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Review of Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen

nix_clarielClariel: The Lost Abhorsen
by Garth Nix
Middle School, High School    Harper/HarperCollins    383 pp.
10/14    978-0-06-156155-9    $18.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-06-221680-9    $10.99

Six centuries before the events of Sabriel (rev. 1/97), Lirael (rev. 7/01), and Abhorsen (rev. 3/03), circumstances in the Old Kingdom are vastly different: the addled king refuses to rule; the Abhorsen neglects his duty to fight the resurrected dead; and treacherous Governor Kilp presides over capitol city Belisaere. Seventeen-year-old Clariel (who is related to both the royal and Abhorsen families, and thus a distant ancestor of Sabriel and Lirael), feeling claustrophobic in the bustling capitol, wants nothing more than to live in the Great Forest — until Kilp murders her parents and abducts Clariel to establish her as a puppet queen. Clariel’s grief and fury get the best of her, leading her into a devil’s deal for revenge with manipulative cat-creature Mogget (a mainstay character of the other novels) and two sinister Free Magic beings. This prequel is a tonal departure; Clariel is both less likable and less noble-minded than her heroic kinswomen, and this is not a story of selflessly protecting the kingdom but rather of the protagonist’s unwitting, gradual corruption. Series fans anticipating answers about Clariel’s transformation from duped young woman into powerful necromancer Chlorr of the Mask (or about Mogget’s own story) will not get them here: Nix writes in his author’s note, “As to what [Clariel] did in the intervening years…who can say?” But those same fans will treasure this long-awaited opportunity to return to a much-loved world, built with as much originality and richness as ever.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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