Goldenhand

Nix has really upped his narrative game with this one. Goldenhand came out so many years after the original books, I didn’t think he was ever going to revisit this world. Man am I glad he did.

Once you start reading this book, you see why he wanted to write Clariel, too. Reading Clariel isn’t super necessary if you want to enjoy Goldenhand, though. You’ve already read Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, so you already want to spend more time with the characters (and if you haven’t read The Creature in the Case yet, go do that before you dive into Goldenhand).

It’s tough to follow up a trilogy ending where they literally save the universe, of course. And somehow, Nix does it with style. He employs switching POV chapters, and introduces new characters that are just brilliant and endearing. Lirael and Nicholas are kind of adorbs, and I’m so so glad we get to spend more time with Lirael, because two books with her definitely wasn’t enough.

Sameth has matured in a really wonderful way. We get the promise of it near the end of Abhorsen, and we get to really see how it’s unfurled in Goldenhand.

There’s new magic in this, and new lands north of the Old Kingdom that we haven’t visited before. We get to explore more of Lirael’s past, as she uses her Remembrancer skills and through a message passed down through the years.

The villain in this book is probably the most complex and interesting one yet. I won’t say she does it for me quite the same as the Destroyer, because that was one badass, inexorable villain. But Chlorr of the Mask is interesting and has a lot of depth to her, which makes for interesting conflict.

If you enjoyed any of the previous books in this series, you should read all the way through to Goldenhand. If you enjoy good fantasy, with well-wrought characters, an intelligent magic system, and a fully realized world complete with history and landscape, then this is definitely a book for you.

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The Creature in the Case

This is a lovely, compelling short story that takes place in the Abhorsen universe. Chronologically, it happens between the events of Abhorsen and those of Goldenhand. It follows Nicholas Sayre, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like him enough to care about this story. Thankfully, Nix provides enough interesting situations, endearing awkwardness, and fast-paced action to help you fall for Nicholas.

This story is definitely worth reading. It should be read after Abhorsen and before Goldenhand, in particular by those who love Lirael’s character from the original trilogy.

Abhorsen

There are some people who don’t enjoy the progression that happens in some trilogies, where the first novel is sort of the introductory conflict, the second novel deals with even bigger events like the fate of the world, and the third novel deals with the fate of the whole friggin universe. If you’re that type of person, you might not like these books. You should still read them, of course, because they’re fantastic. But, you’ve been warned.

This third installment to the original “trilogy” (now expanded with the new sequel Goldenhand) definitely escalates to the “save the universe” level. It does it so organically, though, that you really can’t (or shouldn’t, anyway) complain.

We get more Sabriel and Lirael and Sameth, all good things. There’s more Mogget and Dog. There are new, interesting characters that you want to love. There are secondary characters that we’ve already met who grow more prominent. There’s suspense and more time spent in Death and the best villains yet.

This isn’t a light, magical story. This trilogy (or series, now) is dark, and heavy. It’s supposed to be. And it earns it. It earns the weight, and seriousness, and still gives you all the feels.

Again, Mogget is my absolute favorite. I’ve said that three times now in these reviews. You really get to the meat of it in this book.

Fans of Sabriel and Lirael have to read this book—it’d be silly not to. It’s a beautiful closure to the conflicts started in the previous books, and heralds in a brief respite for our characters before we get to jump in to Goldenhand.

Kushiel’s Dart

Whew. There’s definitely some steamy goodness in this book. I’ve seen some people on the internet getting all huffy about it—she’s so young! She’s a sex worker! It’s BDSM!

And sure, if there’s just no pleasure sensor in your body that lights up with a little bit of consensual violence, maybe you’ll find parts of the story too distasteful for you to enjoy the rest.

As for me, I very much enjoyed reading about Phedre no Delaunay. Sold to one of the Houses of the Night-Blooming Court at a young age, Phedre’s marque is bought at ten by Anafiel Delaunay. He trains her in the arts of subtly and spying, and at sixteen Phedre uses her courtesan skills to uncover many secrets for the good of the realm.

When I first started reading, for maybe the first page, I was put off by the narrative voice. I could tell I was in for denser reading than most other Young Adult, and I could tell that the author was our very own main character, older and wiser and telling us her story. That sometimes puts me off, knowing that we might have certain things spoiled for us, the delightful suspense taken away because our narrator already knows how the story ends.

The writing is careful, though, and clever. And rather than detract, the narrative style actually adds to the story, building up more suspense as Phedre marvels at her ignorance at times, and drops sly hints to say that things were different, back then.

The narrative voice reminded me partly of Wraeththu, by Storm Constantine, and partly of The Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe. It wasn’t an unpleasant reminder—I greatly enjoyed those books, and reading Kushiel’s Dart brought me back to being a teenager, reading books off my high school sweetheart’s bookshelf.

The amount of political intrigue in this book might be off-putting to some, and to be quite honest, I expected to get bored of it myself. I’m not really one for those types of stories, with all their twists and turns and subtle implications. I think there is probably quite a bit that went over my head, actually, though I don’t feel like I’m missing any essential piece of the story. However, the pacing of this story was extraordinary. I always wanted to know more. Secrets were unveiled at just the right time, or another delicious sexual encounter would occur, or a romance would take wing just when I might otherwise be finding my attention straying. I haven’t been glued to a book like that in quite some time, actually, and it was satisfying and wonderful.

I’m currently reading the second book in the series, and loving it as well. Major props to my Mama Bear from my graduate program, for putting me on to this series (her favorite). I’m glad to finally be reading them, and happy to find that they are so damn enjoyable.