Book Review: Goldenhand
Before we begin, some context: I picked up Lirael at a book fair in seventh grade because I liked the cover and the description on the back. That book resonated with me in a way no other book had up until that point, except possibly Harry Potter. Lirael was like me, someone who found solace in books, someone who felt like she didn't quite fit in with others. Since then, I've found myself re-reading the Old Kingdom trilogy almost once a year, and each return to the Old Kingdom feels like going home.
So I'm understandably excited to see Goldenhand, even more than I was for Clariel - because Lirael is back.
The story picks up immediately after The Creature in the Cage, with Lirael rescuing Nick. She brings him into the Old Kingdom to help him search for an answer to what he's become, planning to take him the Library of the Clayr. Meanwhile, a young woman named Ferin, marked as tribute for the Witch With No Face, is moving south with a message from Lirael's mother Arielle that hints at how to put a final end to Chlorr of the Mask - formerly Clariel.
There's a lot to enjoy here, if you're a fan of the series like me. I still love Lirael, and it's so nice to watch her through an adventure where she's confident in her power as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. It's also fun to see how she interacts with her newfound family; the trilogy didn't get much time to touch on that. My favorite, though, was her return to the Library of the Clayr and seeing the welcome she received. It warmed my heart.
Touchstone, Sabriel and Sam are as enjoyable as ever, and both Mogget and the Disreputable Dog make an appearance (because it wouldn't be complete without them). The new characters are good too, particularly Ferin. Her passages fleeing from the Free Magic sorcerers chasing her are exhilarating in the way only Garth Nix's Dead can deliver.
That being said, the book falls flat in a few places. It spends an overly-long amount of time rehashing events from The Creature in the Cage, when realistically it could have picked up as Lirael and Nick cross the Wall. While I like the romance between Lirael and Nick overall, it felt forced in places. And Ferin's journey to deliver Arielle's message, the catalyst for the main action of the novel, takes too long compared to the rest of the book - only 1/3 of a very short book is devoted to actually defeating Chlorr.
Nix does get around to some excellent worldbuilding though. Through this story, we get to explore the lands north of the Old Kingdom, stretching all the way up to the edge of one of the worlds that Orannis destroyed. And it provides excellent closure for Chlorr/Clariel, especially if you've been following her tale throughout the rest of his work (I would not recommend reading Goldenhand unless you've read both the main trilogy and Clariel).
Saying all that to say, I enjoyed this book immensely, despite its flaws. The Old Kingdom still feels like home after all these years, and Nix's writing is as immersive and inventive as ever. I hope he keeps writing in this world.