US cover of Lirael

is the second book in the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. The book is presented in two parts; the first takes place roughly fourteen years after the events of Sabriel, and introduces the title character, a young girl who is an outsider in her own home. The second half rejoins Lirael four years later, and introduces more characters and the threat of the necromancer Hedge.

Plot summary Edit

Prologue: Hedge, a necromancer and Free magic sorcerer observes another investigating a phenomenon known as the "Lightning trap". The other sorcerer, Chlorr, is tricked into servitude of the unknown power that lies beneath the hill.

Part one (fourteen years after the restoration): On her fourteenth birthday, a Clayr named Lirael wakes up and finds that she still does not have the Sight. This sets her apart from her cousins and friends, all of whom have Awakened and can See. Lirael decides to commit suicide, and climbs to the top of Starmount. Before she can jump from the Paperwing hangar, Sabriel and Touchstone land in a Paperwing and are greeted by the Nine Day Watch. After a brief discussion, the Royals leave and Lirael is discovered. Among the Watch are Sanar and Ryelle, who advise her that she should take up a permanent job in the glacier to take her mind off not having the Sight. She decides to work in the library. Curious to explore the mysterious library, she researches Charter magic and unlocks doors to which she would not otherwise have access. On one occasion, she discovers a small statue of a dog, and simultaneously accidentally unleashes a Stilken, from which she only just escapes. Inspired by the dog statue, she decides to create a sending, but somehow triggers the statue's transformation into the Disreputable Dog, a creature that seems be of both the Charter and Free magic. Together they defeat the Stilken.

Part two (four years later): Prince Sameth and his school cricket team are ambushed by Hedge. Nicholas Sayre is mistakenly selected to be the host of the evil under the hill by Hedge, and the schoolboys only narrowly survive. After Sameth returns to the Old Kingdom, his mother and father are constantly in demand around the Kingdom, and Sameth is expected to begin reading the Book of the Dead in preparation for becoming the Abhorsen-in-waiting. However, he is terrified by the prospect, preferring to spend his time making Charter-spelled gadgets. When he discovers that Nicholas plans to visit him, he sets off to escape his sister's constant nagging. In the wilderness, he fortuitously meets up with Mogget, the Abhorsen's bound servant. They soon realise they are being followed by the Dead.

Meanwhile, Lirael, still Sightless and working in the library, discovers a special path and room set up for her thousands of years ago by the Clayr. In the room are a mirror, some panpipes and a book, identifying Lirael as a Rembrancer. The Clayr send Lirael on a journey down the Ratterlin River on the boat Finder and give her a very old and powerful sword. Eventually, Lirael and the Dog meet Sam and Mogget and they two duos join forces. When they reach Abhorsen's House, the Charter sendings present surcoats to Lirael and Sam with unexpected implications. Mogget and the Dog reveal that they had already suspected that Lirael is in actuality the Abhorsen-in-waiting and Sam is a Wallmaker. Lirael is revealed to be Sabriel's half-sister.

The book ends with Nicholas and Hedge excavating the Lightning Trap, when smoke pours from Nicholas's mouth and The Destroyer speaks through him.

Characters Edit

Lirael introduces numerous new characters, as well as including several of those who appeared in Sabriel.

New characters Edit

  • Lirael is the central protagonist. An orphan from a young age, she feels separated from her Clayr family because of her appearance; while most Clayr are fair-haired, tanned and blue- or green-eyed, Lirael is pale-skinned, brown-eyed and has black hair. On her fourteenth birthday she is given a job at the library, becoming a Third Assistant Librarian. By the time of part two, she has been promoted to Second Assistant Librarian.
  • The Disreputable Dog is Lirael's only real friend. Although she is able to change her size and shape, the Dog is invariably described as being a mongrel. The Dog's origins are uncertain and seem to involve both Free magic and Charter magic.
  • Prince Sameth is the son of Sabriel and King Touchstone. At the start of part two, he is just about to complete his studies at school in Ancelstierre. Although he is a very skilled and powerful Charter mage, his attempts to defeat Hedge in Death leave him stricken by a fear of Death.
  • Princess Ellimere is Sam's elder sister, and heir to the throne. Though she is bossy and self-important, she is highly intelligent and displays a natural talent for leadership. Like her mother, she studied at Wyverley College in Ancelstierre.
  • Hedge is the primary antagonist of the book. A necromancer, Hedge is described as being a thin, balding man but who wears red-plated armour. He is incredibly powerful.
  • Nicholas Sayre is a school friend of Sameth's, and a brilliant spin-bowler. His Uncle is the Chief Minister of Ancelstierre, and his father is also in the Moot (Ancelstierre's parliament). When Hedge's Dead Hands attack the cricket team, Hedge implants a sliver of metal in Nicholas that makes him become the avatar for The Destroyer. Nicholas is struck by a sudden desire to visit the Old Kingdom.
  • Chlorr of the Mask is an incredibly old yet powerful necromancer who is made to serve Hedge.

Returning characters Edit

  • Sabriel is the current Abhorsen, and also Queen of the Old Kingdom through her marriage to Touchstone. Mother of Ellimere and Sameth and (unknowingly) half-sister to Lirael, she is rarely in the book as she is so busy fighting the Dead. She and her husband, Touchstone, leave on a diplomatic mission to Ancelstierre.
  • Torrigan is only known as Touchstone despite being the King, as the last of the royal bloodline. He is the husband of Sabriel and father of Ellimere and Sameth. He is also mostly absent through duty, travelling with Sabriel to Ancelstierre to prevent the Southerling refugees from being deported to the Old Kingdom.
  • Mogget is still the Abhorsen family retainer and servant, though now bound by Ranna (rather than Saraneth), which causes him to fall asleep frequently. He leaves the House to find Sameth and guide him.
  • Sanar and Ryelle are twin Clayr who Sabriel and Touchstone meet at the end of the first book. Physically identical, they often speak together and have particularly strong Sight, serving on the Nine Day Watch more often than not. It is they who recommend that Lirael get a job, and they arrange for her placement in the library. The twins also meet Lirael when she is Seen and send her on her journey.
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