Coming in October is the release of Goldenhand, Garth Nix’s chronological continuation of his beloved Old Kingdom series. In anticipation of this dive back into the intoxicating realms of magic, duty, and sacrifice, I would like to recommend my personal favorite of this series. Clariel is the only book in the Old Kingdom series which is not a continuation of the storyline, but rather a journey into the origins of elemental magic.
Clariel is set 600 years before Sabriel, and the Old Kingdom is very different from what it will come to be in the future. Due to generations of prosperity and relative safety from Free Magic creatures, members of the Charter have grown lax. King Orrikan shirks all royal duties, hiding in his palace, while the Abhorsen is rumored to fear his connection and rightful control over the realms of Death. Seventeen-year-old Clariel, who is capable and brave, is utterly uninterested in politics, material possessions, and the intricacies of the Charter. She lives for the wild solitude of the Great Forest. However, due to blood ties to both the King and the Abhorsen, many conspire to use her for their own purposes. Clariel as constantly torn between a sense of duty, a desire to forge her own path, and a raw “berserk” nature. In contrast, Free Magic entities are presented not as villains, but ethereal, elemental beings whose understanding of morality differs greatly from humans. Savvy readers will figure out what Clariel is to become long before the change occurs in the novel. However, this sensitive rendition gives readers a greater understanding as to how a strong force such as Clariel is ultimately drawn to the untamable power of Free Magic and necromancy.