Monday, 9 May 2005

Book review: Lirael & Abhorsen (Garth Nix)

It's no secret that I think Narnia (CS Lewis) and His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman) are the best fantasy series' ever written for children, and that I think the Harry Potter books don't even come CLOSE to matching these two series'.

Well, now there is another series that joins that list of two books - Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series, consisting of Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen.

I've reviewed Sabriel before HERE, and now I shall get on with Lirael and Abhorsen. Why did I lump them together? Because I think that they are essentially ONE book, split into two parts. As such, because of spoilers and plot reasons, I shall only mention Abhorsen in passing, and will focus mostly on Lirael.

Anyway, on with the review:


Title: Lirael & Abhorsen (Book 2 & 3 of the Old Kingdom series)
Author: Garth Nix


(Note: I've decided to only put the synopsis of Lirael, since the one for Abhorsen gives away spoilers regarding Lirael.)

Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Abandoned by her mother and ignorant of her father’s identity, Lirael resembles no one else in her large, extended family living in the Clayr’s Glacier. She doesn’t even have the Sight - the ability to See into the present and possible futures - that is the very birthright of the Clayr.

Nonetheless, it is Lirael in whose hands the fate of the Old Kingdom lies. She must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil - one that opposes the Royal Family, blocks the Sight of the Clayr, and threatens to break the very boundary between Life and Death itself. With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, to help her, Lirael must find the courage to seek her own hidden destiny.

Main Characters:
Lirael: An orphaned child of the Clayr who is despondent that she does not have the Sight that is the Clayr's birthright.
The Disreputable Dog: Lirael's only friend, a Free Magic creature who is not what she seems. She is, however, quite disreputable.
Sameth: Son of the King and Queen of the Old Kingdom, and the Abhorsen-in-Waiting.
Mogget: A Free Magic creature who takes on the form of a little white cat. Also the longtime servant of the Abhorsens (something like the 'good' necromancers of the Old Kingdom)
Nicholas Sayre: Sam's best friend. A budding scientist who comes from Ancelstierre, where there is NO magic.

What I liked:
  • GREAT writing. It flows smoothly, you never feel bored, and you just wanna keep reading and reading it.
  • Great pacing. Lirael builds up the background of the characters well, then devlivers a shocker at the end, and then the pace quickens in Abhorsen. Like I said, it's ONE book, not TWO!
  • Great concept of magic
  • A good mixture of different characters and roles
  • How can you NOT love a character called The Disreputable Dog?!?!?!
  • I'm a sucker for things that come in levels or groups (whatever that means). I love the Bells of the Abhorsen (like I mentioned in Sabriel's review), and the Levels of Death are immensely intriguing to me, especially the hazards and the different gates.
  • The mixture of the 'real world' of Ancelstierre and the fantasy world of the Old Kingdom again comes into play with good effect here (even though it's not explain exactly WHY magic doesn't work in Ancelstierre. Or is it?).

What I didn't like:

  • Not much I didn't like, actually, though Sammeth's sister DOES get on my nerves a little.


Two words: READ THIS.

No, let me rephrase that. Read Sabriel FIRST, THEN read Lirael and Abhorsen. And if you haven't got enough, got get Creature in the Case (which I haven't read, BTW).

Beg, borrow, buy, steal, shoplift, whatever. GO get these books and READ them.

To learn more of the Old Kingdom, go HERE. It tells you about the Bells, the Charter Marks and everything else you wanna know. Well, MOSTLY everything.

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