Hiyo, everyone! Today I will be reviewing Lirael by Garth Nix, a book I just finished reading last night! To begin, I’ll note two things: Firstly, Lirael is technically a sequel to another novel by the name of Sabriel by the same author. However, you don’t need to have read Sabriel in order to understand Lirael, though if you read them out of order, there will be some spoilers from the former. This review also includes some of those, though I will keep them to a minimum.
And, secondly, speaking of spoilers, I will avoid those as much as I can, although, as always, I will be discussing the premise of the book, which will reveal some introductory information.
Lirael mostly takes place in a land called The Old Kingdom, where magic holds great power and much of the technology from Ancelstierre, the neighboring nation, is obsolete. (Note that Anceltstierre’s technology falls far short of modern technology in the real world, but they do have electricity and stuff.) In The Old Kingdom, it is fairly common for dead things to walk with the help of necromancers, and other magical constructs are not unheard of.
The Old Kingdom is largely ruled by three groups: The royal bloodline, the Abhorsen bloodline, and the Clayr. The Abhorsen is the only person in The Old Kingdom who is allowed to practice necromancy and it is their job to deal with all threats from the dead. The Clayr are a people gifted with the Sight – the ability to see visions from the future or possible futures. It is with the Clayr that we meet Lirael, the primary protagonist.
We find Lirael in great distress on her fourteenth birthday when she awakes to discover she still doesn’t have the Sight, though it is typical for members of the Clayr to first See when they’re ten or eleven. Immediately, Lirael is sympathetic to anyone who has ever felt like they do not belong. For a recluse like me, at least, she’s a very easy character to identify with and she’s definitely my favorite character in the book.
As time goes on, Lirael finds a place in the Clayr’s Great Library, which, unlike modern libraries, is rife with magic and danger. She eventually befriends a creature called the Disreputable Dog who can talk and displays several other signs of very obviously not being a normal dog. From there, she gradually comes to find her place in the world – and learns firsthand the dangers of The Old Kingdom.
The book’s other frequent viewpoint character is Sameth, the prince of The Old Kingdom and the Abhorsen-in-waiting. He, too, feels like he doesn’t belong – his blood requires that he learn how to fight the dead and enter Death itself, but not long into his character arc, we find that he is deeply afraid of everything to do with being Abhorsen and feels he is completely unsuitable for the role. Eventually, he ends up journeying to find a friend of his from Ancelstierre, Nick, who came to visit and instead found himself in dire trouble. He is soon accompanied by a delightfully sardonic magical creature resembling a cat who goes by the name of Mogget.
Eventually, the two main characters meet each other, and with each other’s help, they steel themselves for the battle ahead – a battle that could see The Old Kingdom fall to ruin.
I found Lirael to be a super easy read that kept me coming back for more – in fact, I read the 700+ page book in just a few days. =p The Old Kingdom and the creatures dwelling within it give off a wonderfully spooky and ancient vibe, and the magic available to the characters is volatile enough to keep them in constant danger. There are surprises around every corner, and the protagonists and their familiars are extremely likeable. Several quotes from throughout the book offer memorable perspectives on various aspects of life.
Lirael‘s biggest downside, in my opinion, is that the ending felt a bit abrupt and anti-climatic. It very clearly sets the direction for the sequel, Abhorsen, which I expect I will review this month. There is a major revelation, of course, but it’s obvious enough that I saw it coming hundreds of pages in advance. I’m hopeful that Abhorsen will provide a proper climax to the story in its place; unlike Sabriel, Lirael‘s ending leaves the story feeling incomplete.
Despite that, I strongly recommend Lirael to anyone who is a fan of the fantasy genre and who likes experiences dark and sinister worlds. The setting and characters are simply enthralling to read about, and I expect the trouble brewing throughout the novel will lead to an intriguing conclusion in the sequel. Overall, I rate Lirael 4.5/5.
Have any of you read Lirael, or any other book in the series? If so, who are your favorite characters, and what did you like most about the novels? If not, what have you been reading instead? I hope to hear from you soon! ‘Til then, thanks for reading my review!