Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Title: Lirael
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2001
Series: Abhorsen Trilogy (Book 2)
Next in Series: Abhorsen

Lirael is a Daughter of the Clayr, a large family gifted with future Sight. But Lirael is different. No one has ever Seen Lirael, she doesn’t look like her cousins, she doesn’t know who her father was and she doesn’t have the Sight. So Lirael is quiet, avoids her cousins, and eventually finds work in the Great Library of the Clayr. Years pass and Lirael meets (or makes) the Disreputable Dog. Together they explore the Library, but when they find an ancient tunnel ominously called “Lirael’s Path” things change. Suddenly she has been Seen: Lirael must leave the Glacier and attempt to defeat an ancient evil that has found its way to the surface once more.

Prince Sameth is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting to his mother, the Abhorsen Queen, Sabriel (heroine of the Abhorsen Trilogy Book 1). But Sameth is terrified of Death, the Abhorsen’s priority. They are the only necromancers who put the Dead back to rest, or bind those who will not rest deep within the river of Death. Sameth leaves the palace to look for a friend who is late in arriving, but really he’s fleeing his duties as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. But the bells, unmistakable tools of the necromancer, and Mogget, unwilling servant of the Abhorsen, refuse to be left behind.

The fate of the Old Kingdom rests on the shoulders of these two young people and their assistants.

Lirael, while silent around her family, is anything but a timid heroine. She has large internal issues to overcome, but she doesn’t let them rule her. She stands out as one of the most complex fantasy characters I have ever read. Sameth annoys me as any fifteen year old boy does. He’s self centered, fearful, thoughtless, willful and aggravating. He’s a well drawn character and ends up a respectable hero, despite his beginnings.

The odd thing about this book is that both of the main human characters are surpassed by their assistants, and it’s not just that they seem to be talking animals. (Mogget is a cat, by the way.) There is an air of mystery around both the Disreputable Dog and Mogget that leaves you constantly wondering and wanting more from them. Mogget’s dry humor and sarcasm give tantalizing hints of his hidden past, while the Disreputable Dog has more knowledge than the best Charter Mage ever born. So who are these assistants, and are they really the assistants?

The Old Kingdom is realistic to the point that it throws itself off the page at you. I can almost convince myself that it exists somewhere in Europe and if I were lucky (or perhaps unlucky) enough, perhaps I could visit there. That is how well Mr. Nix has made his world, a major triumph for any author but one he consistently puts forth.

"Lirael" is told from third person omniscient. You will regularly change between Lirael and the Disreputable Dog’s story line and Sameth and Mogget’s story line until the two join up.

My Thoughts:
While I love the first book in the Abhorsen series, "Lirael" is really my favorite. Since this book takes place between fourteen and nineteen years after "Sabriel", Lirael’s story can stand alone. (So if you haven’t read "Sabriel" yet and want to pick up "Lirael", you’re in luck!) However, buy this book in conjunction with the next book in the series, "Abhorsen", since it is really just the ending of everything set forth in "Lirael". I can’t say how annoyed I was late one night when I was first finishing "Lirael" to realize that nothing was going to be wrapped up and I didn’t have the next one to start immediately! That’s the only thing that’s taking the last half star from this book.

(And for those of you who are already fans of the Old Kingdom, Garth Nix has another two books coming out based in there, the first will be “Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen” due out in 2010, which takes place about 200 years before "Lirael". In 2011 there will be an as yet untitled book set after the happenings in "Abhorsen".)

Favorite Scene:
Being a huge fan of libraries, I was in love with the Great Library of the Clayr from the start. My favorite scene by far was when Lirael and the Disreputable Dog explored the dark recesses of the Library on her nineteenth birthday.

Who this book is best for:
While Garth Nix is usually known for writing young adult fiction, this book deals with some rough stuff and a lot of death and dead things (think zombies and other nasties). Therefore, unless you don’t mind a lot of death in your kid books, I’d say this is for 11th graders or up.

Violence: 3.5 of 5 for many dead beings and death scenes

Stars: 4.5 of 5

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