fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Garth Nix Abhorsen Old KingdomAbhorsen by Garth Nix

Abhorsen is the final book of Garth Nix‘s Old Kingdom trilogy, which could basically translate into the second half of Lirael (the first installment Sabriel stands on its own, but its follow-up Lirael needs Abhorsen in order for the story to be completed). In the final chapter of Lirael, our four travelers Lirael, Sameth, Mogget and the Disreputable Dog have found sanctuary (albeit temporarily) at the Abhorsen’s House where further revelations concerning Lirael and Sam’s connection are discovered. With the missing pieces of her family’s history now set into place, Lirael realizes that the burden of Abhorsen-in-Waiting has now been placed on her.

Yet there is no time to dwell on that, as their enemies plans are now becoming clearer: the necromancer Hedge, along with his servant Chlorr have been raising two great silver hemispheres out of the earth. Sam’s friend Nick is an unknowing accomplice in this activity, being the vessel of a tiny shard of silver from the spheres, a shard that contains within it the spirit of Orannis: the Destroyer. Orannis is the Ninth of the ancient “gods” (seven of which are remembered in the bells of the necromancers) that once shaped both the world and the benevolent Charter Magic, but as his name suggests he only tore down what the other raised up. And now, if the two hemispheres are joined, he will once more wreak havoc across the world.
And of course, it is up to Lirael and Sam to stop him: first by kidnapping Nick, and then in a desperate race to beat Hedge to the Lightening Farm in Ancelstierre, the non-magical kingdom across the border where Touchstone and Sabriel hit by hired assassins.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe pace doesn’t let up for a moment in Nix’s much anticipated conclusion, and if you’ve already invested a lot into the characters and situations of the first two books then it will be difficult to put down Abhorsen until the last page is read. Where Sabriel was an exciting read, and Lirael was fascinating and meandering, Abhorsen is quite simply explosive. There is barely a page where something drastic isn’t happening, where our heroes aren’t fighting, crawling, sneaking or running for dear life. It is quite simply an exhaustive read.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAbhorsen takes us further than we’ve ever gone into Death, all the way past the Ninth Gate, and I was pleased at how Nix presented the ultimate nature of Death. I had recently finished reading Philip Pullman‘s Amber Spyglass and was rather depressed at his gloomy, despairing view of death, and Nix’s realm of hideous zombies and dark rivers weren’t really helping to cheer me up. However, without giving too much away, what Lirael finds in the final precinct of death is a place of both peace and future possibilities: nothing to dread at all.

Although Sabriel and Touchstone are not as prevalent as I would have liked, readers are treated to a nice reunion between all the major characters at the climax, and Mogget and the Dog’s true identities are finally revealed. However, Nix leaves many questions unanswered and subplots left hanging — I (and many others) like to have a decent wrap-up to a book. Abhorsen however ends in the aftermath of the final battle, and I was dying to know what happens next! Where are Mogget and the Dog headed? Do Nick and Lirael fall in love? How does Lirael get on with her new family? What does the future hold? Furthermore, Mogget drops a tantalizing little hint that reveals that Chlorr was once an Abhorsen, and yet nothing more is given on this subplot that just begs to be explored. The Old Kingdom itself is one of the most fascinating imaginary worlds I have come across, seeped in magic, mystery and history, and Nix often does little more than whet our imagination. Hopefully the quantity of dangling threads mean that he will eventually write more books on the gold mine that is the Old Kingdom — I hope so, as I’m eager to explore further.

The Old Kingdom (Abhorsen) — (1995-2016) Ages 9-12. Boxed sets are available. The Creature in the Case is a novella. Publisher: Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life’and comes face to face with her own hidden destiny…

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  • Rebecca Fisher

    REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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