Clariel: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Clariel by Garth NixClariel is the daughter of one of the most renowned goldsmiths in the Old Kingdom. With ties to both the Abhorsen and the king, she also is part of a powerful family line. Despite the supposed prestige, Clariel wants nothing to do with her mother’s goldsmith work or the city of Belisaere which will apparently further her mother’s ambitions.

While Clariel plots her escape back to the Great Forest near Estwael, she finds herself drawn again and again into political machinations within Belisaere. The more she tries to escape, the more problems (ranging from a Free Magic to a decidedly unwanted marriage proposal) appear to keep Clariel in the city.

Clariel knows her own mind better than most and is determined to choose her own path no matter who or what might try to stop her. But with so many temptations and obstacles, can Clariel ever truly be free? More importantly, how many times can a passion be thwarted before it goes horribly, irreparably astray in Clariel (2014) by Garth Nix?

Clariel is a prequel to Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series. It is set roughly 600 years before the events in Sabriel (the first Old Kingdom book).

Readers of the Old Kingdom books will know that Clariel eventually becomes Chlorr of the Mask–a villain who features in first three Old Kingdom novels. Beyond that fact, Clariel is its own story. Free of spoilers for the rest of this series, this book can serve as an equally good entry point for readers looking to discover the world of the Old Kingdom.

Clariel is a brusque, singular protagonist. For most of the novel she cares little about others or anything beyond her immediate desire to return to the Great Forest. In a lesser narrative these attributes might have made for a self-absorbed heroine and little else. Clariel, however, is much more than that. Even though her agency is undermined again and again, even while she is constantly manipulated, Clariel remains her own woman.

In Clariel, Garth Nix presents a nuanced story about choice and redemption featuring a capable heroine. Even knowing what Clariel eventually becomes, Nix has delivered a story that is as taut as it is heartbreaking. A must-read for fans of high fantasy.

Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

*A copy of this book was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2014 for review consideration*

Sabriel: A Review

sabrielLatest in a long line of Abhorsens, Sabriel knows more than most about death. The Abhorsens are necromancers who use Charter magic to put the dead to rest. Or, if that fails, bind them where they cannot return to Life. As one of the oldest family lines in the Old Kingdom, the Abhorsens are tasked with keeping the kingdom safe from the dead as well as dangerous Free Magic creatures.

When her father, the current Abhorsen, becomes trapped in Death–a dangerous river few can find and fewer can walk–Sabriel has to leave the relative shelter of her boarding school across the Wall in Ancelstierre to assume her rightful duties as the next Abhorsen to save her father, and perhaps many others, from the dead that would keep him and claim the world of the living for themselves in Sabriel (1995) by Garth Nix.

Sabriel is the first book in Nix’s Old Kingdom series. It is followed by Lirael, Abhorsen, the novella Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case and the prequel Clariel. Although this novel sets up all of the events that follow later in the series, Sabriel works as a standalone with a contained story arc.

Sabriel is a beautifully well-realized fantasy. Evocative descriptions bring both the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre to life as Nix weaves a complex world of magic and adventure. Sabriel easily negotiates the world of the Old Kingdom with its allies who may not be allies and all manner of magical wonders and dangers. She easily fits into the more modern world of Ancelstierre with its modern technology reminiscent of our own world in the 1910s.

Accompanied by distinct characters including a possibly dangerous cat and a statue come to life, Sabriel is a clever and capable heroine in a story that is as compelling as it is exciting. With action, romance and humor this novel has something for everyone. Sabriel is an exemplary start to a classic fantasy series. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Monday Memories: Sabriel

Monday Memories is a weekly feature hosted by Miss Print and the Book Bandit. Just take a photo of a book from your personal library (or a library book that’s significant to you, etc.) and talk about why it matters. Is it your first ever signed book? The first book you reviewed on your blog? Whatever it is, write it up in a Monday Memories post and share it. Just please link back if you decide to join!


Today for Monday Memories I’m talking about Sabriel by Garth Nix.


(Since I’m really excited about Clariel coming out this week I’m doing a week-long celebration of the Old Kingdom series here on the blog. I considered talking about Clariel today instead but it felt right to start at the beginning of this series.)

I first discovered this series years ago when I received the second book in the  series, Lirael, as a prize at a city storytelling festival. Soon after I went to my local library and borrowed Sabriel to read followed soon after by Lirael. This left me right on track to read Abhorsen near when it published along with the companion novella “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case” which appears in the short story collection Across the Wall.

I love this series. Nix’s writing is evocative and thrilling in a way that was totally new and unexpected to me when I first read the series. While Sabriel’s story is incredibly entertaining, I surprisingly am even more fond of Lirael (who holds a special place in my heart as a fellow librarian of course).

I only recently bought the series for my personal library partly because of excitement over the release of Clariel and partly because I wanted to have the original trilogy with the cover art created by Leo and Diane Dillon since it’s what I remembered from when I read the books. Since Nix came to NYC for BEA last year, I also happily have an entire signed set of the series.

To join, click the Inlinkz frog below to link up. Then see what everyone else has to say :)

Week in Review: October 12


This week on the blog you can check out:

I’m kind of proud of the Halloween displays I made at my place of employ and my review of Blue Lily, Lily Blue so maybe you want to check those posts out?!

Monday and Tuesday of this week were lousy on just about every level. We’re past family birthdays now so I’m hoping the heaviness from thinking about my aunt’s death last year will lift a little bit but we’ll see.

On Wednesday I got to go to the AAP’s Children’s Book Buzz panel which was a blast. I got to see a lot of marketing professionals talking about upcoming titles. Also I got some free books which is always a kick of course. If you follow me on Twitter, you can scroll back to see all of my #bookbuzznyc tweets which give a pretty good live-tweeting recap of things.

In other bookish news I’ve been ruthlessly purging my books at home. I literally have three large bags to take to the Strand at some point to sell. I’m also being pretty ruthless about my TBR shelves on goodreads because I’m determined to get it down to manageable numbers and get through a lot of the books in my house. Determined!

I also finally cleaned up my desk drawers at work so it’s all much neater and I can find things again.

I’m also gearing up for Monday Memories which, if you have a blog or even if you don’t, I hope you’ll join!

That’s all that’s been going on in my neck of the woods.

How was your week?

Miss Print’s Re-Prints: October 2007 Edition, Vol. 2

missprintreprintMiss Print’s Re-Prints is a weekly feature that will post on Saturday. Each week I’ll highlight reviews I wrote during a previous month in this blog’s run.

Currently I am Re-Printing 2007 posts.

October 2007: Volume 2

  • Missing Abby coverOctober 24, 2007: Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly–“Interestingly, it is only after Abby goes missing that Emma is able to realize how precious Abby was as a friend and subsequently find herself again.”









Library Life: October Displays (for Halloween)

This week I put up two new displays in my library’s teen space for the month of October. I could have done an autumn theme but to me October really only means Halloween so I decided to go in that direction. I knew one display was going to be “The Talking Dead” because it’s one of my favorite plays on words and themes (as well as the subject of a thematic list on this blog).

The problem was that I also knew I wanted to do a new trivia display on our larger display table and I wasn’t sure how to frame that for Halloween. Luckily my awesomely creative co-worker Ingrid (AKA The Magpie Librarian) had a great idea. Instead of trying to encompass all of Halloween in one display, Ingrid proposed we do a vampire-themed trivia display. Her idea was finding pictures of well-known vampires from movies/TV/books (or book covers if pictures of the characters were unavailable) along with a quote from the character with a tagline reading “Who am I?”

The display is titled “Name that Vampire!” and also gives instructions on how to answer the questions and win a free book.

I once again made all of the display graphics using a combination of photos Ingrid and I found online along with swatches and text available in PicMonkey.

Here is the display I made for The Talking Dead:


Here’s a close up of the sign:


First a detail of how the display works:


And here is the a secondary display because we got carried away and made more trivia than the foam board could hold:


And here is the big Name that Vampire display in all of its spooky glory:


I’m also saving the images in case I want to do something similar next year (and because it took me hours to make them in PicMonkey and it seemed a shame to not keep the files). And obviously the displays are also well-stocked with spooky books.

What is your library doing for displays this month?

The Accidental Highwayman: A Review

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben TrippIn eighteenth century Christopher “Kit” Bristol thinks he has finally found legitimate and respectable work as a gentleman’s gentleman. Yes, he sometimes misses his dramatic life working in a traveling show. Of course riding an old mare into town for errands can’t compare to riding a fine horse in a ring for trick spectacles. But Kit has left that life behind. He is a servant now with stable work in a lovely manor. It matters little that the manor is largely on the brink of falling apart.

Unfortunately, Kit’s visions of grandeur and legitimacy are rudely shattered one night when he learns that his master’s odd habits are hiding a secret. Kit has unknowingly been working for Whistling Jack–a notorious highwayman who is wanted by both the authorities and other, far more dangerous, foes.

In a fit of loyalty, Kit dons his master’s clothes hoping to buy Whistling Jack precious time after the highwayman is gravely injured. The deed is futile. It also drags Kit into the middle of his master’s unfinished quest–a fantastical mission that Kit is ill-prepared to complete.

Tasked with stopping the marriage of King George III to a fairy princess named Morgana, Kit will have to plumb the depths of his ingenuity and search for unlikely allies if he hopes to survive let alone succeed in The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides
(2014) by Ben Tripp.

The Accidental Highwayman is Tripp’s first novel for young adults. It also includes delightful illustrations by the author.

This book is an enjoyable fantasy romp complete with fairies, goblings (not to be confused with goblins!) and a fair bit of whimsy. Tripp does an excellent job of combing a historical fiction sensibility with a fantasy story to create a new type of fairytale with an 18th century background. Tripp’s illustrations also add to the playful quality of the story.

Although sometimes predictable, The Accidental Highwayman is a solid fantasy adventure that will appeal to readers looking for action as much as they are humor or romance. This rollicking story is but the first in an anticipated series that promises numerous adventures for both Kit and Morgana.

Thanks to Esther Bochner at MacMillan, you can also check out a clip from the audiobook of The Accidental Highwayman, narrated by Steve West:

Possible Pairings: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde, Candide by Voltaire, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede