Goldenhand is the latest book in the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. This is the 6th book in the series and is set some time after To Hold The Bridge. The books are set in a world which is divided in two parts, one with technology and one with magic.
Lirael is no longer a shy Second Assistant Librarian. She is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, with Dead creatures to battle and Free Magic entities to bind. She’s also a Remembrancer, wielder of the Dark Mirror. Lirael lost one of her hands in the binding of Orannis, but now she has a new hand, one of gilded steel and Charter Magic.
When Lirael finds Nicholas Sayre lying unconscious after being attacked by a hideous Free Magic creature, she uses her powers to save him. But Nicholas is deeply tainted with Free Magic. Fearing it will escape the Charter mark that seals it within his flesh and bones, Lirael seeks help for Nick at her childhood home, the Clayr’s Glacier.
If you haven’t heard of the Old Kingdom series before this is a set of fantasy books set in a world where one part of the world is like normal 21st century and the other half is magic. It has this really interesting magic system where magic is literally drawn in the air. The whole series focuses on the current Abhorsen, this is a necromancer tasked with protecting the world from dead creatures and various other bad things.
The magic system is my favourite thing about this series. First of all you have the charter marks (magic) that can be used and imbedded into things to give them magical properties (swords for example). We have dead things that can come back from the dead and a necromancer who has to protect everyone from the dead things.
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They do that with a series of magical bells that can control the dead things. And there is the fact that death is an actual place the necromancers, it’s explained as being a river but there are various levels to ‘death’ which people go through before finally arriving at the ‘ninth gate’ where they die the final death.
Goldenhand is the fifth book in this series and it is a direct sequel to Abhorsen which was the third book (the fourth book Clariel, was set 500 years before the others). The thing you have to understand is Abhorsen was released in 2003 and I read it around then. So I have basically been waiting 13 years for this book.
I’ve been waiting so long for this book I gave up hope of there ever being a sequel to Abhorsen. So I had extremely high expectations for this, not only because I’ve been waiting a long time for it. But this has to come after the huge finale in Abhorsen which saw the main characters destroying literally the most evil thing to have ever existed in this universe. And I’m amazed to say it lived up to those expectations.
The main character of Goldenhand is a strong independent woman who don’t need no man (this could be said about the whole series). Okay so this book is about her falling in love but thats okay because we have seen Lireal grow as a character over the last two books and she went from being a shy librarian to a kick ass necromancer who literally saved the universe. Even the whole falling in love thing is fine because it fits with her story. This love isn’t something that came out of nowhere, Nix was hinting at it in the last book. And it fits with her growing up and learning how to cope with her new role.
Even after 5 books the dead still feel scary. In these books the dead are zombie-like creatures that are repelled by water. They take lots of different shapes. Some are dead bodies whose spirits were brought back to life by a necromancer. Over the last 5 books there have been numerous times where our main character was being chased by some type of dead creature. But Nix still manages to make those moments scary and you actually fear for the characters life.
THE OLD KINGDOM SERIES
The stories all tie in together. Even Clariel which is set 500 years earlier ties into the storyline set during the current restoration. The short story from To Hold The Bridge sets up a place in this book. Even the world book story, The Creature In The Case ties into the series as a whole.
That makes me want to go back and read the full series every time a new book is released. There are always little nods in the other books to whats happening. I don’t know if Garth Nix puts those things in intentionally. Or if he goes back later and try to tie things into his new book. But either way it always makes rereading the series fun.
You should read Goldenhand if it sounds even slightly like something you might enjoy. The Old Kingdom books are technically YA because they are about young people learning to grow up. But you can enjoy them at any age. In fact I think that is the best thing about this series. I loved it as a kid and it still holds up when I reread them as an adult.