while providing visual aids for the various moments and characters that did not make it onto our screens. Including the origin story of how Vox Machina met Arcanist Allura Vysoren and Lady Kima, an important bit of backstory that didn’t make it into the lore of the series. Though, if you have already watched Vox Machina and its campaign, this book is still a great addition to your Critical Role collection. The cover is beautifully glossed with a colorful illustration; it’s a really pretty book, I already have it sitting on my own coffee table. And while it is well made and well done, it does boast a hefty price tag, which is probably the only downside of this otherwise fun book. 

If nothing else, this book (as well as the subsequent others in The Chronicles of Exandria series, which will soon include a reprint of Vol. 2: The Legend of Vox Machina from Darrington Press later this year and Dark Horse’s The Chronicles of Exandria—The Mighty Nein) is tangible proof of the symbiotic relationship between Critical Role as a company and brand and their viewers. It’s refreshing to see a fanbase be as embraced as Critical Role’s is, allowing fans to become involved in the storytelling and presentation of Critical Role, its characters, and its world with frequency and ease. Critical Role has exploded in popularity over the course of its near-decade of existence, and its relationship with fans will be what maintains that upward trajectory, and books like these help to kindle that flame into perpetuity. 

Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert.

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