Author: Garth Nix
Series: The Abhorsen Trilogy and additional Old Kingdom books
Dark forces are abroad once more in the Old Kingdom. Lirael, solitary daughter of the Clayr, and Sameth, the reluctant Abhorsen-in-Waiting, both seek the same man who may hold the key to an ancient evil stirring in the West.
But the Dead cannot be laid to rest until the strange secret linking the fate of Lirael and Sameth is revealed.
A spellbinding tale of discovery, destiny and danger…
This is the first book I’ve completed for the 20 Books of Summer challenge hosted by Cathy at 746Books. I know it’s already 6 days into the challenge, but I was away for the first four and didn’t get much reading done.
Now, onto the review. There will be spoilers.
As an avid reader of fantasy fiction, Lirael had me hooked from the start. I’d finished Sabriel, the first book in the Abhorsen trilogy, a few days before I started this book. Sabriel itself can be read as a stand alone, but once you commit yourself to Lirael, there is no turning back. While the characters from Sabriel don’t progress into Lirael the way you’d want them to, it’s easy to get caught up in the lives of our main characters.
Lirael is told from the point of view of the Sightless Clayr Lirael and the Prince of the Old Kingdom Sameth. Their narratives shift between the two, inevitably drawing their paths together.
Most of the world of the Old Kingdom had already been constructed in Sabriel but in this book we delve deeper into the lands of the Old Kingdom, exploring the Clayr’s Glacier and the Royal Palace, and other places along the way.
The story revolves around Lirael and Sameth, starting with Lirael on her fourteenth birthday, when she considers commiting suicide because she is the only Clayr without the Sight. Instead, a chance meeting with some of the higher Clayr turns into her getting a job at the Library to take her mind off of her Sightlessness. Lirael had always been different from the Clayr, with her pale skin and dark hair, and not knowing who her father was. Her mother had left her to the hands on her aunt when she was very young.
The book goes over Lirael finding ways to work magic that doesn’t involve the Sight. She learns different ways to channel Charter Magic and use it in ways it hasn’t been used in centuries. In the first part, Lirael is fourteen and slowly learning how to work in the Library. The book starts to move faster after she accidentally lets out a Free Magic creature that she alone must banish. In part two, five years ahead, nineteen-year-old Lirael has a certain mastery over some aspects of Charter Magic, thought she still cannot See.
Across the Wall, the crown prince of the Old Kingdom, Sameth, son of Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone, is finishing his last term at school. While heading back from the cricket stadium to school, the driver takes a detour and lands them near the Wall that separates the Old Kingdom from Ancelstierre, where the non-magic people live. Ambushed by the dead, Sam tries to go into Death to fight the necromancer who controls these dead, and ends up burned by said necromancer and almost put under his control. Sam barely escapes back into Life and they manage to overpower the remaining Dead. What he doesn’t know is that his friend Nicholas was put under the power of the necromancer, instead.
Sam is meant to be the Abhorsen-in-Waiting but is terrified of Death after his encounter with the necromancer and cannot pick up The Book of the Dead or the bandolier that holds the seven bells that aid a person who wants to go into Death. He puts off trying to learn by busying himself with other work. His parents are mostly absent, called away by the duties of the kingdom, and Sam never gets a chance to tell them his fears.
Hordes of Sountherlings from Ancelstierre cross the Wall in hopes of finding farmland and a safe haven in the Old Kingdom, but are instead being hunted and killed by the Dead. It is clear that the necromancer and one of the Greater Dead, Chlorr of the Mask, are slaughtering these people for some greater purpose.
When Nick sends him a letter telling him he’s coming to the Old Kingdom, Sam slips away from the palace to find him, sure that he’s gotten into trouble and that the necromancer Sam fought in Death was with him.
In the Clayr’s Glacier, Lirael takes an unexpected journey into some of the deeper parts of the Glacier and finds pan-pipes, The Book of Rememberance and Forgetting, and a Dark Mirror that lets her look into the Past. The higer Clayr find her but do not punish her. Instead, Lirael is shown a vision of Nick and is sent to find him.
Both Sam and Lirael head towards the Red Lake, the only place the Clayr have trouble Seeing. Sam and Lirael meet during their journey and team up to reach Abhorsen’s House (the house of Sabriel’s father and previous ancestors), the only safe haven from the Dead. Throughout the journey, Sam gets more and more nauseated by the bells, whereas Lirael is strangely drawn to them. Lirael also uses the Dark Mirror to see into the past. She tired to see who her father is but only gets a hazy image of him. Because the Mirror requires her to be in Death to see the past, the necromancer finds her and tries to subdue her, but she escapes into Life.
It is only when they reach Abhorsen’s House that they understand why Lirael is Sightless and why Sam could not wield the Abhorsen’s bells. Lirael is half Abhorsen and the bells and book were meant for her, which meant Sam was not the Abhorsen-in-Waiting at all. She is also a Rememberancer, something only a child of the Clayr and Abhorsen can become. Lirael’s father was also Sabriel’s, which makes her Sam’s aunt. I’m so glad I kept off shipping Sam and Lirael, because that would have gotten very awkward very fast. I did see it coming, what with Lirael’s physical description matching Sabriel’s in the first book.
The book ends with an epilogue that shows Nick being possessed by a higher master that the necromancer serves, weaving this plot wider and more intense. Out of the Nine Great Charters, only Seven willingly served to create the Charter itself, and while the Eighth ran away and hid, the Ninth had to be forced to be contained. It is hinted that the Ninth might be the cause of all this chaos, and that it might be rising again.
The book properly explores the creation of the Charters and their way of wielding magic, discovering facts that no one knew about. There’s a lot of setting that takes place in Lirael, with almost all of the plot resting in Abhorsen. There are a lot of political issues that coincide with the necromancer and his plans. Lirael is almost like a prologue to Abhorsen.
All I can say is, I am so glad I don’t have to wait for the next book.
20 Books of Summer
Books Finished: 1