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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


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.



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.



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!



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.



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.



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 2016-03-06 00:00
Clariel (Abhorsen, #4)
Clariel (Abhorsen, #4) - Garth Nix I fucking love this series. Every goddamn thing about it.

I was so wrapped up in Clariel, I didn't think for a second who she'd become later. Then I read the first sentence of the afterword, which dropped the bomb.






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text 2015-07-17 14:53
Reading progress update: I've read 332 out of 496 pages.
Clariel (The Old Kingdom) - Garth Nix

There's a bit of luggage syndrome in this book, too.

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