Book review

Lirael by Garth Nix (2001)

part two of the Old Kingdom trilogy

Time passes, even in the Old Kingdom. King Touchstone I has ruled for fourteen years, together with his wife Sabriel, the Abhorsen.

How do you suppose it feels to have two national heroes for parents? Tested to the ultimate in their time, Sabriel and Touchstone passed with flying colours. And they are still busy people. Touchstone is ruling a Kingdom with troubled borders and Sabriel is continually pressed by her duties to protect the living from the dead.

Prince Sameth, though, is feeling the strain. When his time comes, will he be able to meet his parents' expectations? How can it be that he, the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, fears Death and hesitates to enter Death willingly?

But Sabriel was constantly in demand away from Belisaere, flying her red and gold Paperwing from one trouble spot to the next. It was a bad winter, people repeatedly said in Sam's hearing, with so much activity from the Dead and from Free Magic creatures. Sam always shivered inside as they said it, knowing their eyes were on him and that he should be studying The Book of the Dead, preparing himself to help his mother.

And at the other end of the Kingdom Lirael is experiencing similar self-doubts. If she is truly a daughter of the Clayr how is it that she alone of her people does not have the Sight?

'Death,' Lirael whispered again, tasting the word on her tongue. What else was there for her? There had always been the hope that one day she would gain the Sight. But now she was fourteen. Who had ever heard of a Clayr Sightless at fourteen? Things had never seemed quite so desperate as they were today.

But not only do these two share a desperate self-reproach. They are also both gifted Charter Mages, and, as you will discover, their destinies are linked, somewhere on the edge, between life and death ...

If you like to take your magic strong and can stand to peep through the veil into Death, then I think you will love this book. An accomplished admixture of dark necromancy and light humour, and extraordinary feats of courage with self-deprecation. Highly recommended!

What can I read next?

Lirael is a sequel. They're better read in order:

The world that Garth Nix has created is utterly real. If that is how you like your magic you might like to look at this trilogy by Catherine Fisher:

Or this completely enthralling story by Lian Hearn:

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