Goldenhand by Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $24.99
Reviewed by Daniela Andrews
Sound the bells (…erm, not the Abhorsen’s) because the highly anticipated fifth novel in the Old Kingdom series is here! Once again, it is Charter Magic versus Free Magic in the flawlessly detailed and intriguing fantasy world created by Garth Nix.
The novel begins in the Sixth Precinct of Death, where Sabriel and Lirael are seeking Chlorr of the Mask. Lirael has a replacement hand, crafted by Sameth and imbued with charter spells that give it a golden glow. We meet a new character, the brave and mysterious Ferin, relentlessly chased by a host of Free Magic creatures that do not want her to deliver an important message to the Clayr (or, specifically, Lirael). Lirael is unaware of the situation and has gone south of the wall to respond to Nicholas Sayre’s request for help in investigating a magical creature. There is much suspense in the novel about where Nick’s allegiance now lies, given he has a fragment of Orannis (Free Magic) inside him.
The chapters in the novel alternate from Ferin’s story, to Lirael’s, until the message is delivered. After that, the stories merge into one. The action pinnacles at the Ninth Precinct of Death and the simultaneous battle at Greenwash Bridge, in a spellbinding mission to destroy Chlorr of the Mask.
There is much personal growth in the character of Lirael, especially when she returns ‘home’ to the Clayr. Being the Abhorsen-in-waiting improves their level of respect for her, but it doesn’t shield her from her memories of past insecurities. It is wonderful to see the way she works through her awkwardness and embraces her new role, especially in the absence of Sabriel. She also realises – and acts upon – her feelings for Nick.
Garth Nix has a lovely, succinct way of recounting the past and explaining principles of magic without really breaking from the story or drama at hand. Because of this, he is able to retain the attention of familiar readers, and draw in those completely new to the Old Kingdom. He has once again delivered an alluring, magical story for young adults!
Readers who feel sad upon its completion will delight in the new, exclusive Old Kingdom short story included at the back, along with a great interview with the author.