Clariel has been forced to move from the forest she loves to the city, where her parents have plans for her life that she is not happy with. But there is trouble in Belisaire – a King who does nothing, a man trying to take over, and a free magic beast who is trying something. Clariel finds herself drawn into feuds and battles she would never have chosen, and gradually secrets about herself and her powers are revealed.
My friend Ian reviewed this book for me a few weeks ago, and just thinking and reading about it made me want to read it! And perhaps because my expectations weren’t so high, I liked it a lot more than he did. It’s a prequel to the Abhorsen series – and I very much enjoyed entering into the world Nix has created again and seeing it from a different perspective. The thing that ruined it for me was the fact that pretty much the whole way through I could tell who the main character was going to be in the later series – and it just didn’t feel right.
I’m not going to write much about the world Nix created, because for anyone who knows the series you know it’s complexities, great imaginings and set up. If you’ve not read them and you like fantasy, go for it, they’re great. And this is no exception; here we get to explore more facets and areas of the world, and I really enjoyed that.
And the plot was good. It kept me hooked, and there was great action, great characters, intrigue, danger and mystery. Well done, Garth Nix.
But as I said, the thing that troubled me was Clariel herself. Like many teenage main characters, she’s angry with her parents. She doesn’t want to do all of the things that they and other people want her to do. She’s also got some powers that she doesn’t understand and has to learn to control. And she comes into contact with some free magic, and doesn’t exactly resist it. BUT – I’m sure all of that happened to the characters in the later books too. But somehow here, without Clariel ever deciding such, it seems these things are doomed to make her into a character who we know in the later books as evil.
I just didn’t think there was enough evidence that she was going to go that way. She was a bit annoying, but generally you sympathised with her and wanted the best for her. She was pretty stubborn, and made un-heroic choices several times, but it just didn’t seem enough to me. Perhaps the idea is meant to be that she gets evil later on; but at the end she seems resigned to the fact that it’s just going to happen and there’s nothing she can do about it. I like some choice for my characters please Nix, even the evil ones.