Rating: 1.5 Stars ★☆☆☆☆
It was a hot, steamy summer and the mosquitoes swarmed everywhere, from their breeding grounds in the rotten, reedy shores of the Red Lake up to the foothills of Mount Abed.
Lirael is a Daughter of the Clayr, who can See the future. She alone among them does not have the gift.
Sameth is the son of Sabriel, Abhorsen-in-Waiting. But he does not want this burden. He is afraid of death.
But trouble is brewing in the Old Kingdom and in Ancelstierre alike. A dark force is rising, creating dead in its wake and preventing the Clayr from seeing its plans.
With the King and Sabriel gone, it falls to Lirael and Prince Sameth to face whatever is waking on the shores of the Red Lake.
Sigh. I wish this book were about Sabriel. I loved Sabriel. But it is not. It’s not even a proper story because nothing happens.
Here’s what happens: the characters move from one place to the other. That’s it. The whole book is practically filler, a prologue for the next one. And it really, really annoyed me.
Not only that, I did not like the characters either. Badass Sabriel is all grown up, has married Touchstone and has two kids: Ellimere, heir to the throne and Sameth, who does not want to be Abhorsen-in-waiting. And then there’s Lirael of the Clayr, who, unlike everyone else, lacks the ability to see into the future.
Let’s start with Lirael. She could have been a great character. Feeling isolated because she lacks the gift everyone else has, struggling with depression and to fit in.
But Lirael throws around thoughts of suicide way too casually. And she’s constantly saying that the other Clayr do not like her when there’s absolutely no indication. All the Clayr we meet treat her well. No one is mean to her because she can’t see the future.
Lirael felt she had nothing to talk about or share with them, so she stayed silent, hiding behind her hair. After a while, they stopped inviting her to sit with them at lunch, or play a game of tabore in the afternoon, or to gossip about their elders over sweet wine in the evening.
Luckily, towards the end she gets a bit more likeable. She goes exploring, she does something at least.
Basically, Lirael was annoying, but redeemable.
But at the same time Lirael also felt a blooming sense of excitement, even of escape, from a life that she couldn’t admit was stifling her. There was Finder, and the sunshine beyond, and the Ratterlin streaming away to lands she knew only from the pages of books.
I absolutely hated Sameth. He’s absolutely useless. Sure, he does not want to be Abhorsen and face the Death. I can get behind that. What I can’t get behind is him being totally self-centered, absolutely whiny and shirking all of his responsibilities, even the ones that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Dead.
He couldn’t pretend enthusiasm for the dances, he often fell asleep in Petty Court, and while he knew he was a very competent swordsman, he somehow didn’t feel like stretching his ability at practice with the guards.
Nor did he show up well at Perspective. Ellimere always threw herself into the task at hand, working like fury. Sam did quite the reverse, staring into space and worrying about his clouded future.
I felt no sympathy whatsoever for him. Nothing. It would all have been better if Sameth had been the antagonist. He would have made an interesting foe at least: the golden boy, son of two heroes, Abhorsen-in-waiting who turns evil.
Instead, he is hailed as some sort of magical prodigy we’re supposed to feel sorry for, because he can build a frog that eats mosquitoes and he had to face a necromancer that one time. The worst thing is that nothing he does has any consequences whatsoever.
At one point, Sameth throws a death-spell at two guards. He straight up murdered them for doing their job.
Except he didn’t, because nothing he does has any bad consequences and it made me absolutely furious.
“You didn’t kill them.”
“What!” exclaimed Sam.
“You can’t have killed them,” replied Mogget, turning around several times to knead the leaves into a more comfortable bed. “They’re royal servants, sworn to the King. They carry his protection, even from one of his wayward children. Mind you, any other innocents about would have been slain. Very clumsy of you, to use that spell.”
I give half a star for the worldbuilding, which is still beautiful but this book isn’t good at all.
Whiny, self-absorbed characters that do nothing in a book where nothing much happens.