This article is about the book. For the character Lirael herself, see Lirael (character).

Lirael (called Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr in some regions) is a fantasy novel by Garth Nix, first published in 2001. Named for its central female character, Lirael is the second in his Old Kingdom trilogy, preceded by Sabriel and continued in Abhorsen.

Plot introduction

The book is split into three parts, the first of which is set 14 years after the events in Sabriel; the last two parts are set five years after part one. Sabriel and Touchstone have married since Sabriel and assumed a measure of control over the Old Kingdom. Their offspring Ellimere and Sameth were going to school in Ancelstierre (similarly to Sabriel) before being expected to take up their duties in the Old Kingdom.

Plot summary

Lirael sees herself as an outcast within the world of the Clayr. With raven-black hair, a pale complexion, pointy face, muddy-brown eyes and unknown paternal parentage, she differs physically from the generally deep-tanned, fair-haired, round-faced and blue- or green-eyed seers around her. Most hurtful, though, is her lack of the Clayr's birthright, the Sight (the ability to see into the future or possible futures). The fact that this bloodline trait has not shown itself at the usual age of around eleven, as well as the absence of any truly understanding or sympathetic other in her life, leaves Lirael emotionally distressed and very unhappy until her appointment to the Clayr's Library on her fourteenth birthday.

Through her solitary work in forgotten corners of the mystical library in the Clayr's Glacier, Lirael begins to unlock the keys to embarking upon an apparently predestined adventure of utmost importance. She also summons the Disreputable Dog, whom she befriends and who helps her in her explorations.

Five years pass...

Across the Wall in Ancelestierre, Prince Sameth has an encounter with the necromancer Hedge and his summoned Dead Hands, which leaves him injured both spiritually and physically. His father Touchstone arrives to take him back to the Old Kingdom and the safety of the palace in Belisaere. Here he is expected to continue his studies to follow his mother as the Abhorsen, a future he is mortally afraid of, especially since his encounter with Hedge.

Their paths cross as Nicholas Sayre, an Ancelestierran friend of Sameth, crosses the border into the Old Kingdom and then to the Red Lake in search of the Lightning Trap, a region in the south west of the Kingdom where the royal rule does not extend and the Clayr cannot See. Sameth flees the palace and his sister to go and look for Nick. He gets into trouble on the way and Mogget turns up, to his surprise and suspicion. Meanwhile, Lirael finds, on her nineteenth birthday, a non-Clayr magical inheritance of the artifacts of a Remembrancer (one who looks into the past) and is quite swiftly dispatched to fulfill a very recent vision the Clayr had of her in a boat on the Red Lake with Nick.

She sails down the River Ratterlin and, by coincidence, meets up with Sam, who had to use a bathtub to escape the Dead who had been following him. They continue on to the Red Lake, but are nearly intercepted by Chlorr of the Mask and the Dead Hands assigned to her. They decide to proceed to Abhorsen's House to rest and generally regroup.

Once there, a strange set of revelations take place: Sameth is given a surcoat with the Royal Blood's tower and the Wallmaker's trowel, and Lirael is given a surcoat with the Clayr star and the Abhorsen key. Lirael realizes, with the help of memories she has Remembered, that she must be half-Abhorsen — a fact confirmed by Mogget, as only a child of both Clayr and Abhorsen may become a Remembrancer.

The novel ends with Lirael and Sameth deciding to go on to find Nick and Hedge at the Red Lake.

Characters in "Lirael"

  • Lirael - title character, raised as an orphan Clayr, half-sister of Sabriel.
  • Disreputable Dog - a Free Magic creature also infused with Charter Magic, she was only supposed to be a puppy sending to comfort Lirael; however, while creating the sending, Lirael touched on some ancient magic in the dog statuette she found in the Clayr library and awoke the Dog
  • Prince Sameth - the son of King Touchstone and the Abhorsen Sabriel; enjoys making toys and is one, if not the last, of the Wallmakers who made the Wall which divides the two Kingdoms; he has been into Death and was Abhorsen-in-Waiting before Lirael's ascent into the title and role, but his encounter with Hedge has left him with an almost mortal fear of Death
  • Mogget - an ancient Free Magic construct of unknown origin; appears in the form of a white cat and is bound by a red Charter magic collar to serve the Abhorsen
  • Nicholas Sayre - a friend of Sameth from Ancelstierre, he doesn't believe in any sort of magic, always looking for a scientific reason for everything
  • Ellimere - Sameth's older sister, destined to be Queen
  • Sabriel - the current Abhorsen, who destroyed Kerrigor many years before with the King, the former Abhorsen, and Mogget; is also wed to Touchstone and is Queen
  • Touchstone - a bastard prince, son of a former Queen and a nobleman; was trapped as a figurehead in a wooden boat for many years before Sabriel saved him; is now the King
  • Hedge - an ancient necromancer serving a greater power; he attempts to capture Prince Sameth but obtains Nicholas Sayre instead
  • Chlorr of the Mask - an ancient necromancer who Sabriel defeats early in Lirael, but is raised again by Hedge to become one of the Greater Dead Adept
  • Sanar and Ryelle - two Clayr twins who have the strongest Sight and aid both the Royal family and Lirael

Major themes

The novel is more soul-searching than its predecessor Sabriel, and the major theme is that society does not have to dictate the outcome of one's future. Lirael comes to terms with her lack of the Sight by becoming busy in the Library, going nearer and nearer to her birthright as the Remembrancer, and, eventually, the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. This is also echoed in Sameth's story, as he struggles to accept (or avoid) his role as Abhorsen-in-Waiting.

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