Book Review: Abhorsen (The Abhorsen Trilogy #3) by Garth Nix

47666Title: Abhorsen (The Abhorsen Trilogy #3)
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 3rd 2005
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Rating: 5 stars

Orannis the Destroyer has been freed…

And only Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, has any chance of stopping it. She and her companions — Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget — have to take that chance. If Orannis’s unspeakable powers are unleashed, it will mean the end of all Life. With the help of her companions and a vision from the Clayr to guide her, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the Destroyer — before it is too late…

I already reviewed the first two books of this trilogy, Sabriel and Lirael, and I have to say that out of all three of these books, I enjoyed Abhorsen the most. It’s like everything finally comes together in a great climax: the characters are well-defined and familiar, so we don’t have to get to know them all over again, which brings us straight into the action. Finally we learn why Prince Sameth is scared of the Realm of the Death, why he never wanted to be an Abhorsen, and what the heck he is if he doesn’t fit into that pattern. With the return of my favorite two characters, The Disreputable Dog and Mogget, the charismatic but often incredibly sarcastic cat, and their more prominent roles in this book, we finally learn more about the true nature of Free Magic and why everyone involved is actually…well, involved. The ending has epic proportions and would look great on the big screen.

At the beginning of Abhorsen, we meet up with Lirael and Prince Sameth who’ve set off to rescue Nick, Sam’s old friend from his previous school in Ancelstierre, who unfortunately has had a fragment of The Destroyer placed in his heart, which results in him being the “vessel” of The Destroyer. Under the command and watchful eye of necromancer Hedge, poor Nick – who will now be forced to believe in the magic he claimed was non-existent – is leading the search for two silver hemispheres hidden deep beneath the earth. Each of them holds half of the essence of The Destroyer, and when put together, they can unleash the ancient creature of evil and potentially bring doom to the entire Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre as well. Lirael has finally come to terms with the fact that she’ll never See the future, and is instead learning how to ring the bells like a true Abhorsen does. They fight off Gore Crows, Dead Hands and other memorable creatures on their quest towards Nick – and their quest to save the entire Kingdom. Eventually the battle is brought from the Old Kingdom to the heart of Ancelstierre, where – quite literally – all hell is about to break loose.

Lirael has really grown a lot as a character over the course of the previous book, and this shows especially at the beginning of Abhorsen. Gone is the timid, scared teenager who is devastated over not belonging to the family of the Clayr in the way that she cannot See. Meet instead, our new Abhorsen, ready to challenge even the most fearsome creatures of the Realm of Death in a duel, and ready to fight until the very end. Confident, reassured, intelligent and unnaturally quick to learn the ways those Abhorsen bells work, Lirael is a crafty and skillful opponent. Except that for the numerous Dead unleashed, she’s only a small glitch in the path towards destruction. Sameth has done a lot of growing up as well. Finally finding his place in the world as Wallmaker, and finally realizing why he is the way he is, has done him a lot of good. He no longer doubts himself or his choices in life, and he isn’t worried about the fact that he’s not Abhorsen-material anymore either. It seems as though finally these two youngsters have found their place in the world, and have realized who they truly are inside. And not a moment too soon, because in this book there isn’t a lot of time left to ponder about emotions, life choices and fears.

At the verge of total destruction, the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre have to rely on these two heroes, their sidekicks, and occassional appearances of Sabriel and Prince Touchstone and other familiar characters. We’re thrown right into the action, and see the events unfold before the final countdown. Of all the books in The Abhorsen Trilogy, this one is no doubt the most fast-paced, action-packed and glued-to-your-seat one. The pace does not drop for one single second, the feeling of dread, fear and a soon-to-come climax never dissapears, and it feels like everything just clicks into place. A lot of unanswered questions are explained – some are left unanswered though, leaving room for a possible second trilogy or series – and the ending is cataclysmic to say the least. It’s a battle the size of which can only be compared with the battle at the end of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy or at the end of the Harry Potter series. Epic in proportions, the ancient good vs. evil contradiction, and of course, there’s always a price to pay for victory…

Once again, it was Mogget who made the day for me. He is by far the most interesting and loveable character in the entire Trilogy, and Abhorsen is no exception. He has a sarcastic and cynical sense of humor, his loyalties are questionable the say the least, his intentions are not always the right ones, but it’s those little facts, like never knowing whose side he’s really on – probably his own, in the end – that make him all the more entertaining. If Garth Nix ever decides to write a book devoted to Mogget, I’d be the first one in line to buy it. I’m also thinking about starting a Mogget fanclub, complete with T-shirts and cat bells. Donations are welcome and of course, encouraged.

I would also like to applaud Nix’s magic system, which is explained in greater detail in this final installment in the series. While a lot of authors treat magic as a “deus ex machina”, Nix has a well-constructed, metaphysical magic system that is both impressive and unique. His world-building skills, although already shown through the first two books, are even more prominent in the final volume. His characters are well-developed, easy to relate to, and at all times entertaining. He highlights old but often forgotten values like loyalty, friendship, courage, determination, and the value of family, but he also portrays that sometimes these come at a very steep price. Although claimed as being ‘young adult’, I reckon that because these books deal with things like death, loss and severe suffering, they are aimed at an older public, 16-17 and older. I would recommend this final volume in one of the most breathtaking, innovating, enthralling and vivid series to every fantasy fan out there. The Abhorsen Trilogy is sheer brilliance, and I hope Garth Nix shows that brilliance in his other works as well. I am definately impressed.

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