I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, and I’m not entirely sure what finally prompted me to pick it up — but hurrah that I did. If you enjoy Georgette Heyer’s work, you’ll probably enjoy this. It’s a little adventure very much along the same lines, only with magic as well. Girls disguising themselves as boys, a Pride and Prejudice moment for the romance, and daring escapades. The tone is light and witty, and okay, it’s not as though as it’s as deeply committed to being authentic as Heyer was, but you wouldn’t expect that from a book that injects magic as well!
I found it really fun, and a surprisingly quick read too. The romance is… well, Heyer-ish, so if dislike-turns-to-love and capricious young ladies who deny they have any feelings for That Odious Man bother you, it probably won’t be your thing. It’s definitely not much like Nix’s other books (at least the ones I’ve read).
It’s a little magical cream puff, and I enjoyed it greatly. It helps that the main character gets to be kickass and daring, and she’s also really smart. She’d verge on too perfect if she didn’t have the odd immature and petulant moment too, but as it was, she was a lot of fun.
It’s a bit surprising to me to see the disappointed reviews of this, because I quite enjoyed it. Of course, it’s a different world to the one Sabriel enters, and different even from the world that Lirael and Sameth have to navigate as Sabriel and Touchstone work on restoring the Old Kingdom. This one doesn’t feature any contact with Ancelstierre, and is set before even Touchstone/Torrigan’s time. So naturally, the concerns of its people, the politics, are all quite different. It’s interesting to see an Abhorsen clan which is much larger than that of Sabriel’s time, but which is decidedly weaker; it’s interesting to see in Sameth the diffidence of earlier Abhorsens.
But in fact, I like Clariel herself rather more than Lirael or Sameth. She has goals and she pursues them, and she doesn’t have to take on responsibility, but she does. Of course, all her choices go wrong, unlike Sabriel or Lirael’s. If you think about the guiding words of these books, “Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” — you could almost say that Sabriel, knowing her choices, chooses her path. Clariel’s path chooses her, because she’s not given the information she needs to make her own choice. In neither case is there really an alternate way, but Sabriel’s path is knowing and Clariel’s is forced.
It’s interesting to get a look at the bloodlines in the land and how they work out in a time of peace. Because of the strength of Sabriel and her father, and Touchstone and Sabriel’s rule, it’s easy in the trilogy to think that when the bloodlines are in the right place, everything will be alright. Clariel shows us that it isn’t, and gives us a picture of the other troubles of the Old Kingdom. There are no Dead creatures here in this book; instead we see the Abhorsens and Charter mages needing to deal with the other threat, of Free Magic.
One thing I really loved, on a character-level, is that Clariel is explicitly asexual. She’s not interested, she’s not going to change her mind for the right person or something, and like many ace people, she’s even experimented a bit to try and figure out how that all works. It’s awesome that she doesn’t really have conflict about this, and while people think she may be mistaken, nobody’s pushing her to “fix” it, or guilting her because she doesn’t want that.
In a way, the story feels very incomplete, because it’s just a fragment of a life, a tiny piece of the history of the Old Kingdom, and it doesn’t connect up the dots between this book and the original trilogy. There is plenty of room for many, many more stories, even ones featuring the same characters, should Nix choose. But we do have the shape of Clariel’s life sketched out for us, between this book and the original trilogy; I think it may be more satisfying seen that way, rather than read as a stand-alone.
This week’s theme is “Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With” and actually, I’m having a bit of trouble thinking of it. Okay, here goes…
Jill Pole and Prince Rillian from The Silver Chair. Actually, most of the characters in the last two books. They just didn’t have the magic, somehow.
Prince Sameth, Lirael & Abhorsen. Compared to their mother, both him and Ellimere are just weak tea. He spends so much time denying his responsibilities, where his mother just took it all on and never dreamed of saying no. In a way, it’s a more realistic characterisation, but gah, so much whining.
Elvira, from Half a Crown. I love most of Jo Walton’s characters, but Elvira’s concerns seemed so far away from the concerns of the more mature characters we’ve already spent time with.
Boromir, from The Lord of the Rings. I know he’s actually a good guy at heart, and we see the evil power of the Ring twisting him, but there was something so glory-seeking and self-centered about the guy, especially when compared to Faramir.
Malta Vestrit, from The Liveship Traders trilogy. Ohh my god, so spoilt. And it doesn’t really get better even as she begins to grow up; I never liked her. Mind you, a lot of the characters in this trilogy were very dislikeable, to me.
Miriamele, from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Speaking of spoilt characters…
Jaelle, from The Summer Tree. I never felt like I really understood the character, and I wanted more out of her.
Katsa, from Graceling. I know! She’s pretty kickass, but I never really connected with the character. It’s why I didn’t like it that much the first time I tried it.
Lancelot, in anything. Almost the sole exception is Heather Dale’s music and parts of Steinbeck’s retelling of Malory.
Dorian Havilliard, Throne of Glass. Actually, I didn’t really ‘get’ either love interest in the first book, but Chaol is growing on me. Dorian… there are some aspects I’m liking, but in the first book, he really didn’t win me over.
I tried to pick books I liked, in general, and characters who are not meant to be villains. I’ll be interested to see what other takes people have on this theme!
Finally finished my reread! I do like Garth Nix’s world, but I really didn’t get on with the characters, especially not second (or third) time around. Lirael is alright, but between her and Sameth, there’s too much self-pity. Mind you, that improves a lot in this book as both of them accept their responsibilities and burdens… not the responsibilities and burdens they expected to have to bear, but important ones, and ones perhaps more suited to them.
The background to this is interesting, too: the Bright Shiners, the Wallmakers, the power that goes into each of the lines that keeps the Old Kingdom safe. As Nix says in one of the notes in my edition, to know more about this would be almost to spoil the allure. It’s more fun to guess. I do want to know, though, if he knew of this song when he came up with the Nine Bright Shiners… (I asked. He replied that yes, he did, and it was intentional. Hurrah!)
I still wish for more of Sabriel and Touchstone in this one, as in Lirael, because I find them more interesting than their kids. But I do enjoy their brief appearances, and their obvious love for their kids balanced with their responsibilities.
This week’s theme is auto-buy authors! I think I did this topic the last time it came round, but these things are prone to change. It’ll be interesting after I’ve made the list to look for the old one!
Scott Lynch. Even seeing a short story of his is in a collection is enough to prompt me to at least consider picking it up.
J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m not sure he’d even approve of the state of the stuff Christopher Tolkien is putting out for him is in, but I will always be fascinated with every word the guy wrote.
Jo Walton. If I can’t get the ARCs, at least… Jo is my friend as well as a favourite author.
N.K. Jemisin. I think I knew she’d be an auto-buy author from the first page of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
Jacqueline Carey. I’ve seen her deal with stuff I wouldn’t be that interested in ably, in a way that comes out fun. Yeah, I’ll buy anything.
Guy Gavriel Kay. Person most likely to make me cry at his work, except possibly Jo.
Garth Nix. I haven’t even read all his backlist yet.
Patricia A. McKillip. It took me a while to get into some of her books, but I think I’m securely hooked now. I’m glad there’s still a whole bunch of backlist titles I haven’t got to yet.
Neil Gaiman. Okay, I’m not 100% a fan of everything the man says, and the title of his latest collection of short stories didn’t work for me, but if he writes a book, I’ll probably get it. Maybe not immediately. But in the end.
Rainbow Rowell. It surprised me, but I just preordered Carry On and realised that yeah, I probably will automatically buy anything by her. Something about her style just… works for me.
This week, I got some major goals done — the book I was ghostwriting was finished (well, one of them), I got a lot of transcription work done, and I got an assignment done. So I was allowed some books, and much deserved they were. Also, one of them was bought with a voucher my mother gave me a few weeks(!) ago. Aaand then was Support Tor Day (warning: link to Vox Day’s blog; no, he isn’t supporting Tor, he’s calling for a boycott, which to me is tantamount to asking all reasonable people to support them).
Plus, Susanna Kearsley sent me an Amazon voucher to make up for me getting smacked with a customs charge for a book she sent me. I don’t have that book in my hands yet, but I do have a couple of her others. I had some of these from the library, but…
I’m not sure how I feel about this event, but still. Ms Marvel. Yay.
As much as I love Sabriel (both the book and the character!), I was reluctant to read this again. Lirael’s role in the library is awesome, but both she and Sameth are rather too prone to self-pity to stand up well beside Sabriel’s example. Which is part of the whole point, that Sameth’s grown up in his parents’ shadows, but still. While Sameth has serious problems to deal with, he’s also selfish, doesn’t think things through properly, and would do a lot better if he’d open his mouth and let words come out. Sabriel and Touchstone might have a firm idea of their duty is, but I’m pretty sure that they would also understand that Sameth’s sickened fear would actually make a very bad Abhorsen.
Communication, communication, communication. My pet peeve in real life and in fiction, alas.
Lirael is more engaging, despite her bouts of self-pity. They’re more understandable, and she has the Disreputable Dog to put a stop to it as well. Her life in the Clayr’s glacier, her work in the library, her abilities with Charter marks and her explorations, all of those things are fascinating. And the Dog herself, too.
It’s difficult, because I do love this world, but Nix seems to have created a uniquely frustrating character/situation, perfectly balanced to annoy the heck out of me. I think I liked Abhorsen better, so I’m hopeful about that and Clariel, but it was disappointing how much of a struggle this was to reread.
Here’s a new, but very appropriate, meme for this blog! From here.
Each Thursday, our copy of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.
The topic this week is PETS:
Everybody needs somebody to love. And the best companionship doesn’t always come from the same sentient group, does it? Be it furry or scaled, large or small, sometimes an animal companion is the best thing a person can have.
The otak, from A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin: We don’t see much of the little creature, but without him and his fierce shy loyalty, Ged wouldn’t survive past half the book. And we know how special he is because most otaks are shy.
Nighteyes, from the Farseer trilogy, by Robin Hobb: Okay, not quite a pet, but an animal companion nonetheless. You’ve got to love this guy.
The Disreputable Dog, from Lirael, by Garth Nix: Another sentient one, really. I’m doing bad at this, aren’t I? But you gotta love her.
You can probably think of some obvious ones I forgot…
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is books on the winter TBR. I’m not very specific about stuff like that, and I’m dreadful at getting round to books on time, but here’s more or less what I’m planning…
Mary Stewart, the Merlin trilogy. The first book was a reread, but with The Hollow Hills I’m breaking new ground. And enjoying it, thankfully; I still think Rosemary Sutcliff has just about everyone except maybe Steinbeck beat, but I’m enjoying Stewart’s work more than I remembered.
Jo Walton, The Just City. I got distracted from finishing this off by family visiting, and because I can’t take it to clinic with me (I’m only allowed my ereader because it’s quite discreet!). So I’m planning to finish it… probably before the start of December, really.
Tanya Huff, The Enchantment Emporium. Also been on the go for a while, whoops. And it’s fun!
Ben Aaronovitch, Foxglove Summer. Because omgggg.
Garth Nix, Clariel. Because I’m dreadful and still haven’t got round to it after I wasn’t able to read it on the Eurostar on my last trip.
Brandon Sanderson, Steelheart. Because superheroes! And it’s about time.
Samantha Shannon, The Bone Season. I’ve been meaning to pick this up for a while, and with the next book out soon, it seems like it’s about time.
Guy Gavriel Kay, The Lions of Al-Rassan.I’m still working on reading all his books in chronological order (by publication), so this one’s up next.
Henry Marsh, Do No Harm. I’m starting the long road to becoming a doctor, in theory. Marsh’s topic (brain surgery) fascinates me, and I feel like I should be learning everything I can and just soaking up the knowledge in that way I have of gaining things by osmosis. (Ask my mother. I don’t know how to pronounce a lot of words because they just slipped into my vocabulary via books, without me ever hearing them. She thinks it’s funny.)
Bernard Cornwell, The Winter King. Because there’s no better time, with a title like that, right? But also because the Mary Stewart re/read is putting me in the mood for other historically based versions of the story.
Hello everyone! I’m late with Stacking the Shelves this morning because my partner’s internet doesn’t want to access WordPress. I seem to have it sorted now — fingers crossed… So anyway, it’s not been a bad week, though I’ve so far resisted buying any books in the local shops (though I do know the location of just about all the publicly accessible English-language books in Leuven).
From the library
I feel like I should like Mary Stewart’s Arthurian work more than I did the first time I tried it, so I’m going to try again, and the library provided that excuse. I’m pretty sure The Bone People was recommended to me by Jo Walton, so I was excited to find that. And there’s some other sci-fi stuff I should read, and The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane because the title makes me think of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.
And a gift from the author…
x ecd6mm2aqwe““““““““““““““““ asz,.jupy[;ol <— That was my partner’s bunny’s commentary on the matter. Here’s a picture of her in her tunnel.
And if y’all beat my record for number of comments on an StS post, my partner says I can give her a treat, and maybe we’ll take a video of that.
Anyway, I did also pick up some books on the Kobo store, as you might’ve expected.
Clariel is obviously one I’ve been waiting for a loooong time, and Kobo messed me around a lot in getting it. Hot Key Books, the publisher, were really great, though. They recced me Tribute, so I picked that up too. Megan Whalen Turner is a reread for me. The others have been recommended by various people and so on.
Okay, that’s it. Remember, every comment increases Hulk’s chances of getting a treat. She ecd6mm2aqwes you!