The Old Kingdom/Abhorsen by Garth Nix Readalong: Week 1 – Clariel


Hardcover, 382 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by HarperCollins

Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilp. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her – and it is herself she must question most of all.

We will be reading this book from today until Friday the 8th. The pace is quick but it’s okay if you can’t finish it in time. Post any thoughts/questions you have may have about the book in the comments section of this post.

Happy reading!

  • I might be the only one commenting on this BUT I don’t care. So I have read one measlychapter of the book and so far I like it. A lot. I wonder if Clariel is ace, it feels like she is but maybe the question will be addressed more thoroughly in the coming chapters. We shall see.

    • I love it when fantasy worlds integrate acceptance of the sexuality spectrum, so I was pleasantly surprised when I started Clariel too. I was a bit wary of starting a prequel set in the same universe but was really happy with how it still felt very much like it fit thus familiar universe. It’s so interesting see Belisaere intact as a bustling capital city rather than the solemn capital we know of in the present too.

      • I don’t really remember Belisaere but I too felt the difference in the world immediately. Let’s see how it all falls apart–spectacularly, I hope.

  • The Book Wars

    I like Clariel, and it’s sad that knowing what happens with her interferes with meeting her as a “normal” protagonist. But! I LOVE seeing how the Old Kingdom changes over the years. One complaint against the series that I think Farah Mendlesohn would make is that it legitimizes and reinforces monarchy and power being attached to specific bloodlines. This is totally fair. What Clariel adds to the series (I mean, aside from being an awesome story) is that we get to see the Kingdom on the verge of disaster. In Sabriel, the Kingdom is at (the end of) a long decline; in Lirael, the Kingdom is rebuilding and doing well. In Clariel we get a glimpse of how much this cycle of events is a natural pattern within the political-cultural life of the realm. This also means that we get a glimpse of how much is lost (which we don’t always realize IRL!) every time some great disaster or cultural shift occurs.

    Free Magic Beasts and the Dead are genocidal forces that typically have no interest in long-term plundering or ruling; they don’t set up institutions that grind the people down, in the way that imperialism IRL does. In the Old Kingdom, as long as the humans survive, there is hope, because no Free Magic entity or Greater Dead will institute large-scale slavery, or use racism, sexism, homophobia, colourism, and other forms of discrimination to gain power. Their power is (usually) much more brute than that – which means it is also more easily defeated, because the enemy is external rather than internal. Or (thinking of Clariel’s rage and Lirael’s depression) the internal enemy is not the result of the external enemy. Which is funny, because both Clariel and Lirael suffer from institutions and norms within their social circle. Both are transgressors because of who they are: Clariel, a singleton beserker; Lirael, an unSighted Clayr. (Any thoughts on the differing reactions of the people surrounding Clariel and Lirael, and how these reactions shaped the women? Related: diagnoses/mis-diagnoses of their status?)

    That devolved into a ramble pretty quickly, heh.

    I just really like seeing how life in Belisaere is different in Clariel’s time – the dress, the guilds (power and lack thereof), education, institutions, etc. – than it is when we first visit the city with Sabriel, Touchstone, and Mogget.

    — Janet

  • The Book Wars

    Bel on page 82: “Perhaps it doesn’t matter so much who actually rules.”

    Has there been a time in the Old Kingdom’s history when the reigning monarch actually does very little, but the Kingdom hums along just fine because the monarch has an excellent adviser or advisory council?

    Garth Nix, I need to know. (Also, if yes, please write this!)

    — Janet