Into the Old Kingdom

After the severe disappointment of yesterday, I really really wanted to read something good, preferably something I’d read before.  Coincidentally, I got a call from the library saying my hold was in.  This is the new Old Kingdom book, Goldenhand.  However, because it’s obviously a tale set after Abhorsen, I should do some rereading to get up to it.  It’s not even the only new Old Kingdom tale I haven’t read yet.  My box from amazon came today, and To Hold the Bridge was in it.  But, I’m not there yet.

Today I was rereading Lirael, the second book in the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix.  It’s the sequel to Sabriel, but I have always preferred the second and third books to the first in this series.  Sabriel isn’t bad, but it is an earlier novel, it stands alone more, and the entire point is to not tell the main character (and thus the reader) anything until quite late.  I would probably enjoy it more if I’d first read it when I was younger.

Lirael, on the other hand, is one of my favorites.  I have a very hard time separating it in my mind from its sequel Abhorsen because the one picks up where the other leaves off.  Since there’s almost twenty years between the events of Sabriel and Lirael, having only a few minutes between the end of Lirael and the start of Abhorsen makes a huge difference.

The Old Kingdom is the otherwise nameless country north of Ancelstierre.  For the latter, think Europe just before World War I.  The Old Kingdom though, is very different from its southern neighbor.  Magic is real in the Old Kingdom, and the Dead can walk.  At this point in time, King Touchstone I has reigned for about twenty years and his wife Sabriel is still the Abhorsen.  Both of them work to raise and restore Charter Stones while restoring order to the land and destroying any Dead that raise their rotting heads.  But most of the book focuses on a different bloodline than the Abhorsen and the royal family.

The full title of the book is actually Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr, for that is who our main character is.  She lives in the Clayr’s Glacier, the home of those who See into the future and help to guide the Kingdom through their visions.  But Lirael is different from her mountain of cousins in that she does not actually have the Sight.  A significant portion of the book is devoted to her life as an outsider in her own home.

The other main character is Prince Sameth.  While his sister Ellimere is clearly going to succeed their father as monarch one day, that leaves Sameth to train with their mother.  Which is not at all what he’d like to do with his life either.  And his friend Nicholas Sayre isn’t helping matters either…

It’s very hard to talk about this book without spoiling much.  Even harder to talk about it as if it’s a separte entity from its sequel.  I keep saying that, but it’s true.  We all know that The Lord of the Rings was originally intended to be a single book, but was broken up into three on a suggestion from the publisher.  I believe Lirael and Abhorsen were meant to be a single book, but were cut into two because of how massively long it would be.  Lirael alone is over 700 pages.  Abhorsen adds another 500 to that total.  Admittedly, Sabriel is longer than Abhorsen, but only just.  If we added the later two together, they’d be more than twice as long as the other.  Plus, trilogies sell better, and for a good decade this series was limited to a trilogy and a follow-up novella.

Then, of course, Clariel came along, followed switfly (as books go) by To Hold the Bridge and Goldenhand.  I, for one, am not objecting.  I greatly enjoy the series and am always happy to read more of it.  Anyway, I’m looking forward to the three Garth Nix books in my near future, regardless of what I read yesterday.

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