By Garth Nix
Not My Edition:
Hardcover, 400 pages
Clariel is set 600 years prior to Sabriel and follows it’s namesake as she moves to a new city with her parents. When her parents move to the city of Belisaere, her dreams of a simple life living in the forest are destroyed. With relations to both the King and the Abhorsen, Clariel is sought after by those who wish to gain power in the city and finds herself facing off against a powerful Free Magic creature. Clariel soon discovers her own powers as she struggles to gain control over her life amid the ensuing chaos.
I’ve already mentioned I’m a fan of Nix’s Old Kingdom novels and I was excited to find he’d written more in that universe. Clariel is a new and somewhat frustrating character, because she’s incredibly stubborn and at times, stupid. What I found more interesting than our new heroine was the difference in the kingdom in this time period, versus what I was used to in Sabriel – the Abhorsen spends much of his time hunting animals, rather than dealing with the dead, and there seems to be less importance in this role than in Sabriel’s generation. We also get more Mogget (yes!) and his nature is more wild due to the lax attitude of the Abhorsen in that time.
Clariel’s story was a bit dry. I was more interested in the world and the political upheaval than whether she would get to be a forest ranger like she’d always dreamed. Towards the end of the book her story did pick up, but then the book ended and I was left feeling like this was more of a setup to another potential trilogy than a real prequel to the current Old Kingdom books. I would have liked to have seen more development with her magical studies and I’m especially interested in hearing more about her character after reading the author’s note (which I accidentally read before the book and spoiled myself) because there’s a tidbit in there that gives more information about who she is. I’ll certainly read more about Clariel if Nix chooses to write more – my only disappointment is that I was hoping more a bit more detail about the Old Kingdom and its inhabitants and this book felt like more of a tease.
For established Old Kingdom fans, Clariel will probably be a nice treat, just to have more work set in this world. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend sticking to Sabriel as your first book.