psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Finally pushed my way through Clariel, Garth Nix's recent prequel to the Sabriel trilogy about the backstory of a minor villain from Lirael/Abhorsen. And basically I don't think it was a good premise for a book: knowing it can't end well, and it just being a matter of how, exactly. Maybe I just don't like tragedy. Or maybe this wasn't a very good tragedy - there's a certain grandeur to someone's arrogance or revenge-thirst or whatever dragging things doom-ward, but Clariel is pretty much just a victim of a) no one taking her seriously and b) getting duped, and, meh, how is that satisfying to read? Maybe if it got us riled up against a bigger villain - I'm not arguing the Star Wars prequels are a great tragedy, but I do think there's some good stuff in there with Palpatine's seduction of Anakin to the Dark Side. Just think about how chilling Palpatine's "watching your career with great interest" was. Part of the problem in Clariel is that the Palpatine role is being played by *Mogget*, and it felt weird to be seeing them be outright evil knowing they get redeemed at the end of book 3? I couldn't hate them enough to make them a good villain, and yet it sort of taints them in the previous books retroactively.

There are some other problems here - the first half has a *lot* of forced-conformity business which we have to suffer through with Clariel, and worldbuilding of the culture in decline (no one takes magic seriously, etc) which is frustrating because we-the-reader know perfectly well from the previous books to take this stuff seriously. It takes until the second half to get anything that brings the "ooh, wow" factor in the locations-and-items line, and by that point we're well on the downslope of "Clariel, nooooo".

I did like what Nix did with the imagery of the mask and how Clariel's hated heavy face makeup of the first half foreshadows the "of the Mask" mask at the end. And Bel giving it back to her when he spares her life, ::shudders::. I was also interested in Clariel as an explicit asexual (I feel like there haven't been so many aces in YA fantasy yet that that's not interesting) although it maybe veered a little close to some sort of "tragic asexual" trope when she doesn't hug Bel at the very end and is thinking something about a "long-repressed impulse", which implied to me that if she *had* reached out and made that connection with him, that was her last chance not to fall into necromancy. But for the most part I liked that she was just sort of calmly certain about it and it would have been a completely fine facet of her character if she had just ever been allowed to be herself.


psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (Default)

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