Goldenhand by Garth Nix
Let’s get this out of the way: this is the book where Garth Nix stops teasing us with the Nick/Lireal relationship. That alone should be why you read this. If you’re not an Old Kingdom fan coming into this book, I can’t say it will convert you. I also don’t think this can be read without reading the original trilogy because there are so many sweet, sweet moments for the fans in this book. I am, if you cannot tell, a fan. 🙂
Now that that is out of the way, there were a lot of things I liked about this story. I’m an Old Kingdom addict and a ridiculous fan of Garth Nix in general. Unlike Clariel, which struggled with repeat settings at the end, Goldenhand goes into new and interesting places in the kingdom while delving into new plots. I would strongly recommend reading The Creature in the Case before Goldenhand. I wasn’t sure if it would be necessary, but it’s a short novella and definitely will help you care more about the beginning of the book when Lireal has to go rescue Nick (again, poor boy).
While the plot converges at the Clayr’s glacier, it takes its freaking time getting there. This isn’t terrible because it’s a mostly enjoyable time getting to know some characters better. I could’ve read an entire book with Nick and Lireal awkwardly flirting and exploring the library ala in Lireal, and there are these little touches (like Nick being brought in as a curio) that weave this plot line together magnificently. Seriously, it’s a good story when ‘the boring parts’ are the best parts because everything just works and it is literally magical, and there’s the same deep worldbuilding in Goldenhand that I’ve come to know and love from this series. Seriously, after destroying the world (almost), what more Charter mysteries could be left? Turns out there are loads, and it’s great to delve into them. Nick as the living character stone is the biggest plot reveal, but there are some interesting magical plots done with Free Magic and the nomadic clans, which haven’t been featured before in a main book.
Okay, let’s talk about the weakness in this story. If you like this character, you’re going to like the book more, but Ferin had too much page time for me. Her chapters could’ve been shorter, and while I appreciated her more at first, I would’ve preferred more Lireal in the library versus more Ferin running up a rock slope for 7 chapters. As someone who likes exciting heroines, I was surprised how ‘meh’ I was on Ferin. I get it–there are Stakes and Battles and Ferin’s character is Important and Must Be Established, but she was too much of a good thing for me. Her character got interesting again during the big battle scene at the castle/river/bridge, and her role with Mogget (Best Guest Cameo) fit into the plot and was well-done, but I could’ve just used less of her.
There’s a lot of ‘I promise, everyone’s happy now!’ in Goldenhand. Sabriel, series kick-off heroine and still character MVP of the series, states that Lireal deserves to be happy after everything that has happened to her, and she’s freaking right. Goldenhand is more about the Abhorshen-in-Waiting finding her own personal happiness than any Big Bad slaying or world-ending catastrophe. For fans of Sabriel, which ends well but fairly perfunctorily after Sabriel (spoiler like 15 years late?) doesn’t die, Lireal is sweet, sweet wish fulfillment. We get to see Lireal pick up her duties as Abhorshen and Clayr (kind of), and she’s able to find love in her adopted family and her personal life despite her lonely childhood and job that literally almost killed her. We also finally see the Royal Family getting to be more of a cohesive family unit, which bathed me in moments of heartwarming (they all talk about each other! Elemere is a character! Sabriel comments on Lireal’s love life! awake parent talk about how Sam bit off more than he can handle with Ferin!) that encapsulated so much of what I love about this series.
You know what they say: come for killing the Dead and stay for the heart-melting relationships.
Rating: 5 stars despite Ferin. If this hadn’t been a favorite series, she would’ve annoyed me a lot more.