Clariel by Garth Nix
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilp. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.
With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her – and it is herself she must question most of all.
I grew up reading the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. I loved that series from the first time I read Sabriel, and I’ve returned to reread it again and again. When people ask for recommendations, it’s often at the top of my list.
So it was with great joy and expectation that I picked up Clariel. Despite how long it took me to read it, I am happy to say that I loved this prequel to the Abhorsen trilogy.
Well, I call it a prequel but I recommend reading the original trilogy first. Clariel does not provide much information about the world or the Abhorsens or even the Charter. It fills in gaps of knowledge that are present in the original trilogy but it expands on them by filling in some of the Old Kingdom’s past. We get to see a time when the Royal Family ruled the Old Kingdom, when the Great Charter Stones stood strong, and when the Abhorsen family had more than two people in it. Among other things.
The novel’s tagline, ‘A passion thwarted will often go astray’, is a bit misleading, I found, but it was not completely unrelated to the events of the novel. On top of that, the summary on GoodReads is quite different from the summary on the copy of the book. Neither is completely accurate, but the one from GoodReads I found to be truer to the spirit of both Clariel itself and the world of the Old Kingdom as a general rule.
Clariel is not perfect. There were a couple of characters who disappeared without being mentioned ever again, leaving their fates completely unknown. A rather important character was never actually seen onscreen, despite her contributions – or lack thereof – to everything going on. The beginning dragged a bit while the ending seemed a bit rushed.
But overall, Clariel is true to the spirit of the Abhorsen trilogy and the world of the Old Kingdom. The Charter is used to great effect; the protagonist faces great trials, great losses, and great temptations; the Abhorsen battles Free Magic and the Dead; and Mogget is Mogget.
I was a bit uncertain what my final rating for this novel would be, but any novel that can make me laugh, cry, and both dread what comes next and eagerly turn pages, despite knowing what the ultimate outcome must be, is a great novel. 4.5 stars, and I look forward to reading it again.
(I started this book last year, but I read the majority on the 1st, so I’m counting it as my first Beat the Backlist 2017 novel)