After reading my review of the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix, you were probably expecting this one. Clariel is the prequel to the series taking place around 600 years before the main series. Once again it is not necessary to have read the trilogy, and as a prequel you may be thinking that Clariel should be read first. However, though I would usually agree with this, Clariel answers a lot of questions about the history of the Old Kingdom and because of this I would recommend reading the original three first.
Clariel manages to be everything I am looking for in a young heroine. In particular, there is a paragraph in the first chapter where Clariel reminisces about her home in the forest, surrounded by trees and being far away from crowds, that called to me.
Getting back to her forest is her drive in the book, and while big events are happening around her it remains her focus regardless of higher powers trying to manipulate her.
It is a refreshing change from the usual hetronomative romances found in YA for Clariel to be asexual. She remains true to this side of herself throughout, despite her many options, and I feel like Nix captures her experimentation and expression of her sexuality brilliantly. I am sure there are many young people (or even not so young) who will read it and breathe a sigh of relief at realising they are not abnormal. I am not going to delve into the importance of representation here, as many others have done so already, far better than I ever could, but needless to say, it is important.
Sticking true to herself is what makes Clariel a great character, and her story is a wonderful demonstration of how an unwillingness to change can lead down unexpected paths. But then, does the walker choose the path or the path the walker?
Clariel is joined on her adventure by Mogget, the talking cat shaped creature that accompanied Sabriel and Sam in the trilogy. We get a fantastic picture of Mogget in this story and right until the pinnacle of Clariel’s journey it is unclear if he is helping Clariel or has his own agenda.
At this aforementioned pinnacle, there is a moment where I did this:
And really it is why I recommend the trilogy to be read first. The conclusion of the book confirmed my suspicion, leaving an unusual but simply perfect ending. I was really glad that I had refreshed the Old Kingdom in my head before reading this as it pieced at lot of things together. Now I can’t wait to start on the next set of short stories, To Hold The Wall.