Tying up threads

The Sham Castle, Bathampton, Bath from an old postcard

Garth Nix: Goldenhand
Hot Key Books 2017 (2016)

As I would expect from one of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom novels Goldenhand is chockful of suspense, bravery and fortitude. What I didn’t see coming were the inklings of young love, not once but twice, but what I did hope for were resolutions of threads that had been left slightly hanging from previous books in the series, and in this I was not disappointed.

If in the end I was disappointed it was in the actual execution of those resolutions, which felt a bit perfunctory in the last few chapters. This isn’t to detract from the otherwise masterful storytelling which had this reader continually tempted to read just a few more pages, and perhaps a little bit more after that; or from the convincing worldbuilding that has suffused and sustained the Old Kingdom sequence now for five novels and a couple of novellas.

Lirael, the sympathetic protagonist of the second of the novels, is now Abhorsen-in-Waiting and a powerful Charter Magic necromancer. When the Abhorsen Sabriel (focus of the first book in the series) decides to take a well-earned honeymoon with King Touchstone, young Lirael is left in charge to take responsibility for dealing with reanimated dead creatures plus a Free Magic entity which suddenly emerges to create a crisis to the south of the Wall. Meanwhile, in the far north of the Old Kingdom a young woman named Ferin is being pursued by malevolent beings who track her flight to the south. Is her mission linked with the troubles Lirael is facing further south? You can guarantee it. And what else is it that binds the fates of these two resourceful young women?

Continue reading “Tying up threads”

A deeply immersive world

gargoyle

Garth Nix Abhorsen
HarperCollins Children’s Books 2005 (2003)

This, the third of the Old Kingdom series, follows immediately on from Lirael, set about a score of years after the events in Sabriel. Young Lirael, who was still hoping to gain the gift of clear foresight that her kin the Clayr claimed as their birthright, has accepted instead that she is Abhorsen-in-waiting. Prince Sameth, relieved that he is no longer Abhorsen-in-waiting, finds that he is destined to be a Wallmaker — appropriately as he has the gift of making. These are complicated roles to understand without knowledge of the previous two volumes in the series but, bearing in mind the title of this book, an explanation is probably called for — for at least one of the roles. Continue reading “A deeply immersive world”

Destiny’s children

mosaic
Romano-British mosaic fragment, British Museum (2013)

Garth Nix Lirael  Collins 2004 (2001)

Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?

Much of fantasy is founded on the principle of Fate taking a hand in deciding future outcomes. It’s hardly surprising – it shares this principle with fairytale, with mythology, with religion, whether Fate is called a fairy godmother, a god or any other kind of demiurge. With backgrounds such as these the notion of prophecy looms large, even saws and sayings become significant determinants which one defies at peril or at least with little success.

In Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series that sense of predestination is encapsulated in the question “Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” Now while many abhor such casual predetermining of individual or collective futures by Fate (or whatever one chooses to call it) there is no denying that as a plot device in fantasy it can be not only a successful but also satisfying way of ensuring that karma catches up with individuals and justice in all its forms is seen to be done. From fairytales through myth and on to much classic literature we all like a pleasing narrative where good, despite the odds stacked against it, overcomes evil in the end and all deserving souls live, for the foreseeable future, happily ever after.

So it is with Lirael, the second in the series. Continue reading “Destiny’s children”