Review: Abhorsen by Garth Nix

So I’ll do that, and I’ll do my best and if my best isn’t good enough, at least I will have done everything I could, everything that is in me. I don’t have to try to be someone else, someone I could never be.

I met Garth Nix at Octocon, the Irish scifi convention, in 2018. Coincidentally I met one of my good friends in the queue for he and Sean Williams’ (their books will come) signing. At that particular event I also got to drink champagne with him while talking about dogs. The relevance this has to my review is the fact I had just read Sabriel and I can still remember it so vividly and that doesn’t really happn for me with fantasy books after a year or so anymore. This year, I finally brough myself to ransom an finished the series.

The Ninth was strong and fought with might
But lone Orannis was put out of the light
Broken in two and buried under hill
Forever to lie there, wishing us ill.

So says the song. But Orannis, the Destroyer, is no longer buried under hill. It has been freed from its subterranean prison and now seeks to escape the silver hemispheres, the final barrier to the unleashing of its terrible powers.

Only Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, has any chance of stopping the Destroyer. She and her companions — Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget — have to take that chance. For the Destroyer is the enemy of all Life, and it must be stopped, though Lirael does not know how.

To make matters worse, Sam’s best friend, Nick, is helping the Destroyer, as are the necromancer Hedge and the Greater Dead Chlorr, and there has been no word from the Abhorsen Sabriel or King Touchstone.

Everything depends upon Lirael. A heavy, perhaps even impossible burden for a young woman who just days ago was merely a Second Assistant Librarian. With only a vision from the Clayr to guide her, and the rather mixed help of her companions, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the Destroyer

****Potential spoilers for the ret of the series ahead. This is the third in the original trilogy, now a series so spoilers may lie ahead. Be warned*******

Okay let’s get this out of the way, Garth Nix can end a series like no one else. I find it very hard these days to be both interested in YA SFF while if I am reading it, to find any ending satisfying enough. Granted this is kind of the end to the main story started in Sabriel and I did treat this a a trilogy but this really ends on a high one regardless of the books that came after.

There is a huge change to the overall world building and set up here. It harkens right back to the atmosphere of urgency of Sabriel where there is a truly devastating threat around the corner that threatens not only the Old Kingdom but the entire world. We also have this sense of the unkown again where Lirael is right back where Sabriel was in the first book, she knows she is the next Abhorsen but has kind of arrived to the role by extreme circumstances. The stakes are high and they only get higher as the book goes on.

Lirael sees fantastic growth in this book. she’s definitely a character I would feel closer to than say Sabriel, since we did watch her grow over two books. She really proves herself here, come the end of the book, just how powerful she is. I still really love the fact her relationship wth Sameth turned out to be familial and not a romantic one. I feel Nix made the better choice here in doing that. That being said my favourtes are still Mogget and the Disreputable Dog. There is a moment where they are alone where it becomes clear just how old they both are and how far back their animosity goes too. It was a nice additon. I hope there is a short story along the way about them both.

I have no faults with this story. Honestly. The entire series to date has been betwen 4-5 stars so I’m not really surprised. The whole story wraps up wonderfully with sacrifices made (and in my case, tears cried) and it ends in such a way that the reader can make the decision to continue with the other books or not. Garth Nix ends his books in a way that it’s like there is blade dropped right after the climax and that’s all you get. And I really like that since I find a lot of books rable a bit after the end has come and gone.

I also listened to this on audio book, its narrated by the God himself Tim Curry. He is the perfect choice for both the accents, the various voices of creatures including Mogget (especially Mogget) and he really does the touch of spooy these have well. Why would you not want to read a bok narrated by Long John Silver? (If you get that, please humor me and my elderly self)

I do intend to read Clariel, which I had spoiled for me a few years ago but I do want to sit in my feelings for the end of this for a bit. Now I can finally read Agel Mage too without the sheer GUILT of seeing Abhorsen on the shelf. Where my Old Kingdom fans at? Thanks for checking in guys! Happy reading!


Review: Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

‘I was alive, and from past experience I knew in time I would forget enough to again pretend that we could someday be free’

I recently put out a Tweet asking the wonderful hive to give me science fiction recommendations. I know I have mentioned endlessly how many books are sitting on my TBR but since this year I seem to be leaning heavily on the SF part of SFF, I felt the need to build up a list. But then I took no recs, and started listening to Borne by Jeff Vandermeer because I was stressed and needed some New Weird. Sound like me eh?

In a nameless City, ruled by a flying bear called Mord, Rachel is a scavenger and a survivor. One day while scavenging Mord’s fur she finds something that she and her partner, Wick, may be able to eat or even sell. But when Rachel brings this thing home and discovers it can talk, grow and think, she names it Borne. Paired with the ever looming threat of their sanctuary being rumbled, Rachel and Wick begin to navigate a new type of family life around Borne. But what is he? And what does he want?

The looming world of the City and it’s sheer decrepit squalor was hard to not fear as Rachel described it from her daily life. This isn’t quite a post apocalyptic world but it’s damn near close. Everything from children to foxes have been forever warped and changed by the biotech the City brought with them. I could definitely feel the danger looming at any second.

I really loved Rachel as a character and her little found family. She was resilient in a world that is otherwise stripped of humanity but is not without compassion. Her and Wick have an interesting,complex relationship that only complicates as the story goes on. However, the true stand out moments are those with Rachel and Borne. Rachel openly calls herself a mother to Borne in many places but as Borne grows and becomes more intelligent, the reader does get the sense that he (gender term assigned by Rachel) is of unknown origin and purpose. Then things become a little more sinister and you do genuinely feel like Rachel is consulting you on those decisions as the story goes on.

I will say my connection to any of the characters waned a bit as the story went and I became more fascinated with the biotech within this world, especially the Magician as she is called. I feel the Magicians story could have been more rounded but that is just a small criticism. The plot itself delivers fantastically and without giving you too many answers, Vandermeer does follow up with reasons why Rachel, Borne and Wick have been so mysterious the entire book.

One of my main motivators for finally reading this was that Vandermeer’s new release, Dead Astronauts, is actually a companion story to Borne. So naturally I read this first and I really enjoyed it. So that will hopefully be soon on the blog, but regardless I highly recommend this book on audio.