Since my tagline says I do an occasional book review, I thought I’d go ahead and hold true to that. Just to be clear, this review was completely unsolicited (and also my first one; just bear with me). Here it is:
So, I’d like to start off by saying that Garth Nix was once my favorite author, but, due to growing up and various other circumstances, he faded into the wayside. It has been a very long time since I’ve read one of his books. Recently, I acquired Clariel, a prequel to the Abhorsen Trilogy (a.k.a Old Kingdom Series). I was absolutely ecstatic when I came across this novel despite the fact that I hadn’t visited this world in a while. It was exciting to think of venturing back into the world of one of the first authors I ever aspired to be like. That being said, after reading Clariel, I was disappointed.
Maybe my memory is a bit flawed, but the writing was in a slower pace than I remembered characteristic of Nix. It didn’t really pull me into the story until more than halfway through the book. While the story was still intriguing, it wasn’t really the page-turner I had been expecting. To top it off, I didn’t entirely connect with the main character.
The title character, Clariel, is very much a selfish person. She knows what she wants and she’ll do almost anything to get it – compromise appearing to be a word not in her vocabulary. Much of the novel centers around her struggles to achieve what she desires; there’s nothing wrong with fighting for your dreams, but the way she went about it was fairly self-centered. While I understood and sided with her in some conflicts, such as rebelling against an arranged marriage, other circumstances had me rolling my eyes. Call me old-fasioned, but I prefer my heroes either selfless of reluctant yet still pulling through when it matters.
Despite all that, with the way the story progressed, a selfish character was the only thing that really made sense. Even though I know that there really are people out there similar to this character, I still felt no real connection to her. I did not find myself hoping she would have her dreams come true or that she would have a happy ending. So, although I’m fairly proud of Nix for breaking heteronormativity by writing an asexual character (or, at the very least, one on the asexual spectrum), Clariel was, in my opinion, a brat.
Now, returning to the writing style. Again, it’s been a while since I read Nix’s work, so I’m not certain if he always wrote this way or if this book was a special case. Starting out, the novel was in third person limited form, which is perfectly fine. To each their own, after all. However, halfway through the story, there was a slight shift in how he portrayed his tale. Clariel was still the focus, but then Nix began inserting omniscient like writing along the lines of “if she had noticed” or “she didn’t see/hear” and so on. Additionally, he began to do some minor head hopping towards the end of the book.
While neither of these were done excessively enough to be annoying, the rather sudden change in style was disorienting. I’d rather have had it remain a limited perspective or started out as leaning towards omniscient instead of randomly changing halfway through. Other readers may not be bothered by this, or even notice since it was rather slight, but as a fellow writer, it can be very distracting.
Summing up, this novel was not as engrossing as I had hoped. The story was fascinating despite its flaws, but it simply isn’t one of those books I would be strongly inclined to pick up again. I’m sad to say that Nix just isn’t someone I adore like I once did. His writing is still good, but definitely not a style I admire any longer. However, he will always have a special place in my heart even if I don’t go out of my way to find his work.