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.
Keep It Queer is an original, biweekly feature on my blog where I talk about being queer and all the various things this has meant to me over the years. Sometimes this will also involve me babbling about LGBTQ books. It’s also a chance for others to share their stories.
So, as I’ve said before, I’m bisexual. But I’ve only ever dated one person in my whole life, and that’s my current boyfriend. I’ve never even kissed a girl. But I’ve known since I was about 12 that I was bisexual.
Bisexual characters are still somewhat of a rare sight in books, but there’s been quite a few YA books with bisexual characters in the past couple of years. In 2014, I read Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, Coda by Emma Trevayne, Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Adaptation by Malinda Lo, Pantomime by Laura Lam, Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis. And I enjoyed all of them. I’m grateful for the existence of these books. I’m so glad we are getting more representation, with bisexual characters in books that aren’t completely centred on their sexuality. In fact, all of these books have pretty complex and cool plots.
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…
All right, I can’t be the only person who finds this annoying…
If you didn’t already know, these are the same book. The one on the left is the UK version, and the one on the right is the US version. I’ve got the one on the right (I reviewed it yesterday). I did not realise until AFTER I bought the book that it’s actually called Spy Society in the UK and it would have been more sensible to buy the UK version since I live in the UK and use Amazon UK to buy my books…