“When they must,” said Lirael. “The Library is very old, and deep, and contains many things that have been put away for good reason. Creatures, dangerous knowledge, artifacts made not wisely, but too well . . . books that should not be opened without proper preparation, some books that should never be opened at all.”
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 I mentioned in , Abhorsen is really the second half of a book. It doesn’t stand alone, but it doesn’t need to. We continue where we left off in Lirael and things keep escalating.
Worldbuildingwise, we have a much deeper dig into the deep history of the world, into the roots of Free Magic beings and the Charter. We learn more about Mogget and the Dog both along with our big bad: Orannis, the Destroyer. On to the end of the world…
Lirael is a bit odd when it comes to a sequel. While it’s set in the same world as Sabriel (and Sabriel even has a part to play), Lirael takes place a fair few years later, following two new characters: Lirael–daughter of the glacier bound seers only mentioned in Sabriel–and Prince Sameth–Sabriel and Touchstone’s son and Abhorsen in Waiting.
Once you get beyond the initial surprise at the change in topic, it’s another wonderful book. I’m honestly not sure which I prefer. Lirael is a wonderful character. She’s an outsider among an entire people who have an ability she does not, which is a recognizable situation to be in who turns into what’s effectively a battle librarian–who doesn’t love a battle librarian?
Sabriel is a wonderful book. Fantasy books dealing with death magic are among my favorites, the worldbuilding is fantastic (in the truest sense of the world), and the main characters are all a lot of fun. Each time I spend long enough without reading it, I always forget just how much I enjoy reading (or in this case listening too) this book.
The worldbuilding is great. You don’t get the sense of mechanical precision you would get from someone like Sanderson, but it’s a world that feels both magical and ‘real’, which is always something I’m looking for. In particular, the idea of a magical world and a WWIish era technological world, separated by a sometimes porous wall is a neat one. Even though it’s not an uncommon trope, I have yet to find a book that does it quite as well. Especially the eponymous Sabriel’s experience being born and of one kingdom, but raised in a boarding school and with the perspective of the other. I really want to know so much more than we’re given about this history of this world…