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In this third book in the series that also includes Sabriel and Lirael, a new Abhorsen-in-waiting has been revealed: Lirael, a Daughter of the Clayr and Remembrancer, who turns out to be half-sister to the Abhorsen Sabriel. This means that Lirael is next in line for the job of clearing up the undead riff-raff that increasingly plague the Old Kingdom, due to the conniving of Necromancers and evil spirits from beyond the grave.
Were not talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though. This is a seriously original fantasy world, in which all life is held together by a magical Charter, while Free Magic and Necromancers threaten to end it all. A particularly powerful Necromancer named Hedge is trying to dig up a long-buried evil. Hedge will then plug it into his plans to conquer not only the Old Kingdom, but even the non-magical world across the wall that separates the Old Kingdom from Ancelstierre.
Lirael is not sure how she can stop all this from happening. But it has something to do with a young man from Ancelstierre named Nicholas Sayre, whose body and mind are sometimes controlled by the evil thing Hedge is trying to raise up. With little time and no reinforcements in sight, Lirael must rely on her own growing powers and those of her friend, nephew, prince, and Wallmaker, Sameth. Sam himself has great power, but there hasn’t been a Wallmaker in living memory, so its hard to say what use he will be; and after the terror of being mistaken for the Abhorsen-in-waiting, Sam has lingering doubts about his own courage.
Besides Sam, Lirael can also count on her friend, the Disreputable Dog. As for Mogget, the bound Free Magic creature who usually takes the form of a white cat, one is never sure that he is to be trusted. Meanwhile, the king and the Abhorsen have been targeted by an assassination plot in Ancelstierre, where the enemy has set plans in motion that could destroy both countries, if not the whole world.
It is hard to express how convincing, how richly detailed, how attractive, and how ultimately satisfying this fantasy trilogy is. But most impressive of all is the suspense that builds throughout this book to the very end. At times, reading Abhorsen was so overwhelming that I almost couldnt continue…but I absolutely couldnt stop. And after reading only three books by Garth Nix, I can already say that he is a master of writing Perfect Endings just satisfying enough, without any danger of becoming tedious, and leaving you wishing for more.
Luckily, there is another book relating to the Old Kingdom: a volume of short stories titled Across the Wall.