January 26, 2012

Thursdays with Macky • The Life of a Necromancer

Lirael book cover

Lirael by Garth Nix
Series: Abhorsen #2
Previous Book: Sabriel
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Publication Date: April 21, 2001
Source/Format: Owned || Paperback

Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Now, two years past the time when she should have received the Sight that is the Clayr’s birthright, she feels alone, abandoned, unsure of who she is. Nevertheless, the fate of the Old Kingdom lies in her hands. With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, Lirael must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil.

Abhorsen book cover

Abhorsen by Garth Nix
Series: Abhorsen #3
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2003
Source/Format: Owned || Paperback

Abhorsen continues the story of Lirael. Together with Prince Sam, Mogget, and the Disreputable Dog, Lirael must forestall the waking of an unspeakable evil before it has the chance to wield its ultimate powers of destruction.

A Spoiler Warning of a Different Kind

Before you read on for my actual review, I wish to warn you about spoilers. I'm not referring to spoilers in my review, but the ones that might get you when you read blurbs and back covers.

My warning is this: DO NOT READ THE BACK OF THE BOOK ABHORSEN. Why? Lirael feeds directly into Abhorsen. So, if you don’t want to know what happens in Lirael, for the love of all things geeky, DON'T read a thing about the third book in the series, Abhorsen!!

Garth Nix does such a great job of building the story up in Lirael. It takes away from the experience if you know what happens next -- and this is advice coming from a spoiler hound. Read nothing of the book Abhorsen. I say this with all the geek love in my heart. Now, on to the review.


Ladies (and possibly gents), gather round for part two of this awesomely retro review.

If you’ve read my review of Sabriel, hopefully, you’re at the very least inspired to grab a copy and read through the life and times of a benevolent necromancer-in-training (which is Abhorsen to you fans). Sabriel had a magnificent run and frankly, I had to get more of the Old Kingdom right at the exact moment that I finished the book.

There I was, (and I remember this vividly because I loved this book when I read it all the way back in 2004) basking in the aftermath of Sabriel’s ending, lying on the bed in the guest room of my aunt’s flat in Oz thinking… I NEED MORE.

The seven bells, free and charter magic, Abhorsens, Clayr, the wall… I needed my fix. I needed to know what happens next because even if the ending was very good, it just was not enough for me. I say this without intending to spoilerize (yes,that’s a word... as of now), but to bring to your attention that Lirael and Abhorsen do just that.

The last spoiler I shall give in this review is that Lirael feeds directly into Abhorsen. Here endeth the spoilers. Buy them together, simply for your sanity’s sake. But if you’re normal and have a high emotional quotient and won’t lose your mind if you don’t find out what happens next, you can chill and not take my advice.

The Good

Well-woven is the very least I can say about this new story. It’s a very big story to tell and for Garth Nix to make it all work? Brilliant.(On a side note: For any aspiring writers out there, you might want to visit Garth Nix’s website because he lays out how he puts books together.)

The detail and intricacy of events, past, present and future in Lirael is just so incredibly mind blowing.

The already rich world Sabriel lives in gets even deeper. The feel that you get from these two books is a lot like the feel you get from reading every Harry Potter book after the first one. First, you begin to get a sense of how large Harry’s world is and how much history there was behind all the events leading up to his life. And then, we take the stakes and pile them as high as you can and see where it all lands from there.

We have new characters to journey with and a lot of the old ones are here too (the ones that are alive anyways). Obviously, the title character Lirael is at the center.

She’s such a tragic heroine. She’s a far cry from Sabriel. But her story is just so compelling. She’s a Clayr, like Sanar and Ryelle from the last book, but she’s got a ton of problems and none of them are of the typical “teen drama” kind.

Again, this novel centers around a young woman coming into her own. Sabriel had her path chosen for her. Lirael will have hers revealed. She is a Clayr after all. And she’ll see for herself that she (like many other heroes) was meant to change the world.

The Whut

I’ll say this: Lirael is LONG. Frankly, if I didn’t love this world so much, I’d have tuned out.

First off, Lirael’s a Clayr, a race of seers and precognitives. In other words, she's so not an Abhorsen. And then suddenly the story becomes about her being not a very good Clayr and I’m thinking: Where are the dead things? Where are the bells? Where’s Sabriel, dang it?!

If you come into the fray expecting all that, you may be put off. Re-reading it again for the nth time has reminded me that in spite of the long windup, Lirael was VERY FUN to read through.

The only problem being you might have to be a specific kind of geek or a fan of the series to want to push on. It's not because the story isn’t paced well, but just that there’s so much detail that you might not necessarily care about right off the bat.

Lirael is a girl among a race of girls with precognition and she still hasn’t gotten hers. This sets her apart; it makes her feel an outsider. It’s very uncomfortable to see her agonize through the years how much of an outsider she is among her kin. If you can get past that kind of drama to the point where her destiny unfolds, if you decide to care about this poor girl and her “family troubles”, you will not regret taking the journey with her.

In fact, by the time you get to Abhorsen, it’s just all downhill from there. Reading Lirael is a long steep climb, but it’s a mountain worth climbing.

I am so biased when I say this: Lirael and Abhorsen deliver even more than you wanted them to in order to satisfy whatever Sabriel left you with a hankering for.

The Awesome

Just about everyone (of a like mind) that I’ve pimped this series to UNANIMOUSLY say this is one of the best series in the world. Then, I eventually met some people who knew about Garth Nix and they thought this series was magnificent.

Great epics (in my humble opinion) hook you by seeing your characters accomplish great things. Then the epic ends by setting these bloodied characters up to accomplish feats of “apocalyptic proportions”. That’s big fancy words for “the world will go boom if the good guys don’t beat the big bad ones”.

Lirael and Abhorsen take things to that level. And the buildup is so masterfully done. You’re literally with Lirael, not knowing any more than she ought to, and then suddenly the world opens wide and the stakes are so high that you can’t even begin to cope.

That buildup is gold. If you even like the series at all, the buildup of events and the plot revelations ought to put these books on your “favorite books” shelf.

Hang on to your bells kids, because this is a ride you’ll never forget. This is, of course, assuming you even care at all about the Charter, and the bells, and the never ending battle against the dead.

So to you dear Lirael… Sameth… and, of course, Sabriel, thanks for a great ride. I’ll come back to visit like I always do, and I always will until I pass through the ninth gate myself.


Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)