Why You Should Drop Everything And Go Read The Old Kingdom Series By Garth Nix

It was little more than three miles from the Wall into the Old Kingdom, but that was enough.
Across the Wall, in the Old Kingdom, the dead don't always want to stay dead. When Sabriel receives a message that her father, the Abhorsen, is trapped somewhere in Death, she must take up his sword and bells, return to the Old Kingdom to rescue him, and send the Dead back to rest.

I really bloomin' love The Old Kingdom series, and the (very) long awaited release of the fifth book, Goldenhand, is a great reason to continue my lifelong crusade of making everyone read it. So, here are some totally coherent not rambly reasons why you should in fact drop everything, run to the nearest seller or lender of books, and pick them up, starting with Sabriel...

Just, Mogget. If you've read this series you are no doubt currently nodding in agreement, because yeah, Mogget. If not you're probably just pulling a "what the heck is a Mogget?" face. Well dear person, Mogget is a cat, a little white cat who is not exactly a cat. For a start, he talks. He's a snarky little bugger and he is always 110% done with everything, except fish, he always has time for fish. He'll show up, tell you you're an idiot, and then go to sleep in your bag so you have to carry him. And he is fabulous. Another of those morally grey characters I'm always gushing over, he is obviously my fav. He's actually one of my favourite character just generally. Helps that he's a cat too. Just, maybe don't take off his collar, even if he asks nicely.

Here's Kisy doing her best Mogget impression, 110% done

The series takes place in a world split into two lands by a great Wall, to the south is Ancelstierre, resembling early 20th century England with telephones and cars, while to the north is the Old Kingdom, a more medieval land where magic takes the place of technology. It's so well done, crammed with little details that help make it all the more authentic, dripping with atmosphere, if there is an aspect of fantasy that Nix truly excels at it is in world building, every world he creates is filled to the brim with imaginative ideas and interesting imagery, but this is my favourite.

But also often scholarly. The women here are all awesome, holding their own and very much being the heroes of their own stories, all very capable of kicking your butt either physically, magically or intellectually, maybe all three. Sabriel starts out in the first book at school, a prefect and a top student, but is perfectly capable of going off on a dangerous quest when it comes up. Lirael is an actual badass librarian, looking after the books but also exploring the hidden secrets of the library, using knowledge rather than fighting skills. Clariel is less academic, more stabby, but she's still hella smart and can hold her own at a tea party but also tear you limb from limb.

Speaking of Clariel, she's an asexual character with a whole book about her, a true rarity in media. She's also very much morally grey so hurrah for that too. She's not actually explicitly named as asexual on the page, but the girl has got no interest in men. Or women, as she points out. She has better things to be doing with her time, she tried it out a few times, wasn't really a fan, isn't interested in a repeat, can't be dealing with all this romantic and sexual nonsense. She just wants to go live in the forest and be left alone, damn it!

I looooooove the magic system in this series, it is complex and interesting and glorious. Split into free magic and charter magic, each has distinct practices, effects, practitioners, one chaotic and raw and dangerous, the other ordered and precise and respected, and the complexities of it just increase the more we learn about it. The seven bells that can control the Dead, the nine Gates on the river of Death, paperwings, charter sendings... it's all so fascinating and the imagery is absolutely to die for (hehehe...).

Nobody in this series treats gender like it's particularly important. Men and women are just treated naturally as equals, respected for who they are and what they do, both men and women capable of being mages or soldiers or scholars or fishers or leaders or in fact somebody's consort. You can't usually determine any character's gender until you are told it, and it is beautiful. Except the Clayr, they are ladies. Awesome, brown, future seeing ladies.

In fact the Clayr get their own number because they are awesome. A matriarchal society composed almost entirely of blonde haired, brown skinned women, they are completely respected by all, their counsel often sought as they can see into the future in the ice, which they have a lot of since they pretty much live in a massive glacier. They also have the biggest library ever, like really, makes the one Beast gave Belle look like a matchbox, that is filled with more than just books. And they see sexuality as no big deal, consenting adults, go for it, off you pop to find a man, or a woman, you do you. F-yeah, Clayr. Actually, the series is pretty sex positive generally (though there isn't really any sexual content), hurrah!

For the dog lovers there is also the Disreputable Dog who shows up in the second book. Another one who isn't quite what she seems, a dog but not a dog, a tan and black mongrel with hidden depths, she is a lot friendlier than Mogget, she's loyal and funny and wants to stick her nose in everything, except baths, no baths thanks. Entirely lovable and delightfully mischievous, she is Lirael's best friend, and I want her to be mine too.

And not just zombies, different kinds of zombies. From your standard hordes of controlled corpses to the very creepy idea of gore crows, right up to the horrors of the Greater Dead who have power and intelligence of their own. So many zombies none of which are called zombies but all of which want to kill you and eat your life! Ok, maybe not for you if you have a weirdly strong fear of zombies, but they are so wonderfully creepy. And there are also not dead things. Though they're, you know, worse. Necromancers and free magic creatures and... well, you'll have to read it to find that one out.

That's right, because Goldenhand just came out you have a golden opportunity! Go, go read all five books (and the novella Creature In The Case) and then join me in the no doubt agonising wait for the next one (which you are totally writing, right? RIGHT?). Cry with me in frustration and longing, it'll be fun. After all, does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker? Seriously, go read it. I'll just wait here. Like I'm waiting for the next book. I'm fine. Still fine. Totally fine. It's fine.

Look at them, you know you want them. So pretty, give in to temptation.
Yes I bought US editions of Clariel and Goldenhand so they'd match.
Don't judge me.

Highly Recommended (obvs...)

1 comment:

  1. I actually love this series and just finished Goldenhand. Review will be up on the blog by tomorrow! It's like you slip back into that world so easily even if you haven't read it for ages!