Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

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Lirael by Garth Nix

HarperCollins, April 2001.
Hardcover, 496 pages.
Ages 12 to Adult
ISBN: 0060278234.
Ordering information:

by Garth Nix To the north of modern England lies the Old Kingdom, a place of magic, necromancy and the constant threat of the rising of the Dead, controlled by a force even more evil and powerful than the most powerful necromancer. Only a wall of Charter magic keeps the Old Kingdom contained, and most of the modern world is blissfully unaware of the incredible kingdom that lies beyond the wall. Lirael is a Daughter of the Clayr: a sisterhood of Seers who live in the remote North and can See into the future. But Lirael still doesn't have the Sight, although she is much older than the other girls. Still, she manages to get a post in the Library, a fantastic magical place with more than a hint of danger buried in long-forgotten rooms and passages. With her Disreputable Dog for company (a magical being Lireal created with the help of Charter and Free Magic) Lireal sets out on a quest to help save the Old Kingdom from a great evil. She meets up with the disconsolate Prince Sameth, who is extremely unhappy about his status as the heir to his mother the Abhorsen, who is responsible for leading the fight against the Dead. Sameth and Lireal must find Sameth's old school friend Nick, who has unknowingly brought a great evil into the Old Kingdom which could destroy the kingdom entirely.

Lirael is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Sabriel, which told the story of Sameth's mother, Queen Sabriel, the Abhorsen. We learn more about the remarkable magic of the Old Kingdom, including the Abhorsen's ability to control the Dead using a special set of bells. Lirael has always felt like an outsider, and her longing to fit in is perfectly and movingly written. The mysterious Disreputable Dog who follows Lirael on her adventures is a real treat: a wise-cracking font of wisdom who knows just how to bully Lirael out of a bout of teen angst -- she gives her a little bite, which generally has the desired effect. Garth Nix has a real talent for creating believable and compelling characters, and his imagination is fantastic. This is fantasy adventure at its best, and readers are sure to look forward to the next installment of the story in the Abhorsen. Highly recommended.

--Claire E. White

Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

HarperCollins, May 2001.
Hardcover, 336 pages.
ISBN: 0060199563.
Ordering information:

Thief of Time
by Terry Pratchett Time is taken pretty much for granted in Discworld, as it is in most places. But without the Monks of History, who regulate the distribution of Time, there would be no certainty that tomorrow would happen at all. For example, when you ask "Where did the Time go?" most likely it wasn't that you were having so much fun that Time seemed to go by quickly. More likely, the Monks has simply siphoned it out of your day to pump it somewhere where it was urgently needed, perhaps to a corporate boardroom full of Type-A personalities who never seem to have enough Time in a day. When a mysterious woman contracts with clockmaker Jeremy Clockson to create the world's first perfectly accurate clock, the Monks are very concerned. For the creation of a perfect clock will stop Time itself. It's up to monk Lu-Tze and his apprentice Lobsang Ludd to find and stop the clockmaker, before Time runs out for everyone -- even Death himself.

Thief of Time is a hilarious send up of king fu movies, the nature of Time, Modern Education, and a host of other related and unrelated topics. Especially entertaining are Death's granddaughter, Miss Susan, who bucks the trend of Modern Education by actually requiring that her students learn something, the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse (he left the group before they became famous) and Qu, the Monk who provides exciting exploding gadgets to Monks on special missions. You need not have to have read any of the other 25 Discworld books to enjoy Thief of Time. But one thing's for sure: after reading it, you will want to track down all the other entries in this wildly entertaining and witty series.

--Claire E. White

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