Wednesday 6 January 2010

Abhorsen - Garth Nix

In the Beginning there were nine Bright Shiners. One of these, Orannis, was also known as the Destroyer. Seven of the nine bound Orannis and broke his entity into two hemispheres. In the process they also bound Yrael - a Free Magic entity who was not willing to join the Charter. This binding and the co-operation of the Seven led to the creation of the bloodlines - the royal family, the Clayr, the Abhorsen - in the future. These carry the Great Charter in their blood - and are the only people able to prevent the rise of Orannis when the evil necromancer Hedge tries to unbind him.

These are the events that we deal with in Abhorsen. Lirael gave us the build-up - now Abhorsen gives the big reveal of the evil that must be stopped, and shows us how everything plays out.

I really enjoyed this book! The events were exciting, the writing was fluid and the plot moved along at a snappy pace. The dialogue was effective and sounded realistic.

I don't want to reveal what happens at the end, because I feel that the reader should discover this for themselves, but it was appropriate to the build-up and I enjoyed finding out more about both Mogget and the Disreputable Dog, who have been thoroughly enjoyable but mysterious characters all the way through.

The best part of this book is the sheer imagination on display. Since the first book, Sabriel, I have enjoyed learning about the Abhorsen's work and the art of the bells that control the dead. The descriptions of these bells - their names and the effects they have on both the dead and the wielder - are fantastic and an unusual form of magic. I also loved the path into Death, the Nine Gates that Lirael is forced to walk in this book. The use of the river, and the different gates, is written superbly and provides great tension.

I have enjoyed the fact that necromantic magic takes centre stage. Most often this is a very dark form of magic, and those with the ability are evil and twisted (much like Hedge). Seeing the Abhorsen using this magic as a force for good is very refreshing.

The battle between Charter magic and Free Magic is very effective - and bought to play best in the different forms of Mogget and the Disreputable Dog.

As before, I have small niggles that really didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the story. Here I felt that Hedge was a paper-thin characterisation - we didn't learn anything of his background or his attitude, or his reasons for bringing the Destroyer back to life. He was just Evil and provided an opponent for Lirael. In addition to this, Nicholas Sayre wasn't really utilised to a great extent either - I was never able to empathise with him, so the resolution to his story gave me less enjoyment than probably intended.

In my opinion, this trilogy deserves to take its place amongst childhood greats such as the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. It is excellently written and a breath of fresh air. Thoroughly enjoyable escapism.

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