Clariel : the lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix

cover image

Abhorsen series. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781741758627
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Fantasy, Adventure. When Clariel is taken from her home in Estwael to the city of Belisaere, she is aching to return to the Great Forest where she was happy. In the city she realises that she is a pawn in its politics, where the King has not been seen for some years, hiding away in the palace while the real power in the city it taken by Kilp, a powerful guild leader. She finds that her mother, Jaciel, has plans to marry her to his odious son, so joining the Goldsmith Guild with the Abhorsens, With credentials like Clariel's she is a target and must use every skill she has learnt to keep herself safe.
But her powers have long been derided by those in the city. The Charter mark stands prominently on her forehead and she practices Charter Magic, much to the derision of some of those in her classes at the Academy where she is sent to learn the customs of this new place. As her mother insists that she be trained in both the old and new skills she is sent to Magister Kargrin, who realises her talent and begins to develop the skills she has neglected. But all her thoughts are of her old home and Kargrin, realising this, promises to help her. He has sensed that there is someone with Free Magic in the town, hidden by a person of influence, and Clariel's skills will entice this him to show his hand. If she does this, he will help her escape and go back to the Great Forest. She is cornered. But in tackling the Free Magic she feels the pull to the other side of her magic, one where she can have unlimited power. After her parents are killed, she is sent to the old house where many of her ancestors lived. Here she is imprisoned but safe, with Mogget the cat for company, while events take shape around her. But she makes another escape, this time using the Free Magic creatures she finds in the house, breaking the rules once again.
Strong minded and willful, Clariel is the most spirited of heroes, taking chances after weighing up her options, acutely aware that her rage sometimes needs curbing.
Set six hundred years before the Old Kingdom trilogy of Sabriel, Lirael and Abhosren, this prequel is an imperative read for all fans of fantasy, adventure, and books with a strong storyline which tackles the most dire of situations.
Nix writes convincingly of Clariel's battles to survive, her breathless encounters with Kilp and his entourage, bent on forcing her to be part of his plans, her mother's spell forcing her to run, knowing Jaciel will die as a result, her incarceration in the pit at the Winter Palace. All events are credible, with enticing writing that enfolds the reader into the world Nix has created. Putting aside the book when the last page is turned is devastating, but readers can be pacified knowing the next three books are there to be reread.
Fran Knight