Shoshana, January 25, 2007 (view all comments by Shoshana)
+ Strong female protagonist; incorporation of mythic and modern elements; appealing cover art that references the Magician Tarot card.
- Illegible map in the front matter, for no good reason. It looks like a bad photocopy of the map in Sabriel.
The second of the Abhorsen trilogy. Opens with a table of contents that is evocative of Tolkien (e.g., "An Ill-Favored Birthday," "Sam the Traveler"). The opening has a strong whiff of Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan; later, Robert Charles Wilson's Darwinia may be more apropos. Since all of these writers are dealing in archetypes, this convergence is not unexpected.
While Sabriel used a single third-person limited point of view other than in the prologue, Lirael generally alternates between the tales of Lirael, a Daughter of the Clayr who has not yet gained her magical Sight, and Sameth, the younger son of the Abhorsen and the King. Neither Lirael nor Sameth is portrayed as particularly appealing; they are both suffering from heavy adolescent angst related to their career failings. In addition, Lirael is socially isolated (in part by her own choice) and Sameth is scarred both physically and emotionally by an encounter that occurs early in the action. These two teenagers provide foils for each other as their lives run in parallel and then intersect. They are realistically self-preoccupied and morose.
Lirael, like Sabriel, is bereft of parents, has a magical animal as a sidekick, and demonstrates knowledge and skillfulness beyond her teachers' abilities. Both must grope toward knowledge, and their destinies, without much guidance other than from their familiars. Like Ged and Tenar of Earthsea, they grope for ancient mysteries all but forgotten in the present day.
It's clearer in this second volume that the country of Ancelstierre is intended roughly to correspond to England in the earlier part of the 20th century, while the Old Kingdom is a sort of magical northlands, complete with a magical border wall between the countries from coast to coast.
Lirael functions as a bridge between Sabriel and Abhorsen, leaving many plot points open while crystalizing only a few. Not a good stand-alone read. It was published 6 years after Sabriel, and is more playful in tone.
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by Horn Book,
"Nix invests the Old Kingdom of his story with a Gothic ambiance that is at once dark, heroic, and resolute....Nix's imaginative magical descriptions, plot intrigues, and adventure sequences are outstanding..."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[A] riveting sequel....Readers who like their fantasy intense in action, magisterial in scope, and apocalyptic in consequences will revel in every word..."
by Publishers Weekly,
"In Nix's sequel to Sabriel, readers return to the entrancing and complicated Old Kingdom....[T]he heroine's plight [is] instantly compelling..."
by Sally Estes, Booklist,
"Nix not only maintains the intricate world he created for the earlier book but also continues the frenetic pace of the action and the level of violence. The cliffhanger ending sets readers up for a third book..."
by School Library Journal,
"The fast-paced plot is packed with harrowing encounters....A must-read for fans of the first book, Lirael will also fascinate readers new to the series."
"The story is long, but Nix provides enough twists to keep up the reader's sense of suspense and discovery. Nix also does a good job of getting inside the skin of a female teenager, which is welcome in this genre."
"Sound world-building, swift plotting, and superb characterization...make this sequel must reading for those who have read the first volume and a brisk, involving experience for those who have not."
by Janice M. Del Negro, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books,
"The plot is filled with hair-raising escapes, desperate flights, relentless pursuits, and magical duels, described in sensual language that makes the scenes live."
Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr, but nonetheless it is Lirael in whose hands the fate of the Old Kingdom lies. She must now undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil and find the courage to seek her own hidden destiny.
When a dangerous necromancer threatens to unleash a long-buried evil, Lirael and Prince Sameth are drawn into a battle to save the Old Kingdom and reveal their true destinies.
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