A while back, I wrote a review of Sabriel by Garth Nix. Since I made it a resolution to try and finish series that I start, I had to go to the library and find the next book, Lirael. And I have to say – it was even better than the first.
Lirael was nothing like I expected. I expected a continuation from the last book, which this really wasn’t. Sure, Sabriel and Touchstone are still around (they got married too, which I was glad to see), but they are in the background for most of the story. The main story focuses on a young girl named Lirael. She is one of the Clayr, an ancient group of seers who live on the glaciers of the north. Unlike the other Clayr, Lirael hasn’t received the gift of sight yet, despite being well past the age when this normally happens. She feels like an outsider, always left behind with the children, and never able to fully be part of the community.
Here’s my favorite part. They decide to let her work in the library, so that she can feel like she is making a contribution to their work. I want to work in their library! Although Lirael finds out that the library isn’t just a nice place to sit and read. It is so immense, many Clayr don’t even know how far deep into the glacier it goes. Lirael finds many horrible things secreted away (and nearly gets killed in the process). But she also spends a lot of time reading and learning, which brings me to my next favorite thing: the Disreputable Dog. Lirael decides that she wants to create a Charter sending, which is sort of like a creature made out of pure magic spirit. What she gets instead is the Disreputable Dog, a creature somehow created out of Charter and Free Magic, but still very real. The Dog is sweet and kind, but also very powerful, and becomes Lirael’s constant companion.
Cut to the other side of the Old Kingdom, where we meet Sameth, the second child and only son of (you guessed it) Touchstone and Sabriel! Touchstone has been crowned king of the Old Kingdom, and Sabriel is his queen, even though she is still the powerful necromancer known as “the Abhorsen.” Sameth is supposed to be studying necromancy in his position as Abhorsen-in-waiting. If something happens to his mother, he is the kingdom’s next Abhorsen. But Sameth is unsure of himself, and frightened of the prospect of fighting the dead, since he had nearly died himself during an encounter with an evil necromancer. Once he hears that a friend of his from Ancelstierre might be in danger from this necromancer, Sameth knows he has to go and try to save him.
At the same time, the Clayr receive a vision about Lirael. She is to be sent out of the glacier on a mission, to find a strange boy who is unknowingly bringing about some evil designs. Of course, you know that Lirael and Sameth have to team up at some point, since they are in fact looking for the same person. Their personalities clash, but the are ultimately able to work together, along with the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget, a servant trapped into serving the Abhorsens who is kept in the form of a very haughty cat.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book is the way it expanded the story world. It goes into more detail about Charter Magic versus Free Magic, the purpose of the Clayr, and how these three bloodlines (the royal family, the Abhorsens, and the Clayr) fit together to rule and protect the Old Kingdom. It made the entire thing even more rich and vivid than the first book.
I can’t wait until my reading schedule clears a bit and I can get back to reading book three.