Lirael: So Much Better Than Sabriel

Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr is written by Garth Nix. It is the second book in the Old Kingdom/Abhorsen series. It was published in 2001 by HarperCollins. Nix’s website can be found here.


“Who is Lirael? Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Abandoned by her mother, ignorant of her father’s identity, Lirael resembles no one else in her large extended family living in the Clayr’s Glacier. She doesn’t even have the Sight—the ability to See into the present and possible futures—that is the very birthright of the Clayr.

Nonetheless, it is Lirael in whose hands the fate of the Old Kingdom lies. She must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil—one that opposes the Royal Family, blocks the Sight of the Clayr, and threatens to break the very boundary between Life and Death itself. With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, to help her, Lirael must find the courage to seek her own hidden destiny.”

What I Liked:

Boy, was this book way better than Sabriel. At least, I enjoyed it much more. While it’s the standard trilogy format and the book was mostly set-up for the third, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself. I liked Lirael a lot better than Sabriel (and I liked Sabriel, but Lirael is a much more appealing character type to me) and I just wanted to give Sameth a hug. I think the most interesting aspect for me was that they are essentially character opposites. All Sameth wants is to avoid his family inheritance, and all Lirael wants is to get her family inheritance. I loved Lirael’s development, and although Sameth didn’t get that much, I’m hopeful that his will come through in Abhorsen, the next book.

We only got a glimpse at the world and the mechanics behind it in Sabriel. In Lirael, we start to see more, such as the making of the Charter and the Nine, and the mysteriousness of Mogget and the Disreputable Dog. The world-making here is superb, and Nix is taking common fantasy tropes and making them new and unique. I especially like the contrast between the technological, advanced world and the magic world.

I complained a bit about the writing in Sabriel, but I didn’t notice it at all in this book. I don’t know if it’s because it was written six or so years later so Nix’s writing has improved, or if I just was into the book more and didn’t notice it because of that.

I didn’t like Touchstone in Sabriel, but I have to admit, the story of him trying to throw a marble throne at somebody is hilarious.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing much. I felt it was a bit obvious about Lirael, but I think it was supposed to be. The reveal about Hedge at the end felt a bit melodramatic.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, death, suicidal thoughts.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Mogget fanart by KPetrasko


In an instant of that blink, the globe disappeared, leaving behind a dog. Not a cute, cuddly Charter sending of a puppy, but a waist-high black and tan mongrel that seemed to be entirely real, including its impressive teeth. It had none of the characteristics of a sending. The only hint of its magical origin was a thick collar around its neck that swam with more Charter marks that Lirael had never seen before.

The dog looked exactly like a life-size, breathing version of the stone statuette. Lirael stared at the real thing, then down at her lap.

The statuette was gone.

~Nix 100

That night, as he had done scores of times before, Sam unlocked the cupboard to the left of his workbench and steeled himself to look at The Book of the Dead. It sat on a shelf, shining with its own ominous green light that overshadowed the soft glow of the Charter lights in the ceiling.

He reached out to it, like a hunter trying to pat a wolf in the vain hope that it might be only a friendly dog. His fingers touched the silver clasp and the Charter marks laid upon it, but before he could do more, a violent shaking overtook him, and his skin turned as cold as ice. Sam tried to still the shakes and ignore the cold, but he couldn’t. He snatched back his hand and retreated to the front of the fireplace, where he crouched down in misery, hugging his knees.

~Nix 233-234

Overall Review:

Lirael continues the great worldbuilding of Sabriel and builds on it by adding more cool gadgets, more hints to what is going on behind the scenes, and characters that completely outshine the ones from Sabriel. Lirael is the hesitant but powerful protagonist that I love, and Sameth is nothing at all like Touchstone, thank goodness. Mogget has great snark and the Disreputable Dog is hilarious. Lirael is one of those few books that deserves the title “The Sequel Is Better Than the First.”

You can buy this here: Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr

One thought on “Lirael: So Much Better Than Sabriel

  1. Pingback: Abhorsen: A Tintinnabulation Of Bells | Leaf's Reviews

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