Review of Lirael, by Garth Nix:
This is a young adult novel, the second in the Abhorsen series. Last year, I enjoyed Sabriel quite a lot– enough that I read a book in an entirely different series by Nix by accident.
Lirael is a daughter of the Claer, the seers of the Old Kingdom. She, however, unlike all the other Claer in training, does not have the gift of foresight. What she does have is intelligence and spirit. In fact, whenever she manages not to mope about her lack of station, she has a lot of confidence.
It’s always nice to visit old friends, like favorite characters in a series. It’s even nicer when the author of those characters has given them time to grow, and doesn’t fall into the trap of presenting you with their offspring, but their offspring as overly intelligent child prodigies.
Nix writes pre-teen and teenaged characters well, with no child prodigies to speak of.
If anything the heroes of Lirael, being in their late teens and early twenties, might be a little immature for their ages. Although it’s certainly refreshing to have a more realistic look at the later teen years, what I remember most about that time was being in a constant state of hormonal confusion every time I turned around. Nix strays neatly away from all discussions of sexuality and development, largely by addressing them frankly but without passion. It’s too bad, because the relationship formed in this book is ripe for sexual confusion– it seems to be lacking without it.
Anyone who has read both Sabriel and Lirael can’t help but find the ending of Lirael to be something of a disappointment. It’s not that the ending is a let-down, so much as it’s unfinished. While Sabriel took us on a complete adventure, a heroic journey with a beginning, middle, and ending, Lirael stops before the meat of the story, before embarking on the actual conflict. Although this can be forgiven in a bridging book, as the second in a series usually is, Sabriel was such a standalone novel, that Lirael isn’t really a bridge. It’s more like an introduction.
Grade: B for critical-reading adults, A- for teens and pre-teens.