Oh, how quickly resolutions fail. I recently claimed that I was taking a break from YA fiction because I was tired of reading the same bad story over and over again. And yet, here I am reading more young adult novels. However, Clariel by Garth Nix justified my broken resolve.


Every now and then we read books that touch a chord in our imaginations that continues to hum the rest of our lives. The books don’t always have to be good on the whole, but something about them, a phrase, an image, a character, remains in our minds long after putting the book down. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, Chalice by Robin McKinley are some of those books for me. Sabriel by Garth Nix also falls into that category.


I don’t remember what made me first read Sabriel but it was, and is, like nothing I’ve read before and I quickly devoured it and the sequel/companion novels Lirael and Abhorsen. I was delighted to see Clariel, a prequel of sorts, on the Young Adult new book shelf at my library recently.

I won’t try to tell much of the plot because it will be difficult to describe without going into too much back story. And while Clariel didn’t quite touch the same chord as Sabriel, it was still far and away better than the majority of what is cluttering the Young Adult genre right now.

I will say this, that Clariel has that rarest of things: a realistic heroine. She isn’t a blank slate for the reader to transpose themselves on to. She acts like the 18 year old that she is. She’s moody, immature and indecisive. She thinks she knows what she wants in life but hasn’t really thought through the ramifications on following through with that plan. And when she is forced into taking a different path than she wanted to, she does so with maturity learned from previous mistakes. It’s also nice to see a main female character whose story doesn’t revolve around finding a man or even developing a romance with the male protagonist. Clariel is, in fact, still as happily single at the end of the book as she was at the beginning. How refreshing!

I know Garth Nix has written other popular series and seems to be a prolific short story writer so I look forward to delving into those, but has any one else read one or all of the Sabriel series? I would love to hear your thoughts on them.


5 thoughts on “Clariel

  1. Leum says:

    I’ve read almost every book Nix has published; they vary in quality but are almost all worth reading.

    His “Keys to the Kingdom” series is probably his second-best series after the Old Kingdom books. It’s about a boy who is declared what amounts to being God’s heir and has to reclaim the seven domains of the House (a beaurocratic version of heaven in some ways) from the trustees who broke their trust. It turns out that what that means is quite a bit more complicated than he thinks and the ending was not one I saw coming. However, it gets bogged down in the middle to some extent. First book is “Mister Monday.”

    His book “Shade’s Children” is one of his two sci-fi novels and is much better than his other. It’s also the darkest thing he’s ever written. Set in a city that has been taken over by beings from another world, our protagonists fight against the Overlords and question the morality of their protector and teacher, Shade.

    “The Seventh Tower” is for a pre-YA audience and it’s been ages since I read it, but I recall liking it.

    “The Ragwitch” was his first novel and is only worth reading if you want to read everything he’s written.

    “A Confusion of Princes” is his other sci-fi novel and has excellent worldbuilding but mediocre characters and plot.

    He’s also written a book called “Newt’s Emerald,” but I haven’t been able to get a copy.


    • Mary says:

      Thanks for this!

      I’ve heard of Shade’s Children and want to read it. My library, unfortunately, does not own a copy so I will have to look for it somewhere else.


  2. jubilare says:

    Sounds like something I should try!


  3. […] The Old Kingdom books (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, Clariel) by Garth Nix. There’s a smidge of romance in Sabriel and Abhorsen but these books are all […]


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