Lirael is the sequel to Sabriel and is set in the same story world of the Old Kingdom. You could quite happily read it without reading the first book, but you would have less insight into the overall fantasy world context. Next to Sabriel I think this is my favourite of Nix’s books in this series, and Lirael is the character that I think about most. Lirael is one of the Clayr, a special line of people who are gifted with the ability to see the future, or glimpses of it known as the sight. Your first vision marks your progression into adulthood, and Lirael is long overdue for hers and is painfully aware of it.
A couple of the issues are fairly serious in this text – dealing with identity and death or suicide. The two are linked in this story in the sense that Lirael is so depressed and distressed by not fitting in with the Clayr that she is willing to end her own life. She also has an abnormal interest in death which is at first glance morbid, but actually indicates that she has other gifts beyond what someone in the Clayr would be expected to have. Luckily she is distracted from her effort to end her life and ends up with a mission instead, and with the discovery of an unlikely power within herself she also finds an unlikely friend and companion: the Disreputable Dog.
In this fantasy world the barrier between life and death is thin, and it is the responsibility of the Abhorsen to deal with the dead who have escaped back into life. The other main character in the book is Prince Sameth, the son of Sabriel and King Touchstone. Sameth is meant to be the next Abhorsen, taking over from the duties of his mother. As such, he would have to confront the dead and this is something that he wants less and less. Between Sameth and Lirael Nix explores the idea that sometimes children are not the people who adults most expect or wish them to be.
I really enjoyed this story. One highlight was the Clayr library where Lirael spends her time more and more as a junior librarian. The library is this dangerous place with lots of hidden doors and things that are off limits, but Lirael finds ways to cheat the magic and explore deeper into all of the restricted areas. During this time she awakes a dangerous creature, and has to figure out how to fix her own mistakes.
There are some nice cameos from previous characters; Moggett, Sabriel and Touchstone being the main ones. It’s kind of sad though because they’re grown up and you can see they’ve lost their youthful perspective since becoming King and Queen. Well, Moggett is the same. He’s not a king or a queen, but you know what I mean. I really want Sabriel and Touchstone to see what Sameth is going through and stop putting so much pressure on him and just give him some time and space to communicate with them properly. Then again, since when to teenagers communicate with their parents even with the proper time and space?
I think I enjoyed Lirael as much as Sabriel and it’s a cool continuation of the same story but explores different aspects of the world Nix has created. My rating 4/5 stars!