Let me just start by saying that the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix has been one of my favourite book series since I started reading it as a teenager. I’ve re-read the books multiple times since they were released and I never get tired of reading them. I’ve also force fed them to a couple of people who also ended up loving them as much as I do! My love for these books is strange, actually, and people are always surprised I love them given my total aversion to zombies in all forms of pop culture. I don’t know what it is about these books. I love them. I love the characters. I love the world. And i love the lore surrounding the story.
Reading the fifth book in the series made me want to start from the beginning again and read all the books over again for the zillionth time.
This book takes place a few months after the third book in the series, Abhorsen, where Lirael, Sabriel, Touchstone, Sam, and everyone battled against Orannis to save not only the Old Kingdom, but Ancelstierre as well. Lirael is struggling to recover not only from losing her hand during the battle but also losing her best friend the Disreputable Dog. she also struggling to fit into her new life as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting and rushes off to various dangerous tasks in an attempt to not feel. One such dangerous task is to go across the wall and deal with a free magic creature causing trouble. She comes across Nicholas Sayre while she’s there and decides he needs to see the Clayr due to his condition (being half Charter Magic and half Free Magic creature as a result of being possessed by Orannis).
While this is all happening we are introduced to a new character, Ferin. Ferin is a runaway offering to the Witch With No Face (aka, Chlorr of the Mask) and she makes her way to the Clayr’s Glacier to give Lirael a message from her late mother. The message reveals that there is another dangerous threat to the Old Kingdom, and Lirael and Nicholas need to be the one to stop it.
This book nicely wrapped up the Chlorr of the Mask plot that started in the first book (I think… been so long since I read them that I’m not sure when Chlorr was introduced), that was left unfinished in the third book. The fourth book in the series, Clariel, was a prequel that gave us some of Chlorr’s history, but honestly, I wasn’t as big a fan of this one as I was of the other books so I don’t remember much. Need to re-read!
I also really liked that the Old Kingdom was expanded upon in this book! We learn so much more about the northern part of the Old Kingdom and the people who live there. Ferin’s people live in the mountain clans of the north and we learn a lot about her culture and the history of the Witch With No Face. Learning more about the Old Kingdom made me curious about the rest of the world the story takes place in. Are there other countries? Other continents? Are they magical like the Old Kingdom, or are they void of magic like Ancelstierre? I want to know more!
A few things I found annoying about the book was that it referenced events that happen in the short stories Nix wrote about the Old Kingdom (Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case, and To Hold the Bridge). Neither of which I have read.
I also wasn’t a huge fan of the relationship between Nicholas and Lirael. It felt too sudden to be natural. Sure, sometimes people fall in love suddenly like that, but considering the only contact Lirael and Nicholas had was during the battle with Orannis I find it hard to believe they fell in love enough to think about each other so much before reuniting. Perhaps they met up in the short stories, and that furthered their relationship, but I’m not too sure.
The last thing I felt was strange about the book was that the Disreputable Dog could have come back at any time, yet she chose not to despite Lirael’s obvious pain at losing her friend. I know the Dog wanted Lirael to learn to live with humans and create bonds with them, but an occasional visit now and then couldn’t have hurt, right?
Well, there you go. That’s my review of Goldenhand by Garth Nix. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads because despite the few things I disliked about this book I absolutely loved and and want more Old Kingdom books! Mr. Nix, if you read this, please don’t ever abandon the Old Kingdom and the people in it! I love them all so much!