Author: Garth Nix
Publisher/Date Published: HarperCollins, 2014
How I Got This Book: Purchased from Waterstones.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Growing up, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen) were one of my favourite books. As is my tradition, I began with Lirael, before getting around to reading the other two novels. I really liked the dance between necromancy, Charter Magic and Free Magic, and I really, really loved the idea of the Abhorsen’s bells (to the extent that I tried to find a decent version of the class to make a D&D character!) So when I heard he was writing another set of books, I was super excited.
Clariel is set a long time before the Abhorsen trilogy, and follows the story of a sixteen-year old girl, Clariel, who is forced to up sticks with her family and go from the forests of Estwael into the city of Belisaere, capital of the Old Kingdom. Her mother is a high-ranking Goldsmith, and this makes Clariel fairly important. Great. Except Clariel is a really irritating, whiny teenager who doesn’t like anything, and throws a sulk at the drop of a hat.
Clariel is, as is typical for a Nix book, well written, and the world is wonderfully crafted, just like his previous series – he builds on what he has already built up in the previous trilogy, and adds to it. There’s a lot more focus on Free Magic and the Charter, compared to the Necromancy of the Abhorsen books, and I find it just as fascinating, particularly the struggle that ends up going within Clariel’s head.
I am not the biggest fan of Clariel as a character – I think she’s stubborn, obnoxious and constantly undermines those around her – thinking she knows best. I realise these are traditional traits of teenagers, but it’s quite jarring when you compare it to other characters that Nix has written. I do enjoy the struggles that she goes in internally, but I really hate the decisions she makes. That said, when the penny dropped about the links between characters within the books, decisions start to make sense.
Overall, Clariel is a fantastic novel in the sense of world-building and set up for future events. It’s a good novel in every other sense – Clariel is a very different character to Lirael or Sabriel, and isn’t a particularly likeable one, but she does a job. The supporting characters are fun – Mogget returns, which is always a highlight, and I really felt nostalgia pangs relating to the use of Paperwings and Charter Magic. I did enjoy the book, and the story, even if I didn’t enjoy the characters.