The Barnes & Noble Review
Garth Nix's critically acclaimed novel, Sabriel, first introduced us to the magical world of the Old Kingdom. In Lirael, the story begins in the Old Kingdom once again, only this time it centers around the Clayr, who were only touched upon in the first book. The Clayr are a group of women who are known for their ability to see into the future. It is here that we find Lirael, who at 14 years old has yet to come into her magical ability -- and who is deeply ashamed of it. Her adolescent feelings of depression and alienation are compounded by the death of her mother. And she has never met her father. She is totally alone. Like it or not, Lirael is forced upon a journey of self-discovery.
As in Sabriel, there is a great deal going on with necromancers -- evil sorcerers who invoke the dead. (Sabriel, like her father, is an Abhorsen, someone who binds the dead and undoes the evil necromancy. Sabriel has been quite busy because there is a new evil in the land that threatens to destroy the entire kingdom.) There are basically two stories being told in Lirael. The first involves the title character, and the second revolves around Prince Sameth. Both characters must deal with their destiny, each yearning for something but not knowing exactly how to go about getting it. All Lirael wants is to have the sight, while young Sameth's wish is not to be the Abhorsen-in-waiting. Sameth has gone into Death, confronted the necromancer Hedge, and was nearly killed. He has no desire to return to that world. In the end, it is inevitable that both stories merge into one.
Just like his mother, Prince Sameth and his older sister Ellimere have been educated outside the Old Kingdom in the town of Ancelstierre. We are introduced to Sameth as he is about to graduate. His royal sister, being two years older, has already been back to the Old Kingdom preparing to be Queen. Sameth is a self-assured young man who enjoys life. Nicholas, his best friend, is not from the Old Kingdom, and he has never really believed in the Old Kingdom and its magic. After Sameth confronts Hedge, it is Nicholas who attempts to do what Sameth could not -- namely, to try and destroy the necromancer. Unwittingly, Nicholas becomes a pawn of Hedge.
While back home recuperating from his injuries, Sameth has changed. He desperately does not want to be the Abhorsen. Rather than completing his studies, he decides to go after his friend Nicholas, who has come to the Old Kingdom. While he is en route to find Nicholas, he meets up with the magical cat Mogget. It is after they are together that they finally connect with Lirael.
Lirael, in the meantime, has reached the age of 19 without receiving the sight. For the past few years she has worked in the Clayr library, which has afforded her the ability to keep her distance from her fellow Clayr. She doesn't feel like an outsider when she is working within the library's walls. And this library is not the usual sort; it is not only filled with books, but also houses the documentation of past prophecies, as well as many secret rooms filled with enchantment.
On her 19th birthday, Lirael goes exploring in the library with her magical pet, the disreputable Dog. It is then that she comes upon her real fate and is immediately sent upon a mission. The Clayr have seen a horrible future unfolding and, since Lirael is also in this vision, they send her to meet her destiny.
Garth Nix has written a story of epic proportions, filled with characters we can really believe in. We are sorry to see it end. Or does it? (Rosemary Marotta)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Nix's sequel to Sabriel, readers return to the entrancing and complicated Old Kingdom: a world of necromancy, seers, dangerous monsters and talking animals (the cat Mogget is back). The relationships between the Kingdom's various realms and the magic may take some unraveling for readers new to the series, but the heroine's plight will be instantly compelling. Lirael is the only one of a community of clairvoyant women not to be gifted with "the Sight," and the mystery of her parentage contributes to her alienation. Just after her 14th birthday, Lirael releases a Stilken (half-woman, half-crustacean) from a glass-covered coffin. Her act leads to a meeting with a healer (Lirael's great-great-grandmother) who fortifies her and urges her to take as her only friend the impertinent "Disreputable Dog," a creature of suspicious magical origin whose true nature remains unknown. The overall plot may follow the expected course an evil magician threatens the well-being of the Old Kingdom and Lirael finds her destiny linked with that of handsome, nervous Prince Sameth (son of Sabriel) but startling subplots abound and keep the pages turning. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and Nix leaves nearly every major question unanswered. The evil is still at large, the Disreputable Dog still unexplained and Lirael's mother's desertion of her unresolved. Readers hoping for a satisfying ending will have to wait for the third in the series, to be titled Abhorsen, and tentatively scheduled for fall 2002. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This book is the second of a proposed trilogy, and it might be a good idea to read the first book, Sabriel, first, for certain quirks of the plot. Lirael, a girl of the glacier-dwelling, ritual-obsessed, magic-using Clayre people, is an obvious misfit. With her dark hair and eyes, she is the only one surprised by her failure to develop "The Sight," which should have appeared by puberty. But by page 133, we are thoroughly captivated by her trials and her charm. She conjures up a "companion" dog, using skills she's not confident she can handle. Even if that dog is the "Disreputable Dog" of legend, it clearly is almost real, and very doggy. So when the scene suddenly changes to the Old Kingdom, where Prince Sameth is happily playing cricket, we want to know why the shift. What happened to Lirael? Then suddenly the young prince, unhappy with being viewed as heir, not only to his father the king, but to his mother the "Abhorsen," (whatever that is), becomes as interesting as Lirael. The two protagonists meet, collide and clash as the secret of Lirael's birth is slowly revealed. An experienced fantasy reader will have discovered the secret long before the plot characters. Both Lirael and Sam have some serious maturing to do. Of course Sam with his cat, Mogget, and Lirael, with the Disreputable Dog, soon become companions anddare we say itfriends. The end of the book is obviously not the end of the story, and the reader is left impatiently waiting for Volume Three. Recommended for sci-fi/fantasy fans, but not as an introduction to the fantasy genre. 2001, HarperCollins, $16.95 and $16.89. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
In this well-written sequel to Sabriel (HarperCollins, 1996/VOYA April 1997), set twenty years later, the Old Kingdom finds itself again besieged by the Dead. Led by a powerful necromancer, Hedge, who serves an unnamed, terrifying being, both Ancelstierre and the kingdoms farther to the south are caught in the coming maelstrom. Touchstone, the King of the Old Kingdom, and his wife, Sabriel, the Abhorsen (one who battles the Dead on their own turf), are busy handling diplomatic or magical crises. Their children, the rather-too-cocksure Ellimere, and Sameth, a discouraged and frightened seventeen-year-old presumed by everyone but himself to be the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, are left to run the kingdom. Far to the north, the other main thread of the story follows Lireal, one of the Clayr, women who can see the future. Lireal, however, does not have the Sight. To prevent her from being completely despondent, on her fourteenth birthday she is put to work in the Library. It is within the confines of this Borgesian labyrinth that she begins to unravel the twin mysteries of her birth and her destiny. Sound world-building, swift plotting, and superb characterization, including some of the strongest animal characters in recent fantasy, make this sequel must reading for those who have read the first volume and a brisk, involving experience for those who have not. The cliffhanger ending guarantees an audience for the projected third volume. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 496p, $16.95. PLB$16.89. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Ann Welton SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
In this powerful and complex sequel to the much-praised Sabriel (HarperCollins, 1996), Nix returns us to the Old Kingdom, a land of dark magic, where evil necromancers can too easily bring the dead back to a hideous semblance of life. We also return to Ancelstierre, the Old Kingdom's neighbor to the south. In that nation, magic doesn't work, except, that is, in the northernmost reaches when the wind blows south across the Wall. Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr, has lived here her entire life within the Clayr's Glacier in the far north of the Old Kingdom. There, she is a misfit and an outsider, abandoned by her mother, not knowing her father. Lirael has hair that is the wrong color for a daughter of the Clayr and, worse yet, at age fourteen has not acquired Sight, the psychic ability to see into the future that is the heritage of her people. All of the other girls gained this power at around age eleven, but not Lirael, who is so depressed by her circumstances that she seriously considers suicide. Half-way across the world, Prince Sameth, the heir to the throne of the Old Kingdom, is attending school in Ancelstierre. Although his talent for playing cricket assures his popularity, he is nonetheless, regarded as something of an exotic oddity by his schoolmates. Then, one day when the wind is blowing strongly from the North, the bus carrying Sameth's team is kidnapped and driven toward the Wall. Just at the point where the bus stalls and, not coincidentally, Sameth can sense dangerous Free Magic in the air, he and his mates are attacked by Dead Hands, reanimated monsters controlled by a necromancer named Hedge. Most of the boys survive the attack, but Sameth's best friend, Nick, encounters theevil sorcerer face to face and, unbeknownst to Sameth, becomes his slave. In Sabriel Nix developed a complex theology and history for his world, all of it based on the opposition between Charter Magic, which is lawful and controlled, and Free Magic, which is neither. The latter, although not necessarily evil, is readily used for such purposes by sorcerers, necromancers, and a variety of truly ghastly supernatural creatures. The Old Kingdom is ruled over by King Touchstone and his queen, Sabriel, hero of the first book in the series. Like her father before her, Sabriel is also the Abhorsen, a good magician of great power. At the very beginning of the novel, we learn that the necromancer Hedge is preparing to dig up an ancient and overwhelmingly dangerous "something" that has lain buried for centuries and protected by powerful spells under a desolate hill. As the novel continues, we discover that he has set in motion a complex plot which also involves the attempted kidnapping of Prince Sameth, Nick's enslavement, and the promotion of political unrest in Ancelstierre and other nations to the south of the Wall. Hedge is also able to use his magic to hide what he is doing from the Sight of the Clayr and thus from King Touchstone and the Abhorsen, who only know that things are going badly wrong all around them. As the novel ends, Lirael and Sameth have each learned important new information about themselves. So allied with two magical animals, the Disreputable Dog and Mogget, a centuries-old cat, they are about to embark upon what may well be a foolhardy attack on Hedge. Nix's universe is both darker and more ambitious than those created by the common run of YA fantasy writers. There is some comedy in the tale, most of it involving Lirael's interactions with the Disreputable Dog (who is a truly wonderful character), but there are also a fair number of gruesome scenes in the novel and any number of characters, including several children, end up dead. In terms of both difficulty and maturity of outlook I'd place Lirael somewhere between the Harry Potter books and Philip Pullman's more complex His Dark Materials series. Lirael is an excellent novel and I look forward to the promised third book in the series, Abhorsen. 2001, HarperCollins, $16.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Michael Levy SOURCE: The Five Owls, September/October 2001 (Vol. 16, No. 1)
Those who enjoyed Sabriel will find familiar ground in this fantasy, another coming-of-age tale. Here the protagonist is Lirael, who despairs of ever getting the Sight that runs in her family. Lonely and about ready to commit suicide, Lirael encounters Sabriel and her husband in deep conversation. Other forces also come into play, and Lirael awakens to find herself assigned to the library as an assistant. There she discovers that she can read the past, and she also conjures up a new friend in The Disreputable Dog. Lirael finds that her gifts are unique, and is summoned to a harrowing mission that could reveal her real destiny, different though it might be from what she or anyone else imagined. Along the way, she finds that she has more supporters than suspected—and more inner strength than realized. The story is long, but Nix provides enough twists to keep up the reader's sense of suspense and discovery. Nix also does a good job of getting inside the skin of a female teenager, which is welcome in this genre. Librarians will certainly enjoy this volume since the library is filled with wonders (and dangers), and reading is a key to success and survival. (Sequel to Sabriel) Category: Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, HarperTrophy, 706p., , Long B
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Lirael has never fit in with her hundreds of cousins, the Clayr. Orphaned, lonely, shy, and painfully aware of her physical differences from them, she also lacks their Sight of the future. However, when her skill with magic and her companion, the Disreputable Dog, help her accomplish a quest foreseen hundreds of years before, the Clayr entrust her with an even more perilous search. Elsewhere in the Old Kingdom, Prince Sameth, son of King Touchstone and the Abhorsen Sabriel, is convinced he is unfit for his inherited duties. Slated to succeed his mother in protecting the Kingdom from the ravages of the Dead, he finds that his first journey into Death has left him too frightened to return. Despite his fears, he sets out to rescue a friend headed into danger. Lirael's and Sameth's paths converge, and they learn more about their pasts and the nature of the Old Kingdom's magic as they continue their quest together. While less immediately appealing than Sabriel, the heroine of Nix's first book about the Old Kingdom, (HarperCollins, 1996), the two teen protagonists share a mixture of insecurity and courage that will speak to adolescent readers. The fast-paced plot is packed with harrowing encounters with necromancers and magical foes. Nix continues to unfold the mysteries of the Old Kingdom, exploring the haunting and unusual, exhaustively and flawlessly conceived connections among its rulers and guardians, and the magic that infuses them all. A must-read for fans of the first book, Lirael will also fascinate readers new to the series.-Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In a riveting sequel to his acclaimed Sabriel (not reviewed), Nix recreates his trademark mélange of horror and fantasy. For the 18 years that King Touchstone and Queen Sabriel have battled necromancers and their Dead minions, orphaned Lirael has grown up among the Clayr sisterhood. Bereft of their prophetic Sight, she finds consolation in their labyrinthine library, honing her magecraft amid its ancient tomes and artifacts, and solace in the company of the Disreputable Dog of ambiguous magical provenance. Meanwhile, Prince Sameth has left school, shamed by his less-than-regal character, and terrified of inheriting Sabriel's duties opposing the Dead. But when a long-buried evil begins stirring up necromantic menaces and meddling in inter-kingdom politics, Lirael and Sam are forced to abandon their fears and dreams in order to shoulder burdens they could never imagine. This is pure-quill epic fantasy, with satisfyingly intricate world building that still propels the plot. Nix subtly invests minor characters, objects, even the landscape with vivid life, and his villains are acidulous distillates of pure malevolence. Lirael and Sameth possess rich personalities, sufficient to sustain the complex parallel narrative in which they do not meet until near the conclusion; in a refreshing departure from gender stereotypes, Lirael is mature, restrained, and analytical, while Sam is passionate, impulsive, and creative. The sarcastic feline familiar, Mogget, and the engagingly enigmatic Disreputable Dog add charm and sly humor to a tale that would otherwise be desperately grim. Readers who like their fantasy intense in action, magisterial in scope, and apocalyptic in consequences will revelin every word, especially the last three: "To be continued." (Fiction. YA)
Read an Excerpt
An Ill-favored Birthday
Deep within a dream, Lirael felt someone stroking her forehead. A gentle, soft touch, a cool hand upon her own fevered skin. She felt herself smile, enjoying the touch. Then the dream shifted, and her forehead wrinkled. The touch was no longer soft and loving, but rough and rasping. No longer cool, but hot, burning her --
She woke up. It took her a second to realize that she'd clawed the sheet away and had been lying facedown on the coarsely woven mattress cover. It was wool and very scratchy. Her pillow lay on the floor. The pillowcase had been torn off in the course of some nightmare and now hung from her chair.
Lirael looked around the small chamber, but there were no signs of any other nocturnal damage. Her simple wardrobe of dressed pine was upright, the dull steel latch still closed. The desk and chair still occupied the other corner. Her practice sword hung in its scabbard on the back of the door.
It must have been a relatively good night. Sometimes, in her nightmare-laced sleep, Lirael walked, talked, and wreaked havoc. But always only in her room. Her precious room. She couldn't bear to think what life would be like if she were forced to go back to family chambers.
She closed her eyes again and listened. All was silent, which meant that it must be long before the Waking Bell. The bell sounded at the same time every day, calling the Clayr out of their beds to join the new day.
Lirael scrunched her eyes together more tightly and tried to go back to sleep. She wanted to regain the feel of that hand on her brow. That touch was the only thing she remembered of her mother.Not her face or her voice -- just the touch of her cool hand.
She needed that touch desperately today. But Lirael's mother was long gone, taking the secret of Lirael's paternity with her. She had left when Lirael was five, without a word, without an explanation. There never was any explanation. just the news of her death, a garbled message from the distant North that had arrived three days before Lirael's tenth birthday.
Once she had thought of that, there was no hope for sleep. As on every other morning, Lirael gave up trying to keep her eyes shut. She let them spring open and stared up at the ceiling for a few minutes. But the stone had not changed overnight. It was still grey and cold, with tiny flecks of pink.
A Charter mark for light glowed there too, warm and golden in the stone. It had shone brighter when Lirael had first awoken and grew brighter still as she swung her feet out and felt around with her toes for her half-shoes. The Clayr's halls were heated by the steam of hot springs and by magic, but the stone floor was always cold.
"Fourteen today," whispered Lirael. She had her half-shoes on, but made no move to rise. Ever since the message of her mother's death had come so close to her tenth birthday, all her birthdays had been harbingers of doom.
"Fourteen!" Lirael said again, the word laced with anguish. She was fourteen, and by the measure of the world outside the Clayr's Glacier, a woman. But here she must still wear the blue tunic of a child, for the Clayr marked the passage to adulthood not by age, but by the gift of the Sight.
Once again, Lirael closed her eyes, screwing them tight as she willed herself to See the future. Everyone else her age had the Sight. Many younger children already wore the white robe and the circlet of moonstones. It was unheard of not to have the Sight by fourteen.
Lirael opened her eyes, but she saw no vision. just her simple room, slightly blurred by tears. She rubbed them away and got up.
"No mother, no father, no Sight," she said as she opened her wardrobe and took out a towel. It was a familiar litany. She said it often, though it always made her feel a terrible stab of sorrow in her stomach. It was like worrying a toothache with her tongue. It hurt, but she couldn't leave it alone. The wound was part of her now.
But perhaps soon, one day she would be summoned by the Voice of the Nine Day Watch. Then she would wake and say, "No mother, no father, but I have the Sight."
"I will have the Sight," Lirael muttered to herself as she eased open the door and tiptoed down the corridor to the baths. Charter marks brightened as she passed under them, bringing day from twilight. But all the other doors in the Hall of Youth remained shut. Once, Lirael would have knocked on them, laughing and calling the other orphans who lived there to an early bath.
But that was years ago. Before they had all gained the Sight.
That was also when Merell was Guardian of the Young, one who had governed her charges with a light hand. Lirael's own aunt Kirrith was Guardian now. If there was any noise, she would emerge from her room in her maroon-and-white-striped bathrobe, to order silence and respect for sleeping elders. She would make no special allowance for Lirael, either. Quite the reverse. Kirrith was the exact opposite of Lirael's mother, Arielle. She was all for rules and regulations, tradition and conformity.
Kirrith would never leave the Glacier to travel who knew where, only to return seven months gone with child. Lirael scowled at Kirrith's door. Not that Kirrith had ever told her that. Kirrith wouldn't talk about her younger sister. The little Lirael knew about her mother came from eavesdropping on her closer cousins" conversations. The ones during which they discussed what to do about a girl who so obviously didn't belong. Lirael (AER). Copyright © by Garth Nix. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.