The Old Kingdom Books by Garth Nix.
HarperCollins Publishers: NY.

Sabriel 1995
Lirael 2001
Abhorsen 2003
Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen prequel expected 2010
sequel to Abhorsen expected 2011

Sabriel: For 2 hundred years the Old Kingdom has been overrun by the Dead who are controlled by practitioners of Free Magic. Most of her life Sabriel has been safe in a boarding house in Ancelstierre, across the Wall from the Old Kingdom. Barely of age, Sabriel learns her father, the Abhorsen (the Charter member with enough power to control the Dead), has been trapped in the realm of the Dead by the Greater Dead. His loss of power coincides with the further deterioration of control of the Dead allowing the possibility of demolishing the Wall between the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre. Sabriel's mission is to save her father if it's not too late and restore order if at all possible.

The book is well written, but a little too violent and creepy for my taste. My teenaged sons loved it. It is a necessary introduction to the series, but possibly too dark for the first book. Sabriel is a strong character, and I enjoyed the parts that were about her life before she was fighting the Dead. I was disappointed to hear the next 2 books are about someone else-until I read them. I enjoyed some of the aspects of the magic-the paperwing (an airplane), bells for controlling the dead, technology not working in the presence of Free Magic, necromancers' bodies freezing as they go into the Land of the Dead-but the premise is creepy. Some will love the books; others may avoid the topic.
related-magic, necromancy, Land of the Dead, kingdom in decay, adventure, horror, restoration of Kingdom

Lirael: The 2nd book takes place about 20 years after Sabriel. Sabriel and Touchstone are needed in Ancelstierre on a mission of diplomacy. They leave the Kingdom in their children's hands. Ellimere, the heir to the throne, and Sameth, the Abhorsen-in-training. Meanwhile, Lirael has grown up as a daughter of the Clayr, but separate from them because she hasn't gained the Sight. She is an orphan. Her mother died when she was young, and her father is unknown. She is given a choice of jobs, and she chooses the library since she can avoid people that way. The Clayr's library is full of relics and ancient rooms and passageways as well as books. Early on she acquires a companion, the Disreputable Dog, who watches over her while she is pushing her to learn and explore dangerous situations. As Lirael comes of age (and the King and Abhorsen are out of the country), a critical situation is growing in the Old Kingdom. The Clayr See her as a part of the solution and send her to her destiny.

I think this book is so much better than Sabriel. Partly because the gruesome events don't happen until the next book. Most of this one is the growth of Lirael and Sameth as characters and the setting up of the catastrophe that is looming. Lirael's character is every bit as strong as Sabriel's, moving from an orphan to an independent young woman of knowledge and competence to the one who can rescue both the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre. Sameth struggles with the role expected of him by his parents and sister until he learns that maybe that isn't his destiny.

Abhorsen: This is a continuation of the story in Lirael. A continuation of the catastrophe that is looming. A coming together of the plan of the Destroyer and of the people involved in the foiling of his plans. The book is largely the quest to reach the site of confrontation. And then the ending which was partly expected and partly unanticipated but perfect. The Disreputable Dog and Mogget (cat from Sabriel) are also part of the mission to stop the Destroyer.

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