April 29, 2015

It Runs in the Family: Chlorr Gets the Mask

Macky's turn at blogging on this site for April involves his thoughts on Clariel, an additional novel in the Abhorsen series. I have yet to read it (since I want to reread the other 3 before it first), so I'm curious to find out if I'm going to feel the same as he does... Now I'll let him tell you what exactly those feelings were!

Clariel book cover
Clariel by Garth Nix
Series: Abhorsen #4
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Source/Format: BEA 2014 || ARC
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilp. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her - and it is herself she must question most of all.

So. Prequels. Not always fun but if well written adds so much depth to a (hopefully) well established universe. And the Abhorsen trilogy is a universe so rich and so original, you’d be hard pressed to believe anything prior to the events chronicled in these books would fall short of the initial impact.

Because let’s face it, for those of us who love the trilogy, it’s main appeal falls squarely on two legs: the magnificently unique mythos about reverse necromancy via bells and ancient powers… and the compelling journeys the characters walked.

“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” asks the Book of the Dead. Well, Clariel, the lost Abhorsen had her path cut out for her. We know her as Chlorr of the Mask, and how one of the characters in the books half let it slip that she was once an Abhorsen.

I gotta say that by the end of the book you just feel bad for her. Reading Clariel is a lot like watching movies in the same vein of Titanic and the Alamo. You know it doesn’t end as well as you’d like. To top it all off, the book started a bit slow for me. Had to muster up all my Abhorsen fandom to slug through the first few chapters of Clariel’s life because I was too busy looking for bells and free magic and the dead and hey… it doesn’t start with that.

But I liken this very well written story to an amusement park ride that starts of calmly and slowly enough and then suddenly hurls you into space at speeds that are pretty much insane. You’ll know when that point is as you read it. It was literally a “waaaaiiit… whaaaaa? *sinks in* Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh what the heeeeellll!!!!” moment.

And then it’s all down hill from there. Crazy crazy things.

Do I recommend reading this outside of the Abhorsen trilogy? Probably not. Unlike Sabriel or Lirael (and even Sameth), there just isn’t enough of a world building foundation in Clariel alone for any reader to appreciate the enormity of the world.

Is it a good story? Yes. But best enjoyed in context. Otherwise there’s too much information and nuance that you won’t be able to savor as well had you not been immersed in the original trilogy. Garth Nix is a great story teller and Clariel’s tale, was simple. Just another young woman trying to find her place in the world, thrust into circumstances she had little control over. The path chose her when it unveiled itself. And she walked it as best she could. In the end, that’s the best anyone can do anyways. It was good to know she tried. That she had a good heart. That she had so much stacked against her she had so few choices to make… and the few that she did… wrought some good in the world in spite of what we know she’d become.


  1. Great review, Macky! I love how you even quoted the Book of the Dead there. I haven't started the Abhorsen trilogy yet but from the way you described it in the first few paragraphs, I'm definitely interested! Sad to hear that the prequel didn't quite live up to the world-building the trilogy had but it was nice to hear your thoughts about it anyway!

  2. Awww... thanks! its a well written story in all due fairness to Garth Nix. And as an aspiring writer i get how a story like clariel just has to be told... its in you... And its part of a greater world you've built. And he does an amazing job of telling the story. It's just... i wanted bells. Hahaha. So that's on me... not the author. Lol


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