I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Clariel by Garth Nix
Series: Abhorsen #4
Published: 2014 by HarperCollins
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: the publisher
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Disclaimer: This is a ridiculously early review.
When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy. I read and re-read Sabriel and Lirael until the paperbacks very clearly showed how much they’d been loved, and jumped for joy when Abhorsen was finally released. Nix’s stories had everything to love–undead villains, strong protagonists, sarcastic kitties, bardic weapons, and enchanted paper airplanes that you can really ride in.
Now, almost a decade later, Garth Nix is finally releasing Clariel, a prequel novel set several hundred years in the past. Clariel‘s release date is set for October, and clearly I’m writing a ridiculously early review. I’VE BEEN WAITING TEN YEARS FOR THIS BOOK AND COULDN’T WAIT ANY LONGER!
This review is going to be vague, brief, and spoiler-free, because I don’t want to give away too much before the book comes out. At the same time, there’s a lot of food for thought, and I’d really like to discuss it in more depth.
Clariel starts out in a very young-adulty kind of way. Yes, the whole series is YA, but Clariel is more what I think of when I think of YA. Clariel’s mother is a goldsmith, and when she’s offered a promotion through her guild, she uproots the whole family from their home in the country and drags them to the capital city. Being a high-ranking member of society means that Clariel is expected to marry or become a goldsmith herself, but she’s having none of it. All she wants to do is go back to the forest, which is the one place where she truly feels free. But of course, life doesn’t work that way, and people don’t always get what they want. The kingdom is crumbling because the king refuses to lead, the Abhorsen stops banishing the dead, and a free magic creature hiding in the city could be the one thing that makes the fragile peace fall apart.
My one criticism of the book is that there’s a lot of buildup to the action that occurs at the end of the book, and for a while, I wondered if anything was going to happen.
For the first few chapters, I felt a bit suspicious. I wasn’t sure that Clariel could live up to the previous books, or even that Clariel herself could compare to the later characters that I know and love. I was wrong. Clariel grew on me, because she’s the sort of protagonist who can both make mistakes and be heroic without being thrown into the false dichotomy of good versus evil. She’s a free spirit who’s been confined by societal expectations, and she rebels against it. Clariel makes questionable decisions, but in doing so becomes an independent force that I can’t help but like, even while knowing that the path she chooses isn’t what one would consider the “right” one.
Oh, and did I mention that Clariel is probably asexual? You don’t see nearly enough of that in literature, period. There’s got to be a romance, and opting out never seems to be an option. It’s unusual to see a character who knows and recognizes that she isn’t interested in love or sex. She’s a loner, and she knows it. It’s awesome.
Well done, Garth Nix. Clariel does not disappoint.