The Abhorsen Trilogy: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen
By: Garth Nix
I read Sabriel many, many years ago (let’s not count exactly how many years ago) and absolutely loved it. The concept of a necromancer putting down the dead, using bells to control the dead, travelling through death and so forth were intriguing and different from other fantasy series and trilogies I’ve read. But Sabriel ended fairly self-contained so getting around to the rest of the trilogy.
Until now, that is.
The rest of this commentary will be focusing on Lirael and Abhorsen specifically, although I may make references to Sabriel (and therein lies SPOILERS, as always ;)).So Lirael begins about fourteen years after the events of Sabriel, this time starting off in the Clayr glacier and focusing on Lirael, a young Clayr who, unlike many of her cousins and colleagues, have not received the gift of the Sight. She eventually goes to work in the Library to forget about the fact that she does not have the Sight like everyone else, even gaining a friend in the Disreputable Dog over the course of her adventures around the more hidden areas of the place. At the same time, the Old Kingdom is experiencing trouble by some unseen force, taking King Touchstone and his wife, the Queen Abhorsen Sabriel, away from their family to ward off their enemies. Their youngest child, Sameth, is stuck having to learn The Book of the Dead but ultimately runs off to meet up with his friend Nick who crosses the Wall to oversee some experiment. From there, the paths of a number of characters cross, a number of familiar characters make an appearance, more mythology is explained and essentially the stakes are raised in the final two books of the trilogy.
First off, I love that more things are explained in these two books: the creation of the Charter, the rhyme re: the Charter stones and those who are of the blood, the meaning behind the bells on the necromancer’s bandolier, etc. It was interesting about the introducing of the Remembrancer, although I wished there was more explanation about the nature and history of the Remembrancer. The introduction of Orannis was interesting, especially in relation to the beginning of the Charter, and I love how the natures of Mogget of the Disreputable Dog are revealed and so forth.
The characters are different (which is a good thing!): Lirael is prone to moments of insecurity and Sameth clearly didn’t inherit her mother’s perchance for stoicism. They’re their own characters with their own strengths and they always manage to pull through even when the going gets tough. Of course, there were moments were I wished Lirael would kind of pull it together and Sam would not just jump into something without thinking. It was nice to see Sabriel and Touchstone again, although I wished they had more scenes 🙂
I was a bit iffy about Lirael being both a Remembrancer and Abhorsen-in-Waiting (which btw, it totally didn’t hit me that she would be the Abhorsen-in-Waiting; you think I might’ve picked up considering that Lirael’s the title of the second book and not Sameth or something). I mean, to wield both powers/offices seem a bit like overpowering one character, but the role of Remembrancer didn’t seem to carry too much power, so I guess that’s okay.
I also had a bit of an issue about pacing. What’s interesting about Lirael and Abhorsen is that given the scope of the situation and the number of characters involved, the narrative goes back and forth between the characters, unlike Sabriel where the entire story followed only Sabriel. At times however, I wished the story would pick up a bit; in Sabriel the story was constantly moving, but in Lirael the pacing was slower, which is great for character development but at times it seemed like the character was moving in a small tunnel for ages.
But despite of these two iffies I had while reading the books, I thoroughly enjoyed the series and Lirael and Abhorsen really expanded the horizons that Sabriel started. I literally could not put the books down, finishing each within a day or so. I would definitely recommend this trilogy to anyone who’s into fantasy or just an amazing adventure.