Book Review: Lirael by Garth Nix

Lirael: Daughter of the ClayrFormat: Audiobook, Rating: 5/5 stars

I loved this second book in the Old Kingdom series. It was even more enjoyable than Sabriel (the first one), and has remained my favorite in the entire collection (with Clariel being a close second). First of all, the narrator, Tim Curry, did the best job with voicing Lirael. It is the best example of voice acting I have experienced to date. I especially loved how he depicts Lirael as she’s whining to her dog about life. It’s adorable and spot on.

When I first read Sabriel, I fell in love with it so much that I seriously considered naming my daughter Sabriel. (There’s still a part of me that wishes I had, though I’m sure she will thank me for not doing that later in life.) I was prepared to have this second book not be quite as good because the first was the best thing I had read ever. But it surpassed that. Also, I completely forgot that I had read this years ago. As I started reading, my mind accessed all these prior images I made up for it and it was a wonderful rediscovery. (Hence my new implementation of reviewing books a year later.)


As soon as I started it, I recalled an image from memory of a prince and a girl on a mission floating together in a bathtub down a dangerous river. And I thought “That can’t be right. My crazy brain must have jumbled things up since I read this.” But then that exact thing happened and I couldn’t believe it, because it actually made sense, and I had to jump up and down with delight. I love that ridiculous scene so much.


Lirael is a girl who desperately wants to be like all the other girls around her, but her right of passage mysteriously hasn’t happened yet. Most girls in her society are chosen by a mysterious “sight” or prophetic gifting at varying ages, but usually quite young. She is nineteen, and still not able to enter into her community’s version of being a grown up. She is very upset by this, and becomes a solitary figure in a dangerous library.

If you are as much a reader as I am, those two words alone should have you running to pick up this book and it’s predecessor. The library…oh that library!

The journey she takes from outcast and lonely girl to strong heroine with agency over her own life and that of others was the most pleasant and refreshing thing I’ve read in a long time. It felt wholesome without dripping sentiment. The whole book felt dangerous and on edge, like something could happen at any moment that would frighten me, but then delivered something amusing and truthful. I am definitely going to give these books to my daughter (and son) when they get older.

Lirael, along with the other Old Kingdom books, have earned a permanent place in my library and I will eventually be collecting print versions just so I can stamp them with my personal library stamp (my husband gave me one and I love it), and then loan them out.

You do not have to read Sabriel first to understand or enjoy Lirael. However, the story does end in the middle. Nix originally intended Lirael and Abhorsen to be one book, but it was too long. So beware, if you do pick this up, you will likely pick up Abhorsen as well.

I read the rest of this series in 2018, so you’ll see reviews of the other books come up now and then. But I do want to say regarding the series as a whole: each and every book in it is unique to itself and a gem. If you haven’t discovered this Old Kingdom series for yourself yet, add it to your list.

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