The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
Like its predecessor, Sabriel, Lirael is a remarkable feat of imaginative storytelling. Utterly gripping, it is, in Philip Pullman's words, 'fantasy that reads like realism'.
It's a continuation of the story that began with Sabriel, though the point of view has moved to that of a teenage girl growing up among the Clayr, an almost exclusively female society all of whom share an ability to forsee future events - all except Lirael, that is. She waits and waits for the gift of Sight, the only thing that really matters to anyone in the community, to come to her, but her wait is in vain.
Completely alienated from her fellows, Sabriel grows up silent and secretive only to learn at the age of nineteen that an entirely different destiny awaits her and that the fate of the kingdom will rest upon her success or failure in rising to the challenge it throws up.
Less self-contained than Sabriel, Lirael ends with the plot entirely unresolved; indeed things have really only just got started and the reader has to read the third book in the trilogy before everything become clear.
Nevertheless, it's a tremendously satisfying read in that the sense of urgency builds continually, driving the reader along compulsively, while at the same time the wealth of detail with which the fantasy world is conceived, and the re-imagining of conventional fantasy tropes, is so convincing that a sense of total immersion is created.