Series: Abhorsen (#4)
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: high fantasy
In short: disappointing. Unless you’re a HUGE Abhorsen fan (like me!) you might want to give this a miss.
Goodreads: 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. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilp. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.
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.
I was so excited when I remembered about this book. The Abhorsen series is definitely set in one of the most wonderful fantasy worlds I’ve ever read about, and the heroines are fabulous and kick-ass. I think the old GR blurb for this book mentioned that Clariel is the Free Magic sorcerer Chlorr of the Mask. So I was all pumped-up for a villainous origin story, hell yes!
This is not what I got.
I guess I wanted something dark and ominous. But that’s not how it worked out. It’s not really an origin story. It paints Clariel as flawed and perhaps even power-hungry, but I can’t connect the sixteen-year-old girl at the end of this book to Chlorr of the Mask. In essence I didn’t want a heroine. I wanted an anti-hero, or maybe a heroine who tumbles into darkness. Clariel doesn’t deliver on that. Okay, I guess you could say it’s my fault for perceiving the book wrong. But ;___; if you’re going to write a book about a character who becomes a villain, why wouldn’t you write about the transformation?
To be honest, there was no real feeling of conflict. I was never actually worried about the characters, the future of the kingdom, etc., etc. And maybe that’s because I never felt for the characters either. I somehow couldn’t connect to Clariel. I wish her thought-process as a hunter in training was explored more, so we could really get that power-hungry aspect of her. And if I’m honest, she got a little bratty. Which I would normally be okay with—after all, I dealt with Lirael’s crippling self-loathing. It just shows that this book kind of snowballed for me. I guess I kind of wanted Adelina Amouteru, and in the end I got neither a villain nor a heroine the likes of Sabriel and Lirael.
What saved Clariel from my wrath was the familiar setting of the Old Kingdom. I lovelovelove Garth Nix’s world. And the cameo from Mogget was much appreciated—especially since we got to see a darker side of him!
In the end I’d say this book was meh for me—definitely not good enough to merit praise, nor bad enough to earn ranting. I suppose I’d understand if Nix’s point was that the descent into darkness is gradual and not a sudden tumble. I just wish it had been portrayed better. At least the ending would’ve felt like a proper resolution that way. I found myself honestly wondering what the point of this book was—never a good sign. I think magical action works for him far better than intrigue. Hopefully the next book in the series will be better.
No, of course it will be. It has Lirael in it. *heart eyes*