by Garth Nix

October 27, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 0

It’s here! It’s finally here!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Clariel by Garth Nix | HarperCollins | October 2014 | Hardcover $18.99

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. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. 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.

OK, so maybe reviewing a book that I’ve been looking forward to for ages isn’t quite fair. I haven’t finished my “super secret” committee reading homework and there’s still a small stack of ARCs and hot-off-the-press titles awaiting my attention. But come on — when you’ve been waiting this long for another book in a beloved series, isn’t it totally acceptable to drop everything and devour it as soon as you get your hands on it?

Clariel is a prequel of sorts to Garth Nix’s popular Abhorsen series. I first read Sabriel, the first book in this series, about a decade and a half ago. “What is this?!” I can hear you ask. “A teen book series from the 1990’s? Pish-posh! The youths won’t like a thing like that!” You are apparently an elderly British man who doesn’t understand kids these days, in my head. In any case, I think it is a mistake to dismiss Clariel as simply an addition to a too-old-to-be-hip series. Though in recent years YA SF/F trends have veered away from so-called high fantasy towards paranormal and fantasy lite, there are still plenty of “classics” that’ve stood the test of time (perhaps Tamora Pierce is the most obvious example) and new titles that buck the trend and still manage to come out on top (Seraphina by Rachel Hartman comes to mind). I think the Abhorsen series isn’t going to be forgotten, and in fact it is ripe for rediscovery by this upcoming generation. Clariel is a great gateway for that rediscovery.

It isn’t necessary to have read the previous Abhorsen books to get what’s going on in Clariel. I had every intention of rereading the series prior to the newest book’s release, but that didn’t happen and as soon as I had this pretty new hardback in my hands I had to dive right in. Since it is set prior to the events of the rest of the series, there aren’t any major plot points you’ll miss out on if you choose to read Clariel first. There’s plenty of world-building too, which I can definitely appreciate (I love, love, love some good world-building) — and maps galore! MAPS. Maps are so awesome.

That said, I do think you’ll enjoy it more if you’re already at least a little familiar with the series. As it turns out, the title character does make an appearance in previous books in the series. We also get to meet a certain mischievous feline-ish character again, whom fans of the series will certainly recognize. I don’t want to post spoilers here, though, so that’s all I’ll say about that.

This story is a kind of “slippery slope” narrative, with a focus on the consequences of taking away a person’s choices. What happens if a strong-willed and talented young person isn’t allowed to choose her own future? What happens when the hunter begins to feel pity for the trapped but dangerous creature she hunts? What happens when someone tries to use an unpredictable, chaotic power in the pursuit of saving the very thing that keeps that power under control? These are some of the questions that Nix explores in Clariel.

That said, it is practically inevitable that an addition to a series after so long a gap (the 3rd book having been published about a decade ago) is going to be at least a little bit controversial. Even though I loved Clariel, I admit that I may be viewing it through rose-colored glasses because Sabriel was one of the first SF/F I read and Nix was partially responsible for my lifelong love of the genre.

I also want to specifically thank a friend of mine (you know who you are) who ever so kindly picked up a signed copy for me! The author came to Houston a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t in town and couldn’t make it to the event, but my friend was kind enough to grab this book for me.


Publication information: Nix, Garth. Clariel. New York: Harper, 2014. Print.
Source: Purchased for personal collection.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

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