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Garth Nix

Harper Collins

Country Format Edition

ISBN: 0-06-027823-4

Publication Date: 05-10-2001

Pages 487; $17.99

Date Reviewed: 24-10-03

Reviewed by: Katie Dean © 2003




Anyone who has read and enjoyed 'Sabriel', the first novel in Garth Nix's trilogy, should definitely read 'Lirael'. This novel is expertly written so that even a reader who is unfamiliar with 'Sabriel' could enjoy it. In writing a sequel, the author must tread a fine line between assuming the reader already knows too much and patronizing the reader with frequent clumsy references to what has gone before. The first approach will quickly induce the new reader to lose interest whilst the second will soon annoy loyal readers. Happily, Garth Nix has managed to avoid both pitfalls and has succeeded in creating a sequel every bit as good as his first novel.

Much of the action in 'Lirael' takes place in Garth Nix's magical Old Kingdom, but as with 'Sabriel', the neighbouring, and more modern, Ancelstierre also reappears. The action commences fourteen years on and focuses most strongly on some new characters, Lirael and Sameth. However, for readers already familiar with his first novel, Nix has not forgotten about Sabriel, Touchstone and Mogget. As with the characters, the settings include familiar places like Belisaere and Abhorsen's house, but also focus on unfamiliar parts of the kingdom like the Clayr glacier and the town of Edge in the far west. Once again, Nix employs his fine descriptive powers to bring these surroundings to life, building upon the three-dimensional world he created in 'Sabriel'.

Many writers, having found a successful formula, will, quite reasonably, stick to it. Garth Nix is no exception. 'Lirael' is as full of magic as Nix's first novel. He continues to develop the history of the Old Kingdom and the origins of the Charter in order to weave the story. As in 'Sabriel' the Old Kingdom finds itself under threat from Death. Another powerful being appears to be raising dead spirits and undoing all the good work carried out by Sabriel. Although the basic ingredients of the story may be essentially the same, the action is far more drawn out. Rather than hurrying from one dangerous adventure to another, this second novel intersperses longer periods of calm between its moments of action. In this manner, Nix weaves a mystery that is every bit as much a page-turner as 'Sabriel'. The only disappointment is that the end of the novel does not spell the end of the story. Nix leaves his readers with a few surprises and some answers, but the Old Kingdom remains in grave danger and the reader remains in suspense, awaiting the sequel, 'Abhorsen'.

Once again, Garth Nix deserves congratulations for writing a fine novel employing all the ingredients of a good fantasy. The story is exciting and magical, the setting is both fantastical and real and the characters are appealing. For anyone wanting to be transported out of real life and into a magical world, 'Lirael', like 'Sabriel', is an excellent read.