As can be expected, I finished Abhorsen today. However, I also started reading Across the Wall. The latter is a collection of short fiction from Garth Nix, including the novella “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case”, which takes place not too long after the events of Abhorsen.
Considering the stakes of the conflict in Abhorsen, I never really expected to see much more in the Old Kingdom. “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case” was a pleasant surprised, but I did not think I’d see Garth Nix return to that world in more than short stories. Amazingly, I was proven wrong. Still, when Clariel came out a couple years ago it did make sense. It wasn’t a prequel really, but it did take place earlier in the timeline of the Old Kingdom than the Abhorsen Trilogy. But then To Hold the Bridge came out last year, a story which I have not yet read as I’ve patiently waited for it to be released in paperback, and Goldenhand, which of a certainty moves forward in time from Abhorsen. I have to say, I’m very excited to be reading those two in the very near future. I won’t be rereading Clariel at this time, so I’ll merely say that it falls into the category of “I didn’t enjoy it as much because I knew how it ended.”
THE REST OF THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
So, when we left our heroes at the end of Lirael, Prince Sameth had just discovered that he was not the Abhorsen-in-Waiting after all, but a Wallmaker. The Wallmakers were great craftsmen and artificers, and had vanished long ago as they poured themselves, magically and physically, into their great works of the Wall (dividing the Old Kingdom from Ancelstierre and thus protecting it from the Dead and magic) and the Great Charter Stones which help to preserve the land. So for those who are reading more into the tale than just “these are events that happened”, this is a portent and an omen.
Lirael, on the other hand, has accepted that she may be a Daughter of the Clayr, but she will never look into the future. She is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting and a Remembrancer, for only a child of the Abhorsen and the Clayr is able to look into the past.
And the past is where she’ll have to look, because the mysterious hemispheres being unearthed by the Red Lake are the bound form of Orannis, the Destroyer. In the Beginning, there were nine very powerful beings. Orannis destroyed six worlds – planets – and made them into barren wastelands. At the seventh, seven of the other beings joined together to stop It. They were able to bind Orannis, break It in two, and bury it. Then these beings wove together the Charter by which the Old Kingdom lives. The Seven are gone, but their heirs – the inheritors of the ancient bloodlines – must stand in their place to bind Orannis anew.
With the fate of the world at stake, you can see why I didn’t really expect to see more books in this universe, especially after the world was saved. But even though I’ve never read any synopsis or other information about Goldenhand, I know it must be later because Lirael lost her hand in the breaking of Orannis, and Sameth was foretold to make her a new one, granting her the name Lirael Goldenhand. The hand itself makes an appearance in “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case” as well.
The novella follows Sameth’s friend Nicholas who was the unwitting dupe of Hedge and Orannis in both Lirael and Abhorsen. He was possessed by Orannis for an extended period of time, and his blood is tainted by Free Magic to this day. Of course, this also means that Charter magic doesn’t affect him quite the way it should. In general, Charter magic strengthens and heals him, regardless of the intent of the spell.
It seems that after the events of Abhorsen, Nick was invited to go to the Old Kingdom with Sameth and his family. But he declined out of fear and uncertainty. Six months later, he is determined to get back and damn the consequences. His uncle, the Chief Minister of the country, is willing to let him go as long as he is debriefed by their spies first.
One thing leads to another and a Free Magic creature ends up loose in Ancelstierre, with only Nicholas to stop it. It’s a wild little adventure, to say the least, and in the end Nick does make it to the Old Kingdom. And there the story ended.
Anyway, I’m excited to see where the story goes. But first, there’s a lot more to Across the Wall than the Old Kingdom. However, I’ll touch on those stories next time when I’ve finished the rest of the book.