As I mentioned Thursday, I recently finished reading Garth Nix's latest (though I hope not his last) installment in the Old Kingdom series, Goldenhand.
Set in the aftermath of Abhorsen and immediately following the novella "The Creature in the Case"* (published in the collection Across the Wall), Goldenhand tells the continuing story of Lirael and Nicholas Sayre. As Nick is recovering from his latest encounter with a Free Magic creature and Lirael is adjusting to her new life as both an Abhorsen-in-Waiting and a sister to the reigning queen, a mysterious messenger descends from the north with an urgent message that could change the lives of everyone in the Old Kingdom.
Goldenhand is told for most of the novel through two points of view: Lirael/Nick (depending on the scene and chapter) and Ferin, the messenger from the north. What impressed me the most about the book from the very first chapters was that Garth Nix did more than just write a sequel to Abhorsen; he tied together the entire series. Specifically, he ties in the two novellas "The Creature in the Case" and "To Hold the Bridge" (from the collection of the same name) and the prequel novel, Clariel. How these are all connected is apparent from the first few chapters if you have read them (and I highly suggest you read the novellas beforehand, especially "The Creature in the Case").**
Lirael and Nick try to pick up their relationship where they left off, which is just shy of nowhere. They are attracted to each other and embarrassed by their mistakes. The growth of their friendship and romance through this book is probably in the realm of adorkable because they both feel unable to express their feelings and assume the other isn't interested and when they finally get past this awkwardness it's like they've been together forever. It's beautiful as much as it is agonizing to watch.
While the opening impressed me, I did feel like the middle dragged a bit. This was mostly due to my only being able to read a chapter or two at a time. Since the POV switched with every chapter, I was always stuck wanting more of whichever POV I'd just left, and it took the two storylines a bit too long to meet for my taste. For all its dithering, though, the middle allowed Mr. Nix the chance to show off some more of the Charter magic that makes this series so much fun.
The ending was just as satisfying as the beginning. What's more, it accomplished something that Clariel failed to do: it made me feel sympathy for Clariel. Her brief scenes in this book actually made her a character I could feel sorry for in a way that nothing in her full novel did.***
Overall, Goldenhand is a worthy successor to the original trilogy and a true and happy return to the Old Kingdom for Garth Nix. I can only hope he will give us another foray into this wonderful world soon!
Have you read Goldenhand? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
*Garth Nix even includes a footnote telling you where to read it since we don't get any rehashing of that story beyond what's needed to keep the plot moving.
**Clariel, on the other hand, I consider the only skippable book in the series. It bored me instead of thrilling me. I don't know what happened with that one but feel free to ignore it.
***Although I'm still miffed that Nix didn't even begin to tell us the story of her descent into the madness that is Chlorr. That was the story we wanted to hear.