An early Happy New Year to all of you out there! I imagine this will be my last post of 2014: I haven’t started a new book yet and I will be spending all of New Years Eve at Disneyland. It promises to be a fun (but quite exhausting) day and New Year’s itself will be spent watching football (Go Ducks!). Hope your holidays (if you celebrated) were lovely and that you all have a great 2015. So, without further ado, my final review of 2014: Lirael.
New York Times bestseller Lirael is perfect for fans of epic fantasy like Game of Thrones. In this sequel to the critically acclaimed Sabriel, Garth Nix draws readers deeper into the magical landscape of the Old Kingdom.
Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Abandoned by her mother, 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 possible futures—that is the very birthright of the Clayr. Nevertheless 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.
If Sabriel felt like it was a bit simplistic, Lirael feels closer to my beloved Clariel. It’s a tale of growing up and how crushing it can be when you aren’t what everyone expects you to be. In the first twenty pages of this book our protagonist was seriously contemplating suicide. It’s not the first time that the topic is brought up, and even at the end of the book, when she knows what her destiny is, the specter of that thought of what she should have been never fully leaves her, and she never does shake that sense that she is, in some way, a failure even though she really isn’t. Nix also gives us the flip side in Prince Sameth: as the son of the Abhorsen Sabriel, he’s naturally expected to be the Abhorsen-in-Waiting and that’s the absolute last thing he wants to be because he’s afraid of the Dead and Death, and can’t help but feel that he’s a disappointment to his parents for it, even as he’s afraid to mention to his mother just how unsuitable he is.
These traits could make for a pair of unlikable characters. I found myself liking Lirael – despite her disappointments and her cutting herself off from the other Clayr to protect her heart from the disappointment, she teaches herself a great deal of Charter Magic and becomes a strong woman in her own right, even if she doesn’t necessarily see it. Sameth on the other hand just kind of grates. When both protagonists make comments about how much a whiner he is, it’s difficult to not see that for yourself. It doesn’t make him compelling, and quite honestly, his sections drag the rest of the book down and it feels like they go on longer than they actually do.
Rounding out the characters are some of my favorites – his anthropomorphized ones – Mogget (who appears in every book) and the new character of the Disreputable Dog. Constructs of Free Magic (Mogget) and a mix of Free and Charter Magic (Dog) Nix has managed to infuse the creatures with genuine personality and concern (in their own ways) for the humans they travel with. I can’t really recall another series that does this, let alone does it so well. Mogget’s appearances in the latter parts of the book make sitting through Sameth’s parts worth while.
Finally, though you can’t tell in the photo, the cover of Lirael (and all the paperbacks, really) have these lovely clear-embossed Charter Marks on them. It’s a lovely little touch and perhaps a sign of respect from the publishers that they’d spend the extra money to produce them, without significantly jacking up the cost of the book.
Overall, Nix still does a lot of things right. The themes in this series still feel like they carry a greater weight than just about any YA fantasy and even a lot of adult titles. The world remains fantastic, and Lirael herself is a great character. But Sameth is a huge disappointment and that Abhorsen is a direct sequel that means he’s coming back does leave me a bit weary. I do already own Abhorsen and as I’ve already read the other three books in the series, I’ll definitely be checking it out. Push comes to shove you can do what I did and just kind of skim his parts.
Verdict: Buy It