Clariel (Old Kingdom #4/0.5) by Garth Nix
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: October 2nd 2014
My Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilip. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.
With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her - and it is herself she must question most of all. (from Goodreads)
I was so excited for Clariel. I absolutely loved the Old Kingdom series, so hearing that Garth Nix was writing a prequel about Chlorr of the Mask brought out my inner fangirl. To finally be able to read this book after waiting for it for so long...I was practically jumping for joy when it arrived. And I really enjoyed it! Perhaps not as much as the original trilogy, but I don't think anything could live up to that in my mind.
Clariel was a very different character to Sabriel or Lirael, and I really liked that. She was very sure of what she wanted, and hated being told what to do or that she would change her mind about it all in the future. All she wanted was to be left alone and live in the forest where she could fend for herself and avoid the kind of life her parents were forcing her into. She didn't want children or any type of relationship (and I LOVED this because it's so unusual to get a character in YA who isn't interested in romance in the slightest and who doesn't want to have children) and even though we were opposites in some ways (I hate the outdoors. I am very much an indoors person), I really liked reading from Clariel's point of view - getting into her head and seeing the world through her eyes. It was so interesting, especially the way she was tempted by Free Magic. You could see the way she was falling for it; even though she knew in her mind that Free Magic was supposed to be bad, she didn't understand why, and was curious as to why it worked better for her than Charter Magic. I just...ah. I was so happy to read this book. I also really liked the fact that Clariel wasn't the nicest person - she was anti-social and generally preferred being alone, and she was also brutally honest and often offended people without meaning to. She wasn't really close with her parents either and it was interesting to see how her opinions changed slightly throughout the book, especially when she learnt about the origins of her Fury (Fury being a consuming anger that sometimes took Clariel over and gave her extra strength but loss of control - which was another thing I enjoyed learning about).
Other characters I liked were Bel, Lirael's cousin (second cousin? I forget how it works) and Denima, and of course, Mogget, because I had missed him so much! Bel was funny and a bit awkward, and while he was a bit too persistent in pursuing Clariel for my liking, he did help her and risk a lot for her, and I am curious to find out what happened to him (I hope he married Denima, she was so nice and obviously cared about him a lot). Mogget was Mogget. I expected nothing less from him. He was as crafty as ever and I was just so excited that we finally got an explanation for how he knew Chlorr/Clariel. I also really like learning more about Free Magic creatures in general and how they interacted with humans and what the rules were for binding them and things like that.
Plot-wise, the funniest thing about this book was that if Clariel had just been allowed to do what she wanted to do right from the start, she would never had ended up in the situation she was in the end, and she probably would never have become Chlorr of the Mask. But of course, that wouldn't be an interesting story, so instead we got to see lots of cool action, and plots to try and overthrow the king, and Free Magic and so many other amazing things, including several twists I did not expect. I so missed this writing style - Garth Nix sure knows how to make his stories engaging - and I loved almost every part of this book! I did feel like some scenes were a little too descriptive and maybe dragged on a bit, but apart from that, there was barely a boring moment. I don't know what else to say without being very spoilery, but I do have to speak about the ending. The ending was kind of the beginning, really. It was the end of Clariel's story, but the beginning of Chlorr's, and it just stopped there. We never got to find out what happened next, what Chlorr did with her life, or how she eventually died. And while I would love to know, I think that was a brilliant way to end the book, because you can just imagine the kind of things that must have happened for Chlorr to eventually end up the way she was in the first trilogy. And the contrast to how different that kind of life must have been to what Clariel's first seventeen years were like was huge.
Overall, I really enjoyed Clariel and I am so happy this prequel exists. If you liked the Old Kingdom trilogy, you have to read this book. And if you've not read the Old Kingdom trilogy, you are seriously missing out. Even more excitingly (if that makes any sense), Garth Nix is writing another book that picks up on Lirael and Nick's story, and I am SO SO SO excited. No idea when it will be released, but I can't wait.