Sunday, March 30, 2008

Further adventures in Death

This second book in the Abhorsen Trilogy transfers the focus from Sabriel, heroine of the first book,to a narrative that alternates between Lirael, a teenager growing up among the Clayr, and Sameth, Lirael and Touchstone's teenage son.

Lirael is a very lonely girl. Her mother died when she was only five, and she has no idea who her father was - only that he was someone her mother met outside the Clayr's glacier home. The Clayr are gifted with the Sight, and their foretelling of the future is invaluable to the king and queen, particularly in this time of unrest in the Old Kingdom, when the dead are rising in numbers greater than anyone has seen since the time of the interregnum (the setting and events recounted in Sabriel).

But Lirael is still waiting for the Sight to come to her at fourteen - she watches in helpless frustration as children years younger gain the precious Sight and move on to perform real, valuable work for the kingdom. Lirael yearns only for the Sight, to truly belong - but her path, it seems, leads her in a different direction. Her magical skills are impressive (but unimportant to her - she'd much rather have the Sight), and she is given a job at the library - a sprawling place with many forbidden rooms and locked doors behind which, Lirael learns to her fascination and fear, lurk dark and terrible creatures. With her only companion, the mysterious Disreputable Dog at her side, Lirael explores the library, learning skills and collecting information that she will direly need in the days to come.

Meanwhile, Prince Sameth, at school in Ancelstierre, the land across the wall where his mother went to school, is on the brink of graduation and is preparing to return home to his parents and sister. But suddenly he finds himself abducted and pursued by legions of the dead. Attempting to combat the necromancer who controls the dead leaves Sameth wounded and traumatized, with an overpowering fear of the land of the dead and his role as Abhorsen-in-waiting.

I enjoyed Tim Curry's reading of Sabriel so much, there was no question but that I'd listen to this one, too. And - no surprise - it did not disappoint. My favorite aspect of this series - aside from the wonderful characters - is the complex magic system that Nix has developed. It works in very specific, well-explained ways. It's not just waving wands and speaking words - through the course of the novels, Charter magic becomes almost a character in itself.

While Sabriel is a standalone novel, more of a prequel to the rest of the series, really, Lirael is the first part of a larger story to be concluded in Abhorsen. It is suspenseful, touching, humorous at times, horrific in others (even though the word "zombie" is never mentioned, that's what the dead are, in varying degrees. Think of an army of zombies controlled by a single, twisted mind...). I very much look forward to hearing Tim Curry read the conclusion of this wonderful trilogy.

Books in the Abhorsen Trilogy:
1. Sabriel
2. Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr
3. Abhorsen

Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr (#2 in the Abhorsen trilogy) by Garth Nix; narrated by Tim Curry (Listening Library, 2006)

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  1. I am glad you are still enjoying this series, I really loved it when I read them a couple of years ago. I might have to see if my library has the audio verions as Tim Curry is awesome! I hope to read Across the Wall this year which is Nix's collection of short stories set in the same world.

  2. Rhinoa - I think you'll really enjoy the audio version. Tim Curry is amazing, and the way he does dialog makes you really see the characters. I had no idea that Across the Wall existed - thanks for the tip. Now if we can only get Tim Curry to do the audio...

  3. I miss this series - you're making me want to revisit it! Like Rhinoa, I have Across the Wall on my reading plans for this year. I look forward to returning to the Old Kingdom.

    I look forward to your thoughts on Abhorsen now. I think you'll enjoy it - it's a satisfying conclusion to the series.

  4. Glad you enjoyed Lirael... I think it's my favourite of the series, although all three are excellent, imo.

  5. Nymeth - I can see why you'd want to revisit the Old Kingdom - what a compelling combination of places and people! I'm excited to see how it all ends.

    Cath - I really did enjoy it. The change in tone (and focus) from the first book reminded me a bit of the way The Earthsea Trilogy changed focus in the second volume. At first I missed Sabriel, but after a few pages I was hooked.


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