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…
Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman (#1 in the Split Worlds trilogy) (Angry Robot, 26 February 2013)
Between Two Thorns is an immensely entertaining fantasy read with a host of engaging characters.
Narrated from four POVs, one of which I enjoyed slightly less than the others, Between Two Thorns has quite a lot going on! The plot is complex and satisfying. It took a few chapters for me to settle into this book because there was quite a lot to take in at first and the book didn’t grab me straightaway, but once it did, it was amazing.
Between Two Thorns describes the Split Worlds: our world, Mundanus, boring and human and sorely lacking in magic, split from Exilium, the world of the dangerous Fae lords, in order to protect the humans. The Nether lies in between, where all the Great Families live as if they’re trapped forever in the Victorian age, and the not-so-dangerous magic happens. Between Two Thorns is mostly set in Aquae Sulis, the part of the Nether which is a reflection of Bath. The Master of Ceremonies has gone missing, and Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is investigating into his disappearance. It seems that his only clue is locked inside the memories of a mundane called Sam, who stumbled upon something he should never have seen when he was walking home drunk one night. And the only person who can help him unlock these memories is Cathy.
Half Bad by Sally Green (#1 in the Half Life trilogy) (Penguin, 27 March 2014)
Half Bad is an intriguing, though rather slow, start to a fantasy trilogy that promises to explore morality and what makes us good or bad.
White Witches are good. Black Witches are evil. Black Witches kill. White Witches hunt them down, torture them and kill them. That’s the way the world works, and Nathan is the son of the strongest and most notorious Black Witch in the world. But Nathan is half White, too. And that’s where things get complicated. That’s how Nathan ends up living in a cage.