4 out of 5 stars
I received a partial ARC of this work.
When I saw that Garth Nix is adding a 5th book to my favourite series of his, I was over the moon. Who doesn’t love a new book by one of their all-time favourite authors? It turns out that I only got a partial ARC (nooooooo), but I am still going to review what I read and spend the next couple of months staring out of windows longingly until the universe manages to give me a complete copy.
This book is a continuation of the short story found in “Across the Wall” and features the characters from the first 3 books. Lirael is now Abhorsen-in-waiting and is training under Sabriel. Lirael is left in charge when Sabriel and the King leave for a much needed vacation, and almost immediately she receives a telegram from across the wall. Nicholas needs help dealing with a free magic creature that has made its way too far into the southern kingdom. Lirael gets there in time to save Nick and dispatch the creature, but since Nick is a weird amalgamation of free and charter magic, they decide to take him North to find a way to cleanse him of the free magic that lingers in his body. Lirael and Nick set out to Lirael’s childhood home amongst the Clayr, in the hopes that their doctors and librarians will be able to set him right.
In another part of the kingdom, a clanswoman from the far north brings an urgent message for the Abhorsen, but she is pursued. The northern clans have been taken over by the Witch with no Face, who demands the tribes give her some of their children as hosts to her spirit. Ferin was destined to be a tribute when a prophecy foretells of the witch’s demand that will spell death for their tribe. Ferin’s tribe decides to take the risk and disobeys the witch, sending her as a messenger to the Abhorsen begging for aid. The other tribes are incensed at this disobedience and send their best hunters and spell casters to stop her.
This book is wonderful in that it has so much of the character of the original trilogy. There is the same intense world building, the same tension-building fleeing from the living dead, the same realistic teenaged characters struggling to find themselves in a world of magic and necromancy.
The addition to the world that this book brings is the northern clans, with their own unique cultures and systems of dealing with magic users. Garth Nix always does a fantastic job of creating worlds that are rich and complete, and this addition to the series takes us further into the Old Kingdom.
Lirael was one of my favourite, relatable characters growing up (shy introvert who works in a library was a pretty close fit), so getting to see her growing up is a treat. She is now the Abhorsen-in-waiting and a hero for saving the kingdom. She has gained a lot of maturity and confidence in her new role and has really developed realistically as a character. I love it when series take the chance to have their characters learn and grow instead of remaining static. This book feels like meeting an old friend who has grown up with me.
It looks like Lirael and Nick are headed into a relationship! This series has had a surprising and refreshing lack of mushy, silly romances, but I trust Nix to handle this maturely and well. I don’t think Lirael will turn into a soppy idiot anytime soon, so Lirael and Nick can have this and I won’t object.
I am super disappointed in having to wait for the second half of this book, but this glimpse has reassured me Nix has not lost his touch and this fabulous and crucial series continues healthily. Go Garth Nix!!!