This is the concluding volume in the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix.
It picks up immediately where Lirael left off: Lirael and Sam (along with Mogget the talking cat and
the Disreputable Dog) are trapped in the Abhorsen's house by the necromancer Chlorr, who is lining the
river with undead and fog. They must escape Chlorr and find away to help Nicholas, who is being used by
Hedge to help unearth a fearsome artifact that will bring ruin to the land. (I wish there had been a little
bit better development of the motivation of Hedge - evil guy who desires complete destruction of all life
on the planet - couldn't Hedge be a bit more complex than that? I suppose this is only "young adult" fiction,
so perhaps pure evil will suffice.)
One nice thing about this book is the development of Lirael and Sameth as practioners
of magic. By the end of this volume they are masters of Charter Magic and necromancy. (Which, come to think of
it, is pretty unlikely considering that events chronicled in Abhorsen only span a few days.) Nix does a nice
job of depicting our heroes facing the bad guys despite their fears.
Nix describes some pretty gruesome villans. Hedge and Chlorr use undead as troops and
workers, At one point Lirael encounters a recently dead warrior, Mareyn, that Hedge has allowed to escape from
ambush because she is grievously wounded. When Mareyn dies, Hedge will use his necromatic skills to resurrect her
and put her to work on the big evil project that he and the Nick are unearthing. Lirael uses her powers as
Abhorsen to talk to Mareyn, who begs that her body be destroyed so that Hedge can not retrieve it for his own
foul purposes. This is a good scene, even though it is a brief one, because throughout this series the undead are just faceless zombies used
to pursue our heroes. Mareyn puts some humanity on the tragedy of all this death and destruction caused by Hedge
and the dark master he serves.
Sameth and Lirael travel underground, and up over a towering flight of stairs. They fight
undead, cross through marshes and even journey into death. Nix gives us a nice tour of the nine gates of death. And
of course there is an epic battle at the end when the few remaining forces of good must face the unleashed powers
of evil. This is a fast read and I enjoyed. I will probably check out other books by Nix to see if they are
equally good, or if Abhorsen is his masterpiece.