Author: Garth Nix
Series: Abhorsen #5
When an urgent telegram sends Lirael across the Wall, she’s not expecting to run into Nicholas Sayre, or a highly-dangerous Free Magic creature. Nick said no to her, to the Old Kingdom, after they defeated Orannis several months back, choosing instead to live in Ancelstierre. Now that Nick’s changed his mind, she can’t stop thinking about him, or the wild blend of magic inside him that might be a catastrophe waiting to happen. But they may not have time to figure anything out, because a new threat is lurking . . .
This would get five stars just for Nick, but the rest of the story is quite compelling too. I like seeing an older Sabriel and Touchstone, finally in their own home (although their attempt to take a vacation ends as amusingly as one might expect). I liked Ferin, and her hard, bold ways. She makes a good contrast to Lirael, especially near the end. I liked seeing Lireal grown up in her role as Abhorsen-in-Waiting, and how that changes her relationship with the people she grew up with. (Now I’m really wanting to re-read the original trilogy to get caught up with all these people again.)
But, Nick. I love what the story does with him, and although I wish more neat stuff related to his power had come out, it’s impossible for me not to like him as a character. He’s still got a bit of his old self-assurance and charm, but he’s been humbled a lot, both from being taken over by Orannis and because he’s finally in the Old Kingdom and realizing that what the Old Kingdom lacks in mechanical technology it makes up for in magic. He’s also falling head-over-heels for Lireal (and the feeling is mutual), but he keeps getting caught in the awkwardness of new love and the much funnier awkwardness of being a total cultural outsider (the clothes bit had me laughing so hard). One minute he can be suave and then he’ll say something that totally kills the mood, or some accident will happen. And then, of course, he who did not believe at all in magic is trying to come to grips with the various flavors of it. (The bit with the bespelled sword was also amazingly funny.)
I love the worldbuilding, and the way that the characters come out through what they do. They’re all so real, so human, and the world itself is fantastic. Nick’s so new to the Old Kingdom that even the familiar bits like the Paperwings feel fresh (his reaction to riding in a plane made out of paper is great). It’s been years since Sabriel first came out, but the stories feel solid and interconnected, pulling bits from each other and shaping them in new ways. This book will work best if you’ve read most of the previous material, especially Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case, but I think there are enough light reminders of previous plot points to adequately clue in new readers.
All in all, I couldn’t be happier that Garth Nix is returning to the Old Kingdom once again, and this is a very solid followup to Abhorsen (chronologically, although Clariel was published later, it’s a prequel to Sabriel). Although everything more or less ties up, I would still love more books to come. I rate this book Highly Recommended.