Compared to the original trilogy, both Clariel the book and Cariel the character have a rather different feel.
As a book, Clariel takes place centuries before Sabriel, well before the fall of the Old Kingdom. We’re in an entirely different political landscape and rather than the general feeling of things coming back together (other than the whole end of the world thing), there’s a feel of falling apart. We’re square in the height of decadence that comes before the fall, with a failing monarchy, an Abhorsen who’d rather hunt than deal in death, and Charter Magic fallen out of fasion. It’s an interesting time period to explore, don’t get me wrong. It’s just rather different.
As a character, Clariel wants nothing more than to go back home. She doesn’t care about the private schools and political maneuvering of the capital, she doesn’t care about her parent’s lives in the guild. It’s a definite switch from Sabriel and Lireal, who are thrown into just as unusual situations and grow to match them. It’s interesting finally getting a point of view character with the Royal / Touchstone’s powers and learn a bit more about those.
For the first chunk of the book, I didn’t care much for Clariel on the world. I understand where she’s coming from, it just wasn’t that interesting to read about. But once the fighting begins and things start escalating, it’s a fascinating ride, watching Clariel make a series of perfectly reasonable–at the time–choices. And then when you finally realize that Clariel is an origin story for Chlorr of the Mask . Well, I managed not to spoil that one for myself, so that was quite a surprise.
Overall, it’s an odd little book. Not nearly as solid as the first trilogy, I did appreciate the additional world building and backstory. The sort of thing I never knew I wanted, but was nice to have when I did.