Clariel is the newest Old Kingdom novel by Garth Nix, a prequel to the other books. [Here are my reviews of Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, the previous books in the series, and Across the Wall, a short story collection that conains a novella.]
Finished on: 04.01.2015 [cornholio suggested I add that info to my posts, let me know what you think.]
Clariel’s mother is a famous goldsmith of some renoun and has moved to the capital of the Old Kingdom, Belisaere, with her family for her career. Clariel hates it there, she misses the forests and solitude of her home town and has a very hard time adjusting to life in the city, including all the court protocol that is now expected of her. It doesn’t help either that her mother’s Abhorsen heritage connects Clariel closely to the King, who is slowly falling apart since his daughter has disappeared, and puts her right in the middle of the schemes of Guildmaster Kilip and his grasp for power. But Clariel will not let herself be trapped.
Clariel was an exciting read and a wonderful addition to Nix’ world, even though it is a little hard to accept that it doesn’t continue Lirael’s and Nicholas’ story [from what I gather, the next one will]. But if you disregard that fact, Clariel is absolutely perfect.
Around the middle of the book, I had the sudden suspicion that Clariel would turn out to be Chlorr of the Mask. I don’t even know why exactly, other than during my re-read of Abhorsen, when Mogget tells Lirael that Chlorr used to be an A…, I thought that it must be an Abhorsen and that would be an interesting story to tell. Apparently Nix thought the same because that’s the story we got: the origin story of Chlorr of the Mask. [You don’t actually need to have read the other books to appreciate the story and Clariel’s story, that it turns out that we have met her already, centuries later and books earlier is nice for the people who know, but it is just a detail.]
And what a great story it is: it makes you empathize with Clariel and her struggle just to be left alone – and nobody will let her be, everybody putting their own demands on her. And then your heart breaks as she turns to whatever promise of freedom she can find, even if it’s a really bad idea, letting herself be manipulated in the hope that the promises will turn out to be true.
It was also fascinating to get a look at the history of the Old Kingdom and how society has changed in some ways, at least from what you can gather from the rest of the series. Generally it was interesting to see how this society was structured. Gender differences, for example, barely made a difference, in particular when it came to career choices. And it would have also been acceptable for Clariel to become a Borderer – a ranger of sorts – despite her noble birth and gender. The only concern of her school was that she should get the right education for it.
There is much to love about Clariel – from the characters to the story to the simple fact that it gives you something new to read in the Old Kingdom. I loved it.
Summarizing: this series is a gift and Clariel a welcome addition.