Monday 28 August 2023

Terciel and Elinor: Book 6 of The Old Kingdom series

Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $22.99 ISBN 9781761069970

Reviewed by Kerry Gittins

The Old Kingdom is a place of great magic, and one that eighteen-year-old orphan Terciel, the Abhorsen-in-waiting, must understand and navigate if he is to take over from his great-great- aunt Tizaneal. Tizaneal is the current Abhorsen and a master of the Charter – ancient magic cultivated and practised to ensure the Dead do not return to life. Terciel must learn the art of the Charter and the secrets behind the seven bells that have somehow chosen him if he is to become the next Abhorsen. On the other side of The Wall that separates the Old Kingdom and the non-magical land of Ancelstierre, lives a young woman Elinor, who knows nothing about the mark on her forehead, or about magic and enchantment. She has been raised by Mrs Watkins, her governess, and Ham, an old theatre and circus performer, at Coldhallow House. Elinor’s mother has always been distant but is even more so now she has taken to her bed. She doesn’t speak but sometimes hums softly. As she hums, a thin layer of ice seems to form over her skin. When Elinor informs the doctor and Mrs Watkins of this peculiarity, they exchange worried glances and the doctor simply says, ‘The North.’ Elinor has no idea what has just passed between the two, but when Terciel suddenly appears at Coldhallow and begins questioning both Mrs Watkins and Ham, Elinor realises there is much she has not been told about her past. Little does she realise that from now on, hers and Terciel’s lives are inextricably entwined, and she will play a pivotal role in the Abhorsen’s fight against Kerrigor, the most powerful of the Dead.

This is the prequel to Sabriel, the first in the Old Kingdom series. Terciel and Elinor are Sabriel’s parents, but we are not made aware of how this came to be until this, the sixth book. Here we follow the story of how Terciel and Elinor met, their journeys into the Old Kingdom, how they became masters at their magical crafts, and how they fell in love. Garth Nix never fails to engage and seduce readers with superbly crafted characters and storylines. He is a master at weaving together complex and intricate backstories along with important secondary characters to create an enthralling, fast paced fantasy adventure that will have you hooked from the very first page.

Highly recommended ages 14 + years. Themes for teaching could include fantasy, magic, relationships, playwrights, theatre, and circus performers.

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