Nix_Clariel‘Clariel’ is the prequel to the much-loved Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. With it, he takes fans of the series to six hundred years before the starting point for his first book, ‘Sabriel’.

It’s an exciting time for me because I finally get to see what all of the fuss is about with Garth Nix. Also – as a bonus for being patient, not lazy – I am able to read the Old Kingdom series from the absolute beginning. I am aware of being very much in the minority here but also, I hope, well placed to judge whether it can stand on its own as a story.

Let me begin by stating that I often struggle with overly complex epic fantasy, mainly because I need to use my whole brain to keep track of it all and then can’t operate my body. I didn’t experience that problem here, mainly due to the clarity of the author’s vision and the lack of unnecessary clutter in telling the tale.

And what a wonderful tale it is. The book’s namesake, Clariel, lives in the Old Kingdom, a world ruled by powerful bloodlines, organised through a class system based on Guilds and defined by two very different kinds of magic. The common and widely taught Charter Magic was laid down by the Ancients as a form of control over the wilder, more elemental Free Magic. The Charter is divided into five governing bodies, three of which are inherent in the bloodlines of the Abhorsen, the Royal Family, and the Clayr.

The story follows a fundamental time in the life of 17 year old Clariel, cousin to the King and granddaughter of the Abhorsen. When we meet her she is stewing over being uprooted from her peaceful life within the Great Forest, and brought to live in the King’s home city of Belisaere. Here she is a wild thing, caged, yearning to join a group of rangers and live out her life surrounded by trees and silence. But her parents have a very different future in mind for her, involving an advantageous union with a politically scheming family. Unbeknown to all, however, Clariel is heiress to more than mere wealth and position.

She is a girl in a constant state of conflict: both powerful and powerless. Frustrated and constrained, she gives the appearance of compliance and allows herself to be groomed for a role in Guild Society. Beneath the façade, however, Clariel has plans to escape.

It all goes awry when a planned uprising overthrows control of the Kingdom, and Clariel must delve deep inside herself and awaken her true nature to survive.

I found ‘Clariel’ to be a powerful tale of hidden potential realised, particularly in the discovery and acceptance of your true self. I think the character is a worthy example for young readers who, like Clariel herself, spend so much time wrestling with their own nature. I also particularly liked Nix’s handling of her lack of romantic interests and solitary nature. Often this tricky area is left deliberately vague, leaving the reader to wonder what the writer is trying to imply and often reaching the wrong conclusion. I enjoyed the clarity and simplicity of Nix’s explanation.

‘Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?’ is a proverb mentioned. And indeed it could be said to be the central question of the story. Do you choose your own destiny, or accept the one that has been given? The significance being in understanding that you always have a choice, even if it is only acceptance. I think this is an important concept to impart to young people, particularly as feelings of powerlessness can be such a governing force in youth.

I very much get the sense that Garth Nix is absolutely at one with the world of the Old Kingdom. He knows precisely what is important to set the stage and you get a marvellous sense of being swept along with the action. I never felt disengaged or as though I lost sight of Clariel’s character amidst all the goings-on. He never relies on prior knowledge either, making it a true prequel to the series.

There is also an interesting and realistic interpretation of magic, along with plenty of high stakes action, twists and turns. It is perfectly pitched for the older end of the YA spectrum, with enough plotting, misdirection, revelations, duplicity and scheming to impress even the most jaded teen. Younger readers may find it a bit serious.

I have a great affection for writers who have a gift for names. In my opinion, good names – whether of places, people, objects, events or ephemera – draw the reader in and predispose them to engage with the world more deeply. Tolkien, JK Rowling, George RR Martin, Derek Landy and Mervyn Peake are a few fantasy authors that stand out for me as great ‘namers’, and to that worthy list I would also add Garth Nix.

After dipping my toes into the Old Kingdom with ‘Clariel’, I am certainly rubbing my hands together at the thought of diving into the rest of the series.



Boden UK website is worth a browse – both women’s and girl fashion. If you like skirts, there are some great looks to choose from.

Velvet Maxi Dress         sequined cable jumper



alayna cole_TNAlayna Cole shares a simple Just Right biscuit recipe.

 

Just right biscuits6 tbl butter/margarine

1/3 cup caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 tbl milk

1 cup flour

2 cups cereal (for this batch I used a mixture of Just Right and Special K, but I’ve also used Crunchy Nut before and any similar cereals would also work)

 

  1. Cream butter and sugar with an electric beater
  2. Add vanilla and egg. Continue mixing until soft and fluffy.
  3. Add flour and milk. Fold.
  4. Add cereal. Fold.
  5. Place heaped tablespoons of mixture on a greased baking tray.
  6. Bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes, until golden

 



Belinda_kisses_tnBelinda Hamilton compares the book and film version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

 

 

Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Book

I was a little surprised by how short this book is, but with a highly concentrated story. So much fits into such a small package. Confronting themes are abundant and–forget about staying comfortable–you’re forced to look at the beauty in the ugliness.

I love the diary/letter writing format. Though it allows you to easily put the book down and take a break, the story is strong enough to have you picking it straight back up the moment you’re able to.

The characters are easy to relate to and well fleshed out. I felt for each of them in their personal struggles and each and every one had their own arc and progression. It is no wonder this film has received critical acclaim.

 

The Film

Stephen Chbosky directed this one so it’s no surprise that it is a brilliant film adaption.

Emma Thompson, Ezra Miller and Logan Lerman are the perfect picks for their characters and, I must admit, Ezra as Patrick is my favourite of the three. *sigh*

The drug-use scenes are suitably disturbing and Charlie’s mental state is depicted with respect and brutal honesty. This is something I find to be extremely important when mental illness is still such a taboo.

I was gripped and entertained, but also kept off-centre and confronted. I did like it, but I’ll have to be in the right mood to rewatch this film.

 

The wrap up

There don’t seem to be any big scenes missing and the shock value is still as strong in the film. The book and the film were created by the same man, so the adaption is as close to the author’s vision as it could ever be.

Despite this, I’m still going to say the book is better in the long run.

The only difference for me is the internal voice as I was reading versus the narration in the film. In my mind Charlie is a gentler person, but that may be just down to my interpretation.



brashare_here and nowBefore reading The Here and Now, I had never read anything that focused on time travel and the consequences it can have on the future. I mean, I’ve seen movies, and I know that all kinds of crazy things can happen through just the smallest change in the past. When I picked up The Here and Now, I was ready for a mind blowing story that would completely twist my brain and make me think differently…

…but I didn’t get too much of that from this story.

The Here and Now is about a girl named Prenna who is from a futuristic world where mosquitoes have taken over and being stung by one causes a horrible disease and death. Prenna has lost her brother to this disease, along with almost everyone else she knows. When Prenna and her parents decided to travel to the past—our time now—she knew life would be completely different.

But she didn’t know that she would be living by a strict set of rules and under constant pressure to remain in hiding. These rules include no intimacy with a time native, keeping her real identity secret, and never interfering with history (which ties in with the other two rules). There are a few leaders in charge who make sure that no one breaks any of these rules through intimidation…even if it means spying, and possibly killing.

While a lot of these rules seem to be pretty simple and easy to follow, Prenna can’t help herself. She can’t stop thinking about Ethan, a guy from her class, despite knowing that she can never have a relationship with him, tell him who she is, or get too close.

Alongside this, Prenna has always questioned why people from the future have to wear glasses and take vitamins every day. The leadership claims that their eyes are damaged by time travel and the vitamins keep them healthy—but she doesn’t believe a single word.

Especially when a homeless man comes up to her and claims that he knows who she is and where she’s from. He says that he both knows what’s coming in the future, and knows a scientist who may be able to prevent the mosquito epidemic.

Prenna knows she can’t do this on her own. But with her best friend sent off to boarding school, her mum not standing up for herself, and the community doubting her, Prenna has no one—except for Ethan. She knows what she has to do: stop a murder.

I haven’t read any books that included time travel, so when I discovered The Here and Now, that was the element of the story that keenly anticipated! I was excited to see how the author would bring the concept into the story and make these two different worlds work. There was a bit of time travel stuff going on, but not as much as I expected, which was slightly disappointing. Though there was one really big twist that came out of nowhere and made up for it.

There weren’t very many characters in The Here and Now, and, sadly, I didn’t really feel much of a connection with any of them. Prenna wasn’t very open—I mean, she did give us some information about her feelings and what happened to her in the future, but I felt like I didn’t really know her. Ethan was a sweet guy who seemed to really care for Prenna, and I loved him for it. But, again, I just felt confused by how he knew so much about her. I understand that he was the one that found her in the woods, but what happened for him to know so much? Did I miss something?

Don’t even get me started on Prenna’s mum. She was the reason I strongly considered throwing the book across the room. Why wouldn’t she be on Prenna’s side? Why was she doing everything they told her to?

The ending wasn’t anything too crazy or surprising. For some reason, Prenna gets away with everything she did; the ‘leadership’ never really takes control or goes through with their ‘threats’. Overall, the story was okay, but the characters were a bit colourless, and the story only had one big twist. There wasn’t anything that kept me on the edge of my seat.


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