The Old Kingdom/Abhorsen series by Garth Nix

I’m a huge fan of the original Old Kingdom trilogy by Garth Nix: Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. It’s something of a portal fantasy; in the first book we meet the titular Sabriel, a young woman at boarding school who must venture into the magical world of her birth in order to save her father, a good necromancer who lays the dead back down. Are there any other fans kicking around here?


Yes! I think it was my favourite book series growing up, and I feel immensely fond of both Sabriel and Lirael (although I identified with the latter much more). I also really enjoyed Clariel as a protagonist, although it’d been so long that I couldn’t recall who Chlorr of the Mask (?) was in the main series.

I haven’t read them in so long, but that because I loved them so much as a teenager that I’m afraid I’ll ruin them by reading them with my stupid adult brain.

I definitely identified more with Lirael, too, though I wanted to be more like Sabriel. I suspect Touchstone and Mogget were both factors there, though!

I couldn’t really get into the two newer books, Clariel and Goldenhand. With the latter, the parallels with the first book’s antagonist were just not interesting to me, and with the former I just didn’t feel like Nix knew where he wanted to go with it.

What I particularly liked about Clariel was that she mostly just wanted to live in the forest by herself like her aunt instead of being in fancy-town, and whenever her schoolmates were like “wow, you had one conversation with a male character, do you LIKE him!!!one?” she just went “??? uh, can we focus on the big bad for five minutes?”

Haha, I can see how someone could be tempted by Touchstone and Mogget. Lirael got to live in a library with a magic dog on the other hand. I haven’t read Goldenhand partly because the synopsis didn’t grab me, and because of the nostalgia factor for the first trilogy.

I read Sabriel a long time ago, but I absolutely adored that book. Something about the combination of elements just really worked for me. Especially the interaction between the characters. I’m pretty sure it even influenced some of my writing projects through the years.

That said, I tried reading Lirael and I never managed to finish it, or even get started on the final book. I’m not saying they were bad books, but I get so very attached to characters and something about Sabriel and Touchstone suddenly being background characters just bothered me. Maybe I tried to read them too quickly together and I’d feel different with some time in between, but I just remember feeling uncomfortable and wanting to go reread the first one. (Which I couldn’t since I had borrowed it from someone and no longer had it.)

I really should try to track down a copy of Sabriel and reread it someday. While much of it lingers in my mind, I find that the details have become a bit fuzzy over time.

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I definitely feel that. I get attached to characters and physically cannot force myself to read something that doesn’t include them. I really struggled with the bits in Lirael where it would scene-swap to Nick (who was a seemingly unimportant character who was off playing cricket). It was jarring compared to the magic and mystique that Lirael was living.

I think that’s what is putting me off reading Goldenhand. Spoilers.

EDIT: Can’t seem to get the spoiler thing to work. I think that Lirael and Nick end up getting married and I still can’t shake my impression of him as ‘that cricket playing normie’, so I’m not particularly keen to read how we get there.

I think Nick definitely was a factor in why the book didn’t work for me as was Sam. I can’t remember it very well, it’s been so long, but I do believe I found them rather grating on my nerves for some reason. Add just wanting to read more about Sabriel and it wasn’t a good combination. Perhaps if it had just been about this new character, with no connection back to Sabriel other than perhaps the odd mention, I might have had less issues.

Thinking on it now, the fact that I had just read another series where the second book similarly switched to the kid and then the previous MC dies in the background, might have something to do with it as well. Which, no, just no. I think I just didn’t want another one of those. Because I believe I put the book down around the scene where we get a glimpse of Sabriel and her not being in the “best state”.

Who knows, maybe some day I’ll try again and see if it works better the second time around.

As for the spoilers you need to click the cogwheel, click “hide details” and it adds a bit of code to your post. Where it says summary you can type something like “spoilers”, do leave the quotation marks. And where it says “this text will be hidden” you type out the text you wanted to hide.

I thought I tried that, but when I posted the comment it just left my text in between the code. Probably I just messed it up.


Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

So I started reading this series in high school, and my first book was Lirael (because a friend of mine told me about it, but i couldn’t find Sabriel anywhere). Sometime later I read Abhorsen, and then only in the past couple of months did i finally find and read both Sabriel and Clariel. Honestly, I just finished reading Clariel not even 10 minutes ago (I have a bit of time before work and I like to use that time to read). I forgot who Chlorr of the Mask was, but I went and looked her up as I read because Clariel reminded me of her, and hey, imagine my surprise when I learned they’re the same person.

I seriously identify with Clariel’s desire to be left the heck alone, lol. Because, honestly, same, girl. It’s a bit of a pity that that desire is leading her down the path she’s on… Or was is probably the better word for it.

I haven’t read Goldenhand, since i just learned of its existence, but now I 100% want to. I need to rebuild my collection. I just need to get Lirael, Abhorsen, Goldenhand, and the two(?) side books now.