Lirael by Garth Nix
Lirael is the second book in the Abhorsen trilogy. In the first book, Sabriel, a vivid and entirely original magical world is created, fraught with danger. Sabriel inherits the title of Abhorsen, taking up the responsibility for keeping the Old Kingdom free from necromancers and the dead. Lirael splits narration between Sabriel’s son, Sameth, and Lirael, born to the Clayr, a family of female Seers. Sameth chafes under his responsibility to become the next Abhorsen, while Lirael resents her inability to See the future like the rest of the Clayr. They both get involved in a rescue effort with international and supernatural consequences, discovering their own destinies in the process.
The descriptive, evocative sentences are the greatest attraction of this series. What’s most remarkable is the way the dark atmosphere is tinged with occasional humor, especially from the “pet” characters, Mogget and the Disreputable Dog. Sam also has an engaging voice, if he is a little whiny. Both he and Lirael are ultimately admirable, heroic characters, who face their fears and draw on resources they didn’t know they had to help others. Even when they fail, their efforts and reactions show them to be determined, brave, and caring.
Sabriel stands on its own much better than Lirael does. The cliffhanger ending of this volume sets up the third book in the trilogy, while Sabriel‘s ending is complete in itself. A reader could enjoy Lirael without reading Sabriel first, but there are lots of references that make more sense with previous knowledge, in addition to the way being comfortable with this world makes picking up the sequel like visiting a familiar place. It isn’t only because of the cliffhanger that I’m looking forward to the last book in the trilogy.