Abhorsen by Garth Nix (#3 in the Old Kingdom series) (HarperCollins Children’s, first published in 2003)
This review contains spoilers for the first two books of the series.
Oh, ABHORSEN. I finished you at 1am and sobbed for at least 15 minutes.
An ancient evil, imprisoned since the dawn of time, is on the verge of being freed. Lirael and Sam, followed by their companions, the Disreputable Dog and Mogget, are the only ones who have a chance to stop it from destroying the world before it’s too late. But Nick, Sam’s best friend, is being controlled against his will and unknowingly by a shard of the evil within his body – can Lirael and Sam possibly save the world and Nick at the same time?
Lirael by Garth Nix (#2 in the Old Kingdom series) (HarperCollins Children’s, first published in 2001)
This review contains spoilers for the first book in the series.
I was a bit sad when I realised that I would not see much of Sabriel in LIRAEL. Instead, the book starts fourteen years after Sabriel and Touchstone have defeated Kerrigor and restored the Old Kingdom, and the focus of this book is on Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr, and Prince Sameth, son of Sabriel and Touchstone – so thankfully, we do get to see just a tiny bit of Sabriel! I guess I don’t normally expect this from a series, for it to jump forward until the main characters of the first book are parents and we get to see their children going on adventures of their own! It’s kind of weird but really interesting.
But I needn’t have been sad, because I soon came to love Lirael as a character even more than I did Sabriel. LIRAEL is a longer book than SABRIEL by about 200 pages or so, and I feel like those extra 200 pages are mostly spent on character development. To which I say: YES! I felt like I knew Lirael much better than Sabriel at the end of the novel. When the story begins, Lirael is fourteen years old. She is the only Clayr she knows who has not received the gift of the Sight by this age. She doesn’t look like the rest of the Clayr: where they have brown skin and light hair and eyes, she has pale skin and dark hair and eyes. She is ashamed of her lack of the Sight and she feels like she doesn’t belong. But as the book goes on, she realises that another destiny calls her.
Sabriel by Garth Nix (#1 in the Old Kingdom series) (HarperCollins Children’s, first published 1995)
The only thing I could think of when I finished reading SABRIEL was, why didn’t I read this sooner? This is exactly the kind of book I loved and devoured as a child. Full of magic and adventure, and journeys across a fantasy land.
Sabriel goes to a boarding school in Ancelstierre, not far from the Wall which separates Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom. Ancelstierre is much like our world (sort of an alternate England in the 1910s), a world mostly without magic unless you’re really close to the Wall, because the Old Kingdom is where magic happens. Sabriel comes from the Old Kingdom but she has grown up in Ancelstierre. Her father is Abhorsen, a man who works to undo the evils wrought by necromancers. One day, however, when Sabriel is eighteen years old, her father does not appear for one of his regular visits to Sabriel’s school. A messenger comes in his place, giving Sabriel her father’s sword and bells: the equipment that he used for his work. Fearing the worst but hoping to find out what has happened to him, Sabriel crosses the Wall into the Old Kingdom, only to discover a land where evil has long been brewing…
Also Known As by Robin Benway (#1 in the Also Known As series) (Walker Books, 26 February 2013)
Also Known As is a fun book with surprising emotional power about the difficulties of being a teenage spy, featuring a cute romance and an even cuter female friendship.
Maggie Silver cracked her first safe at the age of four. Her parents are both spies, working on the side of good for an organisation known as the Collective. Maggie has been wishing for some excitement all her life though – sure, she gets to crack the occasional safe, but she’s spent all her life moving from place to place, each brief stay involving only long days of sitting around the house doing nothing. Now, finally, Maggie is getting her own mission: attend high school in New York to get close to a boy called Jesse Oliver so she can stop Jesse’s father from running a magazine article which will expose members of the Collective. The trouble is, she didn’t expect Jesse Oliver to be so cute…
The Culling by Steven dos Santos (#1 in the Torch Keeper series) (Flux, 8 March 2013)
Okay, despite being a bit biased against this book initially because I unfortunately really dislike the cover, I LOVED THE BOOK. This book deserves a better cover, honestly.
So some people have said this is too much like the Hunger Games. I honestly don’t really see that. I think the stakes are very different. I mean, I guess I could say it’s like the Hunger Games, in that it’s a dystopia where teenagers are forced against their will to take part in horrifying activities that result in lots of people getting murdered, but The Culling is even more brutal and soul-destroying. Also, the male protagonist falls in love with another boy.
On Recruitment Day in the Establishment, Lucian ‘Lucky’ Spark finds himself recruited as one of five teenagers to take part in the Trials. Each recruit has two ‘incentives’ picked for them before the Trials begin, loved ones who are supposed to motivate them to win the Trials: because in each round of the Trials, the loser will have to select one of their incentives to be brutally murdered before their own eyes. If they lose again, their other incentive is killed too, and the recruit is sent off to a labour camp somewhere, never to be seen again. And on this goes, until only one person is left standing. The sole survivor of the Trials gets to become an Imposer and play their part in the law enforcement of the Establishment. Lucky is determined to protect his little brother at all costs; but as training for the Trials gets underway, Lucky finds himself doing the unthinkable and falling in love with one of the other recruits, Digory Tycho…