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review 2017-09-05 12:20
Sabriel, Lirael & Abhorsen by Garth Nix

This seriously was and still is my favorite young adult fantasy trilogy! I have read it several times. I loved everything about this series, however, I wish each book was a trilogy that focused on the main character, like I would have loved more stories from Sabriel and Lirael. Companion novels are hit and miss, because you really get attached to characters and the next book is new characters!

So it should have been Sabriel 1-3 and then Lirael 1-3 (Abhorsen would have been part of the Lirael trilogy.) Heck Garth could have gave us a series based on each character. Let's say 7 books each? Is that good for everybody? Needless to say, I am a huge Garth Nix fan and love all the books I've read from him so far. It goes without saying that this trilogy gets a huge 5 star rating.

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text 2016-10-31 22:05
Books read (or not!) in October
Spirit Gate - Kate Elliott
Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen - Garth Nix
Travel Light - Naomi Mitchison
Thieftaker - D.B. Jackson
Gunpowder Alchemy (The Gunpowder Chronicles) - Jeannie Lin
Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer
Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread - Nathan Edmondson,Phil Noto
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now - Erica Henderson,Ryan North
Updraft - Fran Wilde
Saving Bletchley Park - Sue Black

Books started: 13 (including the 2 I'm reading currently...)

Books finished: 10

Books not finished: 1

 

Genre breakdown: As usual, it's SFF all the way, though this time one exception when I was given a copy of Saving Bletchley Park, which is non-fiction.

 

What progress on Mount TBR?: Some, but not much. Oh well. 

 

Book of the month: In terms of the books I've finished reading, the clear winner this month is Updraft, which is excellent. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-10-06 10:19
Clariel - Garth Nix
Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen - Garth Nix

Fans of Nix's Abhorsen books have been waiting for a while for him to get back to writing about the Old Kingdom, so news of this book and another upcoming (Goldenhand) was surely welcome - these books cover two different periods of that land's history, with Clariel being a prequel to everything we already know and Goldenhand being the further adventures of Lirael and Nicholas.

 

The main character is the eponymous Clariel, daughter of a master goldsmith, who is also related to the King and the current Abhorsen. If you've not read the other books, this is a world filled with two types of magic, Charter and Free, with the Abhorsen using the former to deal with the Dead when they won't stay put and also Free Magic creatures, who tend to be destructive. Clariel's mother is ambitious and single-minded, focussed on her craft to the detriment of all else, and the family has recently moved to the capital from Clariel's beloved Great Forest. We know Clariel loves the forest because she tells us this repeatedly, as well as telling anyone else who'll listen in a lovely teenage 'nobody will let me do what I want' way. 

 

I'm sure if I'd read this book when I was a teenager I'd have empathised with Clariel and her plight, as she is pushed into dealing with people she doesn't like and meanwhile trying to make plans to run away, back to the forest where she's going to live as a hunter even though she has no money or resources. The one thing that seems positive is that Clariel's parents insist she continues to study Charter Magic, even though it's sneered at by the well-to-do, even though her study of it seems to consist of one trip to visit a Charter Mage, who then ropes her into a plot to deal with a Free Magic creature living nearby. 

 

Things are generally Going Wrong, with the local governor attempting to usurp power from the King who has himself retreated into semi-retirement after the disappearance of his daughter. We later discover too that both the Abhorsen and his apparent heir are more interested in horses and hunting than in doing their job, so the country appears to be in a bit of a mess. Clariel ends up running from the capital after the governor kills her parents, assisted by her cousin Bel (who also wants to be Clariel's love interest, though Clariel is very clear all along she has no interest in either boys or girls that way) and she then spends some time as a prisoner of the Abhorsen himself. Here we see the return of a fan favourite character, the mischievous and double-dealing Free Magic cat Mogget, who helps Clariel engineer an escape as she tries to take revenge on the governor. 

 

Anyway, my overall thoughts on Clariel: to be honest, I'm not sure it's a book I'll want to read again even though I've re-read the other books in this series. I think it's a book that benefits greatly from a knowledge of the universe in which it stands, which is a difficult thing to get around, and I liked the fact that although there was some pressure internally for a romantic relationship to form, this was clearly something the main character had zero interest in and didn't waver on that. In the end, Clariel makes a big mess and effectively has to be rescued by Bel, which I found a bit frustrating and predictable. Anyway, maybe Goldenhand will be more to my liking?

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review 2016-09-16 04:36
Behind Chlorr of the Mask: The Lost Abhorsen's Origin Story
Clariel (Abhorsen, #4) - Garth Nix

SUMMARY

Clariel is better known as the centuries-old necromancer and later the Greater Dead creature Chlorr of the Mask in Lirael. This is her early story.

 

PLOT

Clariel wants nothing more than to live as a Borderer in the Great Forest of Estwael. So when she is dragged by her Master Goldsmith mother Jaciel to Belisaire, to marry the Governer’s son Aronzo and forever be trapped in a life she is desperate to escape, Clariel takes steps to ensure her own freedom – even if it comes at a great cost.

This is not your typical origin story. This does not detail how Clariel becomes Chlorr the necromancer – rather, it details the early steps taken by Clariel so that you can understand how someone from the ‘good’ side of magic can become so twisted and corrupted. Clariel is not gifted with strong Charter Magic nor much knowledge of the Abhorsens due to a family feud, but she is gifted with the beserk rage familiar in both Touchstone and Sam, and that is tainted with Free Magic. Through the Free Magic, Clariel works to get what she wants – but doing the wrong thing for the right reason is still the wrong thing, and that’s a lesson I Clariel doesn’t learn, and I suspect still doesn’t learn later in her life and contributes to her downfall as Chlorr.

 

CHARACTERS

Clariel is of course our protagonist. She’s strong-willed and knows exactly what she wants in life, even at only 17. She’s also trapped under her mother’s tyrannical reign. It’s super easy to identify with Clariel’s chafing need to spread her wings and be independent, knowing she will thrive in her chosen career as a Borderer, and feel the helpless obedience that comes with being a dependent child. She’s also asexual, which I think, for some, might be interesting. I couldn’t really tell if it was just used as a minor plot point to keep rejecting certain suitors’ advancements on her. It certainly was easy to feel her horror as news of her arranged marriage came through. She’s not particularly selfish but she is self-absorbed to the point where that’ll the catalyst, she’s abrasive to the horror of other characters and doesn’t want to take part in their charades.

 

We see little of Clariel’s parents, her father who does the admin side of the goldsmithing business despite being a talented smith himself, and Jaciel, who is more obsessed with her work than he own family.

 

Also appearing is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting-in-Waiting, Belariel, or Bel, who is Clariel’s cousin and friend from the Academy. Bel is concerned that the current Abhorsens, in a family of 300 strong, are too busy ceremoniously hunting to face the tasks required of the real Abhosren, so Bel’s been training at night and reading The Book of the Dead in secret.

 

Also popping up for a pretty major role in corrupting Clariel is Moggett, the wiley twisty little feline-bound Free Magic creature who cannot be trusted!

 

WRITING

The biggest issue I had going in was that I was expecting more of clean and cut origin story when really, it sort of hinted at Clariel’s weakness and her eventual downfall to come. Imagine writing a Joker origin story where at the end he’s just getting involved in crime but he doesn’t fall into the vat of chemicals that changes him forever; or a Batman Begins without Bruce Wayne ever making the Batsuit; or a Superman story that is basically Smallville where we never see Supes don the cape, but while that works for Smallville, it took me until actually finishing the book to realise I wasn’t going to get Clariel’s tragic fall into the Joker vat of chemicals after all. We don’t see her become a necromancer – we see her fight the urge. We don’t see her do anything evil, really – she still tries to save lives and even though she does murder people, that can be viewed through a justice or revenge lens.

 

PACING

This book tricks you. It tricks you into thinking it’s got a slower pace than it does. We follow Clariel around the city for the first third before anything of interest really happens, much like following Lirael in the library – it’s all a big set up that you don’t even realise is happening. Then it’s all go-go-go all the time until you’re screaming at yourself to stop reading so fast, it’ll all be over soon.

 

OVERALL

I certainly think Clariel is a book you’ll only get the most enjoyment out of if you’ve read the previous Old Kingdom books.

 

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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review 2016-06-20 01:47
Abhorsen has used Saraneth to bind me into loving this series
Abhorsen - Garth Nix

Despite their new destinies, Lirael and Sam continue their plan to recue Nick and stop whatever he is unearthing. Slowly the pair come to discover what it is: Lirael embraces her destiny as not only the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, but a Remembrancer as well, someone who can See the past like her Clayr sisters can See the future. Sam, relieved he no longer has to deal directly with Death, embraces his destiny as a royal Wallmaker – his hobby of inventing and his powerful skill as a Charter Mage really pays off.

Although this book is a little higher on action than Lirael, I actually forgot how much of it involves travelling and discovering and planning and then action. The action really ramps up in the final third to lead to what I think is possibly my most favourite climax in any book I’ve ever read.

Lirael has really come a very long way from being the shy Sightless Second Assistant Librarian locked away in the Clayr’s Glacier – now she’s a tough warrior who slays the dead, who walks into Death itself to save the world. She’s really quite amazing.

Every time I moved back to Sam’s point of view I could almost feel the relief he felt at no longer being responsible for putting down the Dead. I’m so glad his love of inventing magical trinkets paid off in the end. I felt really sorry for Nick, the poor guy was just overwhelmed with evil power. You have to admire his willpower and intelligence though. I’m really looking forward to reading more about him and Lirael in Goldenhand. I was glad to see Mogget actually have a character arc in this besides being snide and sneaky. Although I’ve read this book before I completely forgot what happened at the end and had to have a cry when I realised who wasn’t coming back.

Nix’s writing is as always perfectly elegant, giving this novel a feel of a classic high fantasy that will last through the ages. Every time I took a moment to catch my breath we moved on through motivations of the main characters which propelled the narrative forward with ease. It’s not a fast-paced novel all the way through, it’s more like a locomotive that gently picks up speed until you’re suddenly in the third act and there’s no way you can possibly stop because you just have to know what’s going to happen next, and when all else seems lost you wonder how are our beloved characters going to get out of this unscathed?

Once more, like Sabriel, this was supposed to be the end of the story. I am so glad Nix can’t keep his mind off the Old Kingdom and went on to produce a few novellas (Across the Wall and To Hold The Bridge, reviewed here), then Clariel and now Goldenhand after this. I love this world, as terrifying as it is, I love the characters, and I love the challenges they have to overcome. I can’t wait for Goldenhand to see more of Lirael and Nick!

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