When I First Read Lirael (Spoiler Alert)
“Lirael” is a much longer novel compared to “Sabriel” and “Abhorsen,” the two other books in the Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix. I remember buying the second and third books of the trilogy immediately after reading “Sabriel.”
Thank goodness I did because I would have been incredibly pissed if I had to wait long in between reading “Lirael” and Abhorsen.” At the time, I remember feeling let down because the second book ended with such an unsatisfying cliffhanger.
In a sense the last two books could have been combined into one, with “Abhorsen” being the climax of the whole novel. However, the resulting novel would have been over 1,000 pages long. Perhaps a bit too long for Nix’s young adult readership.
What I Remember of Lirael
Other than the feeling of being let down after reading the novel, I remembered hardly anything else. I couldn’t even remember who Lirael was, other than her being the lady depicted on the book’s cover. I actually thought she was the daughter of Sabriel and Touchstone.
Why I Wanted to Re-Read Lirael
I remember the Abhorsen trilogy being one of my favorite fantasy book series of all time. Even though I remember not liking “Lirael” as much as the other two novels, it is still part of the trilogy, and essential to appreciating the trilogy as a whole.
I was also curious to see if I would have a different reading of the novel since it has been a while since I last read it. Time and life experiences are great changers when it comes to my opinion of novels when I re-read them. I particularly enjoy re-reading my favorite novels from one year to the next because I always get something new from them with each reading.
How I Felt After Re-Reading Lirael
“Choosers will be beggars if the begging’s not their choosing.”
― Garth Nix, Lirael
I definitely felt the pang of anger at being let down by an unexpected cliffhanger after an incredibly long build-up. However, I have a much better appreciation for why the book ended in this manner. “Lirael” was never about good triumphing over evil in the end. It was really about Lirael (and also Sam’s) discovering who they really are.
“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” Lirael wanted to belong among her sisters of the Clayr so badly, that she almost committed suicide when she didn’t receive the gift of the vision. Sam was so afraid of facing the necromancer in death that he couldn’t even bare to look at the Book of the Dead, his birthright as the abhorsen-in-training.
It turns out that Lirael is the actual abhorsen-in-training, while Sam can settle for being the brave and powerful charter mage he already is. Sam ends up avoiding the path he was born to, but would have killed him had he been forced into it. Lirael is given the gift of a responsibility and purpose in life greater than the one she really wanted as a sister of the Clayr.
Lirael’s and Sam’s stories are already great in themselves. The confrontation between good and evil can wait.