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Fantasy Friday Review – Terciel & Elinor

Terciel & Elinor by Garth Nix
Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

Terciel & Elinor by Garth Nix is the sixth book in the Old Kingdom series, although it’s the second in the timeline. Back in 1995, Nix wrote YA fantasy SABRIEL, the story of a girl who must take up the necromantic duties of her vanished father, and fight evil in Death. It’s a great book, lovely world-building and solid characters, and it stands alone quite well. You really ought to read it before this prequel as it lays the foundation to understand this world. Plus you’ll recognize all sorts of characters.  TERCIEL & ELINOR takes place perhaps 30 years before SABRIEL.   But here’s the thing – if you read SABRIEL, you already know a little about Terciel and Elinor, and it isn’t a they-lived-happily-ever-after ending. Going into this story means you start out already a little sad.  Not to mention you know what’s going to happen to the nasty monster.

But this isn’t the story of the ending, it’s the beginning, and Nix once again immerses us into the magic of the Old Kingdom.

As a young orphan, Terciel is suddenly thrust into the role of Abhorsen-in-Waiting.  His great-aunt is the Abhorsen, the necromancer whose duties are to keep the Dead from coming back into Life, and Terciel is now the nearest with the required bloodlines.  Great-aunt Tizanael isn’t the most sympathetic person, being solely focused on her duties and with only the bare minimum of nurturing skills.  Terciel takes up his duties, but not without misgivings for what his life may be.

Over the Wall, in Ancelstierre, Elinor thinks she’s just a girl with an eccentric mother. She’s not allowed to go to school, so she’s taught at home by her nanny. In her free time, she’s happy to learn skills and tricks from a retired performer who’s now their gardener. But when her mother falls into a seeming coma, really strange things begin to happen. Saved by the Abhorsen but a homeless orphan, Elinor learns she is a descendant of the Clayr, and decides her future lies across the Wall. It’s not going to be easy.

Even if you haven’t read SABRIEL, Nix makes falling into this world almost effortless.  Great imagery of the terrain, how the Charter Marks look and feel, and the iciness of Death. There are lots of great action sequences and Nix laid out the groundwork so we can believe in Elinor’s talents.  Some of the dialogue is a little clunky, maybe. i really enjoyed the glimpses of Mogget aka Moregrim.
I have to say that while you might think this is a love story, it really isn’t. Although we know the two get together, that side of it is almost non-existent (until, I imagine, Nix remembered there’s a baby in their future and he has to get there somehow). I’m not sure if Nix just isn’t good at writing romance or if he felt the book didn’t need all that mushy stuff. But it is two young people learning their capabilities and finding courage, deciding how they want to live despite knowing there will be danger.

On the whole, this is a very welcome addition to The Old Kingdom. SABRIEL is one of my favorite “comfort reads”, and it’s lovely to see all the foreshadowing of that story.




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