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Clariel by Garth Nix
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8863814,481 (3.78)64



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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
When I found out that there was going to be a new book in the Old Kingdom series, I almost screamed with excitement. This book did not disappoint! If you've never read Sabriel, Lirael, or Abhorsen, you will still absolutely be able to read this prequel, but honestly I think it would be best to read this book last.

Clariel is a great character. She's headstrong, independent, violent, and a true fighter -- but deeply flawed, which is what makes her feel so real and relatable. Clariel is also a really wonderful representation of an aromantic asexual character. She has absolutely no interest in romantic or sexual relationships, and has no problem with telling people about her disinterest when they assume otherwise. This isn't something that you see often in YA literature, so this was really refreshing.

My only complaint is that the last few pages seemed rushed. But other than that, this was a really, really great read, and a welcome addition to the Old Kingdom series. ( )
  captainmander | Jul 19, 2018 |
While not as engaging to me as the original trilogy was, I still thoroughly enjoyed Clariel as an additional story in the Old Kingdom series. I think that the overall pacing of the story left much to be desired, as the first two-thirds of the book was slow and steady, but the last third felt like what I have come to expect from Garth Nix. I really did love that this book allowed us a glimpse into the origin story of the Chlorr of the Mask and it definitely made me more sympathetic and interested in the version of Chlorr that Lirael faces in the distant future. All in all, an enjoyable read! ( )
  watersgendry | May 22, 2018 |
A damn fine entry in a most excellent series. Reading this makes me want to re-read the rest of the series :) ( )
  hopeevey | May 20, 2018 |
I have MISSED the Old Kingdom.

This book had everything for me. Clariel's a fabulous, strong character. The world building is addictive - I haven't read this series since high school and Nix pulled me right back in like I was never away. Darling Moggot is here, and we get to watch our hero teeter-totter on the edge of good and evil. What else is there?

Oh yes. There's an amazing fight scene. One of the best I've ever read. Characters are NOT who you think they are, so trust nothing and nobody. There are NO romantic relationships, so don't come into this book for kisses. No kisses. Even CLARIEL rolls her eyes when people proposition her.

It's a short book, but no less rich and immersive than any of the rest of this series. Even better, it's a prequel with standalone protagonist, so it can be read without all the rest. Recommend, recommend, recommend. ( )
  Morteana | May 18, 2018 |
Clariel. Oh, Clariel. I wanted to love Clariel (the book or the character? yes.) but I just can't. Spoilers, of course, abound.

Part of it is that Clariel herself is just not a character type I get along well with. I really dislike characters who hate everything about the high society of their culture and refuse to even try to fit in (can't we have a main character who loves court balls and swords?), which Clariel is.

There's deeper problems, though: Clariel's motivation, a lot of the characterization in general, some of the tone, and the pacing of the book. Clariel's motivation is almost entirely that she wants to be left in peace in her forest, which is not particularly compelling, especially since it never changes or becomes more complicated.

I also find, having let the book sit for a while, that I would have preferred her to have taken up Free Magic on purpose, rather than accidentally. Clariel uses Free Magic with the best of intentions - she wants to save the King and be free, and Free Magic is the only way to do that. Even at the end, when she's going North to be beyond the Charter, she wants to be a good person, even if she is contemplating becoming a necromancer.

When we see her in Lirael she's a malignant figure of pure evil, and even with six centuries of Free Magic corrupting her, I find it hard to believe that the naive, impulsive girl we see in Clariel could ever have gotten there. Contrafactual reviewing - talking about the book you wanted rather than the book you have - is never good, but: wouldn't it be more interesting to see her become warped by the society or by something in her personality rather than just by magic? It would, of course, be harder to make us feel compassion for a bad person, but therein lies the challenge and the interest.

As for characterization: I didn't like Clariel very much either as a person or a character, but, as I said, that's mainly because she plays into a lot of tropes I really dislike. Her parents, though, were fairly badly handled. Her mother, Jaciel, is the head (or some other very highly placed official) of the goldsmiths' guild, but she's really bad at politics and keeping her silence, which doesn't make any sense. Skill can only get you so far, in what is a political position.

It turns out that the odious boy Clariel is supposed to marry is using Free Magic to make his masterwork. Jaciel finds out, and instead of hiding that she knows or doing anything reasonable, she accuses him while she's surrounded by his father's guards. Which leads to a very well-executed scene - but that doesn't help the fact that it was a really stupid thing to do, by a character who's supposed to be absorbed in her work, but not stupid.

I also have some problems with Mogget's characterization, or rather making his characterization jibe with his earlier characterization. He's always been fairly neutral as a character, helping the Abhorsens only because he's bound to, though he does seem to have at least some affection for Sabriel. In this he's actively malicious, lying as much as he able to. Which I think Nix explains by saying that he's been ignored by the Abhorsens, so his Free Magic nature is stronger, but leaning on Free Magic to explain faults of characterization is really weak.

In general, he painted with fairly broad strokes - you knew the evil people were evil, you knew the good people were good. Which isn't necessarily a fault, except that he was trying to be subtle in the beginning. You can't do a sneaky court intrigue book, which part of this was, if the sides are obvious.
(I'm not sure what this falls under, but there were also a couple of times where Clariel demands to know what's going on and people knuckle under pretty quickly. Keeping her in the dark doesn't really make sense, but having people try to keep her in the dark and then give in really quickly when she asks them direct questions is creating unnecessary conflict.)

The pacing was probably the biggest flaw, and is tied into the tone problems I had. Clariel is about 400 pages long, and I felt as though I was in the setup stage until around page 275. There was too much time spent on miscellaneous action in Belisaere, including an unnecessary school scene or two (what was the point of Yaneem, a needlessly unpleasant girl? there was none) and much too little on Clariel's descent into well-meaning evil.

So, the tone. Again, this is contrafactual, but this definitely wanted to be a much darker book than it was. I was going to say that it was held back by being YA - but so was Sabriel, and that was much darker. Clariel is essentially good, and any corruption in her is due to her bloodline and exposure to Free Magic; her character was very straightforward and uncomplicated. And sure, both her parents get killed in a bloody way, but that jarred with the tone of the book up to then - which was fairly light. There are ways to have contrasting tones in a book, but I don't think he did particularly well here. I think it needed to be a court intrigue book, and that's very hard to do when none of your main characters are at all sneaky.

The thing is, though, that I did enjoy it very much. There were a couple of really great scenes and some pretty darn badass magic, and I do love coming back to the Old Kingdom. It's just so much weaker than the other three. I tried to love it, really I did. ( )
1 vote elucubrare | Feb 9, 2018 |
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To Anna, Thomas and Edward,
and all my family and friends
to the memory of poet, kind-hearted
cynic and good friend
Andrew Etheridge
1963 - 2012
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Old Marrel the fisherman lived in one of the oddest parts of Belisaere, the ancient capital of the Old Kingdom.
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"The story of how Clariel became a Free Magic Sorcerer, set 600 years before the birth of Sabriel"--

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