Book I: SABRIEL
I think it's official: SABRIEL clocks in as my Most Re-read Book Ever. This, folks, was the fifth reread, and I have actually read this book twice in a single weekend. That makes it the only book that I've finished, sighed, and turned back to page one to start again.
Wow. I know.
It's that good.
I will concede that the book starts out a bit awkwardly--the writing isn't quite as good as it is in Nix's later books, and the first scene is a little confusing, because Nix mercilessly throws us into this whole other world where Death is a location and there's that whole weird bit about the Charter, but seriously. Once the book gets going, there's no stopping it, and it's hopeless to attempt to disconnect yourself from the story because it absolutely takes over your soul.
But I'm raving.
Nix's Old Kingdom is brilliant, and as complete as you could hope for in a fantasy book. Sabriel, our heroine, is an engaging character, humble and brave in the best way. The story is funny, while also being gravely serious and dark. I won't breathe a word about certain Harry Potter comparisons, and you better not either. But do us both a favor and go out with your $6.99 in hand, and buy a copy.
You'll be hooked. And then you'll have to finish the whole trilogy.
Book II: LIRAEL
While Sabriel is a complete story that stands alone and serves as a sort of prequel for the last two books, LIRAEL is the first half of a story that is continued in the third and final book in the trilogy, Abhorsen. LIRAEL is set fourteen years after Sabriel, and gives readers the delightful opportunity of seeing some beloved characters serve as far more experienced Kings and Abhorsens than they did in the last book. Also, these beloved characters have children, who are--alas--a bit disappointing.
That is perhaps my only criticism of the second book: self-pity runs rampant in LIRAEL, whether it's Lirael bemoaning her misfit status, or Prince Sameth whining about his awful inheritance, it gets bit old and quickly. Thank goodness for characters like Mogget and the Disreputable Dog, who are always around to give a smarting shut-down, or quick nip to the leg, and keep those pitiful characters in line.
Actually, thank goodness for Mogget, period. He is the best character in a cast of brilliant characters, as far as I'm concerned. Also, the Great Library of the Clayr is one of my favorite places in the entire world, imagined or not.
Which is not to say, at all, that I don't like Sam and Lirael. I really, really do, and I think that Nix works this whole "woe is me" bit in deliberately and he does it well, but it just gets old, that's all. But the book is still awesome.
And holy crap, I can't wait to read Abhorsen again, because even though I've read Sabriel five times, and LIRAEL (now) three times, I've only read Abhorsen once, so it's basically new to me. Plus there's a new book of stories out called Across the Wall that apparently hooks right onto the end of Abhorsen and hangs out in the Old Kingdom for a while.
I must add that I had the good fortune of hearing Garth Nix read LIRAEL in his funny Australian accent when he came to Village Books, promoting LIRAEL. It was awesome. He signed my book. It says "To Thea, With best Wishes." Sweet.
Book III: ABHORSEN
Yes. Oh, yes. I have reached the end of the trilogy, my friends, and I am not in the least disappointed. In fact, I think I liked the whole thing better the second time--and the ending? Well. Nix has this marvellous way of wrecking everybody's desperate plans, of giving them scraps to cling to and then whisking them away, mercilessly, so that he gives new meaning to the notion of saving the day at the last second. He draws it out to the last, the very, very, hopelessly last, second.
And I loved it, every bit.