Review Blog

Oct 24 2014

Clariel by Garth Nix

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Abhorsen bk 4. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781741758627
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. The long awaited prequel to the Abhorsen series (Sabriel, Lireal and Abhorsen), continues this series that Cassandra Clare says has 'influenced a generation of fantasy writers' (back cover). Sixteen-year-old Clariel has an affinity for the forests of Estwael, and hates being in the city of Belisaere. Here she finds that her mother has been keeping secrets from her about her abilities as a member of the Abhorsens, and that she is expected to follow the demands of everyone around her. The King has retreated into solitude after his daughter left and Guildmaster Kilip is determined to take over as ruler. The Abhorsen is intent only on hunting and no longer carries out his duties. There is a Free Magic creature that Clariel is asked to help capture but things do not go well and her chance to escape disappears as the land falls into chaos.
Clariel is not your usual heroine. She is solitary and self-absorbed, determined to live a life alone in the forest. She is not interested in romance and it was a relief not to have the almost inevitable love triangle as a major plot. Instead it is the inner struggle that Clariel has that is central to the plot. She must learn how to control her berserk nature, even though she has not had the education in Charter Magic that she needs. As the book develops Clariel is tempted by the power of Free Magic and her urgings to give into her dark side. The struggles between the creatures that belong to the Free Magic and the wielders of Charter Magic are fascinating to follow. Mogget, the 'cat', makes another welcome appearance, his wily nature and sarcastic comments adding greatly to the plot.
I was fortunate that I had read the previous books earlier this year so had some background about the island home of the Abhorsens, the paperwing aeroplanes that soared high in the sky and the Charter marks; however it would not be necessary to have read the series as Clariel will stand alone. Lovers of fantasy will delight in this tale and the whole series would be a great introduction to really good fantasy for those who haven't read it.
Pat Pledger

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