Beyond the safety of the Wall, in the Old Kingdom, the ravenous dead walk, Free Magic creatures roam, and necromancers seek to pervert the Charter. The Abhorsens, the royal family and the Clayr fight to keep the charter strong, protecting the inhabitants of the Old Kingdom.
Nix’s previous novels, Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, take place in a time when the royal house has been all but extinguished, and necromancers roam the Old Kingdom freely. It is a dark, primitive post-apocalyptic world, roaming from the rivers of death to the crumbling ruins of Belisaere, the adventures of the title characters mesmerising and addictive.
Clariel takes us back six hundred years to just after the peak of the Old Kingdom’s power, where a mad king refuses to rule, and corrupted Guilds are steadily taking hold of greater amounts of power and wealth. The heir-apparent has been missing for over a decade, presumed dead, and there is a Free Magic creature roaming the streets of Belisaere. Young Clariel has been brought to the capital to be appraised, apprenticed and married by her parents, whilst she pines for the solitude and forests of her childhood.
Despite this promising start, Clariel failed to grip my attention in the same way as its predecessors. The setting of Belisaere was reminiscent of an overripe Roman Empire, a somewhat cynical representation seeming to declare that crumpling from the weight of ones’ own excesses and corruption into obscurity is an inescapable aspect of any society. The character of Clariel was mildly interesting, but aside of a few peccadilloes, she fell rather neatly into the character of ‘disaffected, sullen teen outcast.’ She also seemed a little too readily corruptible in the realms of Charter Magic vs Free Magic – her transition resembled nothing so much as a rapidly burgeoning drug addiction, pursued at the cost of family, friends and logical thought.
Regretfully, I do not consider Clariel a particularly re-readable novel, as much as I loved it predecessors.
K.L gives Clariel 2.5 out of 5 broken Charter Stones.
Like reading? K.L. has published her first novel, The Fall of Peter Pan. Be entertained!
Like poetry? K.L. has also published a collection of poems, The Loaded Brush. Find it here. I promise not to make you search for metaphors.