The Abhorsen Trilogy: Lirael
Written By: Garth Nix
Published By: Eos
Reviewed by Frank L. Ocasio
So you finished Sabriel and one of two things happened. Possibility #1: You, being clever and awesome with a knack for foresight, walked right over to your box set of the Abhorsen Trilogy and pulled out Lirael. Possibility #2: You ninja rolled out of bed, the library, an office meeting, the shower, or wherever you finished Sabriel and galloped like a mighty beast to a book store to pick up Lirael... Well, actually, I suppose neither would be true, because if they were, you wouldn't be reading this review either way. But hey--the point is, you finished Sabriel and now you're ready for a follow-up that's as mind-blowing of an experience as the first in Garth Nix's trilogy.
Well, you're gonna get it... although probably not... exactly in the way you expected.
What was it I said about Garth Nix in my review of Sabriel? "Garth Nix isn't that predictable." Yeah. That was it.
What's not to be expected? Well, actually, it's kind of slapping everyone right in the face. See, Sabriel was titled after the book's protagonist right? Then in that case, the protagonist of Lirael would be... Yep. You've got it; the second installment of Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy follows Lirael, a young daughter of the Clayr who hates the fact that she's probably the worst Clayr that's ever lived.
Hey, hey--don't cry! It's okay. I know it's not what you expected, but Lirael is totally an awesome book, just like Sabriel. Don't fret because Lirael is even a lot better than Sabriel was in a lot of ways.
For starters, Lirael is actually a more engaging protagonist, believe it or not. We meet her at the age of 14, when she's upset about not yet gaining "the Sight." If you've already forgotten everything you read in Sabriel, the Clayr are the tanned, golden haired, elf-beautiful women who live in the Clayr's Glacier in the far North--two of them made an appearance in Sabriel. The Sight is the Clayr's ability to see events that happen in the future, and because of this ability, Clayr usually talk in riddles about what is, what has been, and what might be. Lirael can't do this at all though, which means that in the eyes of the Clayr, she's still an adolescent. An adolescent who's much older than she should be and who looks nothing at all like any of her Clayr sisters; Lirael has raven-black hair and pale skin. It's easy to feel for our young protagonist because of this. Actually, itís even easier when a time break occurs and we pick up Lirael's life five years later... when she still... doesn't have the Sight.
Finding out why Lirael doesn't have the Sight and discovering the destiny the Clayr have seen for her becomes the driving force of the story, which is a lot different from Sabriel's effort to find her father. Lirael's story is no less engaging, however. In fact, interesting concepts and ideas--like the fact that she becomes a Librarian in a giant, subterranean archive full of magical relics and monsters--the adventures of the daughter of the Clayr can be broader and more grandiose.
But in case you've still got cold feet, never fear; there are main staples of Sabriel's quest that are mirrored in this novel.
Example: after some adventuring, Lirael is joined by an animal companion who can speak. Sure, she's a dog, and sure, she's all one solid color like Mogget, but hey, it's comforting to have a tie in to Sabriel. A tie in that's different, fresh, and nostalgic all at once. And who's to say you'll never see Mogget again anyway, eh?
Another Example: In the quest that follows Lirael's time in the Clayr's Glacier--yes, she eventually does adventure out beyond its walls--she meets young Sameth, who we the readers actually meet around the same time we're introduced to Lirael. Sameth is aptly named because he's the same as Touchstone, Sabriel's companion from the last book who's great at magic and swordplay. But again, Sameth is fresh because he gets a lot more character development and becomes much more engaging than Touchstone was in the first place.
So what you should do is stop expecting the expected and start looking forward to something new that's somehow still familiar but always engaging and an incredible and absolutely addictive read.
But you're probably wondering what Lirael's actually looking for, eh? Well, you should be--it's totally what I was wondering and I'm being extra vague on purpose because I refuse to spoil anything for you. What I will say is that in many ways, you'll love Lirael more than you did Sabriel. Sure, you may say, "Why doesn't she have bells? Those were really, really awesome," or "Why is this Sameth kid so much like Touchstone? And why isn't he using the bells he has? It's driving me crazy!" But I guarantee, you'll also be saying, "I love Lirael and I totally feel for this Sameth kid," and eventually, when you get to the end of the book, you'll be saying, "Oh my God! Are you serious?!" And everything will make perfect sense.
One more thing before I quit: If you look any of these books up on Wikipedia--which I don't recommend because Wikipedia does not understand the concept of spoilers at all (they only dish out info on a book until they feel they've given an accurate description of everything that happens and there's nothing left to report)--if you go to Wikipedia though, they'll tell you that these books are part of the "Old Kingdom Trilogy" and not the Abhorsen Trilogy. So what do you ask booksellers for? The Abhorsen Trilogy anyway. The whole Old Kingdom Trilogy thing--it's a regional difference. Example: Lirael is sometimes titled Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr. If worst comes to worst, just tell them you're looking for an awesome trilogy by Garth Nix about necromancers. Chances are, they'll know what you're talking about. I can't tell you how many people saw me on the street with my face buried in any of the trilogy and said, "I love those books!" And we're talking adults here. Full grown. Business suits.