Lirael is no longer a shy Second Assistant Librarian. She is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, with Dead creatures to battle and Free Magic entities to bind. She’s also a Remembrancer, wielder of the Dark Mirror. Lirael lost one of her hands in the binding of Orannis, but now she has a new hand, one of gilded steel and Charter Magic.
When Lirael finds Nicholas Sayre lying unconscious after being attacked by a hideous Free Magic creature, she uses her powers to save him. But Nicholas is deeply tainted with Free Magic. Fearing it will escape the Charter mark that seals it within his flesh and bones, Lirael seeks help for Nick at her childhood home, the Clayr’s Glacier.
This is not going to be an impartial review. The Old Kingdom series has been one of my favourite book series since I was about 8. So you should really know that before reading this review. But you should also know that I was genuinely terrified to read this book incase it didn’t live up to my expectations.
Okay so if you haven’t heard of the Old Kingdom series before this is a set of fantasy books set in a world where one part of the world is like normal 21st century and the other half is magic. It has this really interesting magic system where magic is literally drawn in the air. The whole series focuses on the current Abhorsen, this is a necromancer tasked with protecting the world from dead creatures and various other bad things.
I should point out that the magic system is my favourite thing about this series. First of all you have the charter marks (magic) that can be used and imbedded into things to give them magical properties (swords for example). We have dead things that can come back from the dead and a necromancer who has to protect everyone from the dead things. They do that with a series of magical bells that can control the dead things. And there is the fact that death is an actual place the necromancers, it’s explained as being a river but there are various levels to ‘death’ which people go through before finally arriving at the ‘ninth gate’ where they die the final death.
Goldenhand is the fifth book in this series and it is a direct sequel to Abhorsen which was the third book (the fourth book was set 500 years before the others). The thing you have to understand is Abhorsen was released in 2003 and I read it around then. So I have basically been waiting 13 years for this book. I’ve been waiting so long for this book I basically gave up hope of there ever being a sequel to Abhorsen. So I had extremely high expectations for this, not only because I’ve been waiting a long time for it. But this has to come after the huge finale in Abhorsen which saw the main characters destroying literally the most evil thing to have ever existed in this universe. And I’m amazed to say it lived up to those expectations.
I really don’t want to give away any spoilers for this book and series as a whole and thats difficult to seeing as how it’s the fifth book. But here are my favourite non-spoilery things about it.
The main character is a strong independent woman who don’t need no man (this could be said about the whole series). Okay so this book is about her falling in love but thats okay because we have seen Lireal grow as a character over the last two books and she went from being a shy librarian to a kick ass necromancer who literally saved the universe. Even the whole falling in love thing is fine because it fits with her story. This love isn’t something that came out of nowhere, Nix was hinting at it in the last book. And it fits with her growing up and learning how to cope with her new role.
Even after 5 books the dead still feel scary. In these books the dead are basically zombies that are repelled by water. They take lots of different shapes though are sometimes actual dead bodies whose spirits were brought back to life by a necromancer. Over the last 5 books there have been numerous times where our main character was being chased by some type of dead creature and that could start to get a little boring because you always know it’s going to be okay in the end. But Nix still manages to make those moments scary and you actually fear for the characters life.
The stories all tie in together. Even Clariel which is set 500 years earlier ties into the storyline set during the current restoration. The short story from To Hold The Bridge sets up a place in this book. Even the story world book day story The Creature In The Case ties into the series as a whole. Thats the thing that makes me want to go back and read the full series all over again every time a new book is released because there are always little nods in the other books to whats happening. I don’t know if Garth Nix puts those things in intentionally for future books or if he goes back later and try to tie things into his new book. But either way it always makes rereading the series fun.
Basically you should read this book if it even slightly sounds like something you might enjoy. These are technically young adult books because they are about young people learning to grow up. But you can enjoy them at any age. In fact I think that is the best thing about this series. I loved it as a kid and it still holds up when I reread them as an adult.
I’ve just written all this and realised it’s more a review of the series as a whole rather than specifically Goldenhand. But it’s so difficult to review because so much of it is based on previous books.
Anyway here is a reading list if you want to get started out on the series: