Lirael, published in 2001, is the continuation of The Abhorsen Trilogy that was started by Sabriel in 1995. Sometimes books suffer from being the middle in a trilogy, the bridge that links the very exciting beginning with the hopefully dramatic end. But Garth Nix solves that problem by picking up with a new character and choosing an even larger enemy to defeat.
The story starts in the Old Kingdom with Lirael, a Daughter of the Clayr, 14 years after Sabriel. The Clayrs are able to see the future or the possible future, but Lirael has never felt that she belonged. With each birthday she expects to gain the Sight that would mark her as an adult Clayr, but each birthday comes and goes without the gift. Lirael is given the chance to leave the blue tunic of children behind to take up the yellow of a third assistant librarian until her Sight awakens.
For the first part of the book we see Lirael come to terms with what she feels makes her an outsider. But as she becomes more comfortable with the Library and its contents she begins to explore. When she accidentally lets a dangerous Free Magic creature out of its bindings, the book really picks up the pace.
Meanwhile, across the Wall in Ancelstierre, Prince Sameth, Sabriel and Touchstone’s son, is finishing his last term at school. When his cricket team is attacked by a group of Dead Hands and the necromancer that made them, Sam is the only person who can do anything. He goes into Death to find the necromancer and barely escapes with his life.
Sam comes away scared but alive to make his way home and find out that there are Dead causing problems. His mother, Sabriel, is gone constantly dealing with the Dead and his father, Touchstone, spends his time dealing with Ancelstierre and their radical politics.
When Nick, a friend from school in Ancelstierre, decides to come for a visit, Sam is thrilled. But when Nick crosses across the Wall early with the help of a suspicious guide named Hedge, Sam realizes that something must have gone wrong.
Lirael and Sam both go through many trials before they finally meet. Picking up Mogget from Sabriel, and a new character, the Disreputable Dog, they realize together they must save the Kingdom.
The action in this book is great and you are able to identify with the characters. It was also nice to be able to see some of the changes that Sabriel had brought about in the Old Kingdom. Where once it was a place of fear and decay it has shed the past to move into a bright future. Although there isn’t much of Sabriel in Lirael, and I missed her, it’s a natural progression forward.
The ending however is a cliffhanger. We leave Lirael and Sam on the brink of a darkness, preparing to step up and face an ancient unknown evil. When you finish Lirael you will want the third book, Abhorsen, on hand to continue the story.