On My Bookshelf: Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Title: Abhorsen
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: 5/5

Abhorsen is a continuation of the previous book, Lirael, and picks up where the last one left off. The Destroyer, an ancient and terrible evil, has been released and is intent on the destruction of the world. Lirael, sent away from her home in the mountains, has just discovered that she is the Abhorsen-in-waiting, charged with laying the dead to rest and protecting the Kingdom. She and her friends the Disreputable Dog, Prince Sameth, and Mogget, the talking cat/imprisoned magical beast, continue on their journey to rescue Sam’s friend and defeat the Destroyer before it obliterates the world.

Like Lirael before it, Abhorsen is not a standalone book. These are basically parts one and two of the same story and cannot be read independently of each other. Abhorsen continues with a quick pace, starting in media res, and the action piles on until the very end. Lirael and Sam are much more likable in this book, as they’ve started to grow into their powers.Their companions, the Dog and Mogget, have strong personalities and mysterious backgrounds that come into play towards the end. Like threads being woven together, all major and minor storylines join beautifully in the conclusion. I have read Abhorsen dozens of times and I cry at the end every single time. A worthwhile read. 

“…It is better to do something than nothing, even if the cost is great.”

Abhorsen, Garth Nix

Full disclosure: I photoshopped the photo of the book for the this post because I’m still in the process of moving and wasn’t able to take a picture. So I reused an old photo and inserted a picture of the cover over top.

Writing Prompt of the Week

Picture prompt!

[Image description: exterior photograph of the sun glimmering off a body of water. The tone of the photo is orange. A person’s two hands are coming out of the water and there is a splash of water in the foreground. Low hills are in the background.]

If you’re up for a challenge, try to write a complete story in 500 words or less.

On My Bookshelf: Lirael by Garth Nix

Title: Lirael
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: 4/5

Lirael is a daughter of the Clayr, a matriarchal society in the northern mountains. All the Clayr have the gift of Sight–except Lirael. Abandoned by her mother when she was a child, she feels alone and irreconcilably different from the rest of her kin. She finds solace in her position as a librarian where she meets–or creates?–her dearest friend, the Disreputable Dog. However, when the Clayr See an ancient enemy that threatens the entire world, they also See that Lirael is the only one who could stop it. They send her out of the mountain with only her own skills and the help of the Dog to face this terrifying evil.

Lirael is the sequel to Sabriel, but doesn’t feature the characters from the previous book much at all. The pace in the beginning is a little slow and Lirael often comes across as mopey and childish. Initially, she is fourteen, so this is fairly forgivable, as long as you can make it through the first section. Lirael has a great character arc, however, and grows into her own strength. She meets Prince Sameth towards the end of the book, who has similar issues but also grows out of them. While Lirael isn’t as strong a book as Sabriel, it’s very enjoyable. However, it is NOT a standalone book. It should have been combined with the third book, Abhorsen, and just been released as one huge volume. Don’t read Lirael without also having Abhorsen ready to read!

“I am the Disreputable Dog. Or Disreputable Bitch, if you want to get technical. When are we going for a walk?”

Lirael, Garth Nix

Full disclosure: I photoshopped the photo of the book for the this post because I’m still in the process of moving and wasn’t able to take a picture. So I reused an old photo and inserted a picture of the cover over top.

On My Bookshelf: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Title: Sabriel
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: 5/5

Sabriel is eighteen and about to graduate from private school in the country of Ancelstierre. However, she is from the Old Kingdom across the Wall, where magic runs wild and necromancers can command the dead to rise. Her father is the Abhorsen, sworn to combat necromancers and lay the dead to rest. When he sends a message from beyond death, Sabriel must cross the Wall into a land she hasn’t visited since she was five. With help from Mogget, a talking cat who is actually a deadly magical beast, and Touchstone, a man she frees from an enchanted sleep, Sabriel must take on the mantle of the Abhorsen to find her father and defeat a great Enemy who seeks the destruction of the entire kingdom.

I don’t think I can ever review Sabriel as an unbiased reader. It will always be dear to me as one of the books I read annually (along with Lirael and Abhorsen) and as a paragon of the types of stories I want to write. Nix writes Sabriel as a down to earth, intelligent, strong, emotional lead. She was written as a person who happens to be female, rather than as a tropey “strong female character” or, even worse, as a sex object. As a result, she felt more real to me than many female fantasy characters who often come across as caricatures. Sabriel’s companion Mogget is an absolute delight. Will he kill Sabriel? What even is he? It doesn’t matter because you end up liking him regardless. Touchstone takes getting used to because he is overly servile in the beginning, although his motivation for his behavior soon becomes clear. Perhaps the love story between him and Sabriel was a little quick, but I buy it because Sabriel and Touchstone work well together and people who go through great trials together bond deeply and quickly. The pace of Sabriel is quick but not rushed, the worldbuilding is one-of-a-kind (in fact, it wasn’t until many years and many rereads later that I realized this is essentially zombies with magic), and the characters feel real. Sabriel has a permanent spot on my top ten list of favorite books.

“Let this be my final lesson. Everyone and everything has a time to die.”

Sabriel, Garth Nix

Full disclosure: I photoshopped the photo of the book for the this post because I’m still in the process of moving and wasn’t able to take a picture. So I reused an old photo and inserted a picture of the cover over top.

Flash Fiction: Lunacy

Cool air slinks between the blankets, startling goosebumps from my skin. Tarek must have opened the window sometime in the night. I reach across the bed, expecting to feel his warm, bare shoulder. My hand meets cooling sheets.

On the nightstand, my phone buzzes and I jolt. The sound claws away the hush of the apartment.

When I pick it up, it vibrates again. My gut twists: something isn’t right.

The screen flares bright, blinding me. Half a dozen missed texts in the last three minutes.  Overlaid in front of them is a gray notification box.

Image description: notification box stating “Emergency Alert: Do not look at the moon. This is not a drill.”

“What the—”

Two more texts come in. I ignore them for now and swipe on the emergency notification. ALERT: DO NOT LOOK AT THE MOON. STAY INDOORS AND CLOSE ALL SHADES. REPEAT—DO NOT LOOK AT THE MOON.

Fear strikes like lightning through my body. “Tarek?” I call.

Twenty missed texts. The number climbs as I watch it.

Gorgeous out tonight!
check out the sky
Look at the moon!

“Tarek!” I can hear the panic in my voice.

Whoa, the moon is HUGE!!!
Guys, are you seeing this?

A message from my mom appears.

LOOK AT THE MOON

I jump out of bed, flinging the phone to the floor where it continues to buzz. The curtains are closed, but I yank them tighter, to be safe. Bright, white light beams in through the gaps. “Tarek!”

“Mae,” he calls from the living room. His voice sounds odd.

I’m halfway across the room before I notice the curtains are pulled back from the picture window. I shout, reaching for the nearest panel; it catches on the joint in the curtain rod and jerks to a stop.

The light is dazzling. The moon must be close. Big. How it must loom on the horizon, dwarfing the skyscrapers. My eyes make it to the sill before I realize.

Tarek stands eerily still, arms limp at his sides, chin tilted upward. His face, bathed in moonlight, is practically beatific.

I reach past him for the other curtain.

His fingers around my arm are steel. “Mae,” he says, eyes on the sky, “look outside.

“Tarek, get away from the window! There was a warning—”

“Mae. Look at the moon.”

Fear shudders through me.

Stella trots in from the kitchen, golden fur silver in the moonlight. I see the moment the change takes place. She loses the arthritic limp and steps primly to the window. Her pupils dilate, becoming a vast black mirror. The moon, a giant orb, shines from their depths. I tear my gaze away.

Stella starts barking.

“Look at the moon!” Tarek commands. He forces me towards the windows, bruising my arms.

“Tarek—please!” I cry. I am sobbing now.

Stella’s bark turns deeper, more vicious.

Look at the moon!

Tarek seizes my chin, turning me slowly towards the light.

“LOOK AT THE MOON!”

I look.

On My Bookshelf: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: Call Down the Hawk
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: 5/5

Ronan Lynch can dream things into reality–both miracles and nightmares. After years of practice, he has control over his dreams, for the most part, but something new is happening to him: A mysterious person, nameless and faceless, has been haunting his dreams. And if Ronan spends too long not dreaming, dark liquid oozes from his nose.

Jordan Hennessy creates living copies of herself if she allows herself to dream. Worse, every time she does, she meets a malevolent force that is slowly sucking the life out of her.

Meanwhile, dreamers around the world are being hunted and killed. Ronan and Jordan must work together to find out who is behind the killings and to save themselves.

The Raven Cycle series introduced Ronan and his dreaming and Stiefvater follows up with a new trilogy featuring him and characters old and new. Call Down the Hawk is the first book in the trilogy and it ends on a cliffhanger, setting the stage for book two. It is impossible for me to be completely objective about this book because I fell in love with the Raven Cycle series immediately and would have read anything further involving this world. Despite my high expectations, I wasn’t disappointed. I was enthralled from page one and I enjoyed immensely getting the perspective of Ronan’s brother, Declan, and the new character, Jordan Hennessy (who is actually two characters). At first I wasn’t as interested in the perspective of the person who is hunting dreamers, but it got more interesting by the end because the stakes were so high. I was breathless for most of the book. Maggie has long been on my list of “will read anything by this author” because of her imagination, characterization, and lyrical prose. I can’t wait to read the next installment.

“Dreams are not the safest thing to build a life on.”

Call Down the Hawk, Maggie Stiefvater