Beginnings and Endings

In catching up with my reviews, today I will share my thoughts on Abhorsen by Garth Nix. This is the third and currently final book in his Abhorsen series, although according to GoodReads, a fourth book is planned. I am glad that I read this book, since that means that I completed a series that I started (yay!) but at the same time, it was hard for me to get into this book. I’m not sure why, since I did enjoy it, but it took a long time for me to finish it.

abhorsenAbhorsen continues the story of Lirael and Sameth. Lirael has just found out that she is the true Abhorsen-in-Waiting. They also know that there is a powerful necromancer, known as Hedge, is trying to kill them. Hedge has turned another necromancer, Chlorr of the Mask, into a Greater Dead, giving her control over legions of dead, shadow hands, and much more. All of this is to help Orannis the Destroyer break free of his prison and return to earth.

Put that together with the fact that Sameth’s good friend Nick is unwittingly helping Hedge do all this. Nick is from Ancelstierre, and therefore doesn’t believe in any sort of magic. What sets out to be a visit to a friend turns into a nightmare as Nick is pulled deeper and deeper, giving his very life energy to help the enemy. We also have no idea whether Sabriel and Touchstone are still alive, or if they have any idea of the seriousness of what’s going on back home.

It’s all up to Lirael, who is still trying to adjust to her new life outside the Clayr’s haven in the north. She is the only one capable of fighting the Destroyer. And then there’s the question of who exactly Sameth is, now that he’s not the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. He’s been given the robes of the Wallmakers, but he has no idea what that even means.

I really like this world, I like the characters, I like the magic system. I can’t tell you why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. I think part of it was that it got a little slow in the middle. It didn’t always keep my interest. But then something would pop in there and catch my eye again, and I’d want to keep reading. I still think the Disreputable Dog is one of my favorite characters, both because of her name and who she is. She’s awesome.

I am still glad I read this book though, because it did tie up some loose ends quite neatly. I still think book two (Lirael) was my favorite book in the series, with this book tied with the first one. I have no idea where book four will go from here, but I’ll still probably read it when it comes out.

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Unexpected twists of fate . . .

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.

LiraelLirael 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.

I just want to know his name . . .

This past weekend, I recorded a podcast episode discussing the book Sabriel by Garth Nix. I thought it only fitting that I talk about it here as well.

This book was recommended to me by the book club over at the Mallorean Tavern (which I moderate, by the way – come see us!). I’m so glad it was nominated, otherwise I probably would have never picked this book up. I had never heard of it before, and I had never heard of the author either. Now, I feel obliged to go find the other books in this series immediately.

Well, not immediately. The library isn’t open yet. But I’m stopping there after work!

SabrielThe story follows a young girl named Sabriel, who was rescued from death as a baby by a strange man called Abhorsen. He says that he saved her because she is his daughter. It’s all very mysterious, right at the beginning, and you do wonder who this man is and whether or not he is truly her father. But that turns out to be the case. It also turns out that Abhorsen is a necromancer, charged with keeping the land of Ancelstierre free from the spirits of the Dead who wander over the Wall from the Old Kingdom.

When Sabriel is in her last year of school, she receives a messenger who delivers to her Abhorsen’s sword and his bandolier, which holds the different bells that are used in necromancy. Sabriel realizes that he has been captured and imprisoned in Death and sets out to travel to the Old Kingdom to find out what happened. Thus begins the big journey, where she learns many things, not just about the Old Kingdom, but about herself.

For starters, her father’s name is not Abhorsen. Abhorsen is his title. Several times, Sabriel is referred to as “the Abhorsen,” which she hates. For some reason, this bothered me. It’s a small detail, but I wanted to know what her father’s name was. You know, before he became “the Abhorsen.” I suppose it doesn’t matter in the long run, but I still want to know!

While traveling through the Old Kingdom, Sabriel discovers that the great Charter Stones, set in place to regulate magic, have been damaged. At one of these broken stones, Sabriel finds that she is being pursued by a being called a Mordicant, sent from Death to stop her. She rushes to her father’s house in the Old Kingdom, where she is safe, and where she meets one of my favorite parts of the book – Mogget. Mogget is a cat. Except that he’s not. He wears a collar which keeps him nice and subservient, but Sabriel learns his true feelings once the collar is taken off. Mogget is no ordinary housecat, but a strange being made of pure Free Magic. And he’s none too happy about being chained and serving generations of Abhorsens. Once Sabriel gets the collar back on, he’s a perfectly calm housecat again, but it was very tense having this quiet kitty along, knowing full well that all he wanted to do was rip Sabriel’s head off. As they escape the Abhorsen’s house, they discover Touchstone, a young man who was trapped half in life, half in death for 200 years. I won’t give anything away about his story, but together with Sabriel (and reluctantly, Mogget), they go forth to find Sabriel’s father and try to defeat a Greater Dead by the name of Kerrigor.

There were so many cool things about this book. I loved the way they did the necromancy, with several bells of varying size and sound. The magic system was very interesting, with the variations between Charter Magic and Free Magic. There was also the contrast between the modern Ancelstierre, with it’s electricity and automobiles, and the Old Kingdom, with it’s castles and magic stones. My library has the next two books, Lirael and Abhorsen, and I will be picking them up this afternoon if at all possible. This was a very exciting read and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Weekend Update

Hello all! Last week was a tough one, which is why I disappeared for three days. The stomach flu hit our house pretty hard. Everyone is back up and around again, thank goodness, so we can all get back to normal. Or what passes for normal around here.

Some updates from the past weekend:

  • Uploaded the 17th episode of Bibliophiles Anonymous, where we discussed the book Sabriel by Garth Nix. What was really exciting about this was that when we updated our Twitter with a link to the new episode, Garth Nix RETWEETED IT TO HIS FOLLOWERS!! It’s so exciting to receive replies from authors with what we do! Luckily we really enjoyed the book, so his fans won’t be angry with us. I’m planning to run to the library and see if I can find the other books in that series this afternoon.
  • I have officially survived week two of grad school. This past week was harder than the first one, but I think this week looks a little easier. The calm before the storm, probably.
  • Against my better judgement, I started watching a TV show and now I’m hooked. Like I have the time to devote to a TV show these days, but that’s why I like being able to watch episodes online and on my Kindle. And it is great. I can now say that I understand what all the fuss was about, and I am now a huge fan of Downton Abbey. It’s such a good show! I’ve been a big Maggie Smith fan for years, and she is wonderful, but the whole cast is great. I love these characters (except for the few that I really hate) and since many of them are fighting in World War I right now, I’m on pins and needles.
  • I’ve been playing a little bit of Lord of the Rings Online (again, because I have sooooo much free time). I’ve had two characters on there and both of them finally got to level 25, which is pretty good, I think. So much so that I’ve started a third character, who is now at level 13. She’s a little hobbit girl and she’s so cute!

I think that’s all the news fit to print from this neck of the woods. My regular blog schedule should continue through this week, barring any catastrophe.