Goldenhand by Garth Nix
Published by HarperCollins in 2016
Series: Abhorsen #5
Version: Audible Audio
Narrators: Heather Wilds
Length: 11h 34m
Genres: Young Adult, Speculative Fiction
Verdict: Garth Nix doesn’t disappoint, but read the rest of the series first.
I’m a little skeptical about tagging this book as young adult, as I think that limits it to young adults and fans of young adult fiction. Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series always felt much more of pure fantasy for me to be sequestered to the young adult genre. Growing up, I was a fantasy fan and when I discovered Sabriel (book 1 in the Abhorsen series) I fell in love. I’ve reread the series a few times and when I found out about the new book, Goldenhand, I was thrilled! A chance to revisit some well-beloved characters. I’ve been amassing Audible credits, so I spent one on Goldenhand to keep me company in traffic and during work.
Goldenhand takes place a few months after the events in Abhorsen (book 3 in the series) and centres around the experiences of Lirael, the Abhorsen-In-Waiting, and a new character, Ferin of the Northern Nomad tribes. (Book 4 is a prequel of sorts which delves into the life of a character that plays a role in book 3 and this one). Goldenhand switches between the perspectives of Lirael and Ferin as Lirael tries to show her ability as Abhorsen-In-Waiting is sufficient to allow Sabriel and Touchstone to go away on a much needed holiday, and Ferin tries desperately to reach Lirael with a vital message to save her clan. This is where Garth Nix’s true strength, that of worldbuilding, shines through as we meet new clans, societies and people during Ferin’s plight to escape the fell necromancers that are hunting her. This expands the world of the Old Kingdom that we have seen up to this point. From the moment Ferin and Lirael meet the pace picks up as they race to save themselves and the Northern tribes from the machinations of Clorr of the mask.
We see how Lirael has matured under the tutelage of Sabriel, and feel her earnest desire to prove herself as she goes back to her ancestral home in the Clayr’s glacier. Her doubt and hesitation about the way she feels about Nicholas Sayre and the strength with which she misses the Disreputable Dog, her oldest friend, rounds out this wonderful character, showing Garth Nix’s skill at writing complex and strong female characters. Ferin is another example of this, trained from a young age to be the best of her clan, she is a fearless warrior woman on an important mission. The loss of limb or life does not daunt her as she will do anything to save her people. She also shows her vulnerability and sense of humour as we get to know her.
The audio version of this story was thoroughly enjoyable, as Heather Wilds does an incredible job of giving each character their own unique voice and identity. It became easy to get lost in the story, imagining the events as they happened. My only criticism is that I did feel that the last part of the book was rushed, I wanted more time with these characters and I felt the danger that they were in was muted because of this. Had the book been longer, the elements of danger and desperation could have been fleshed out more, however I enjoyed it enough to wander around the house wearing headphones to keep listening to it in the evenings.
I love this world, I have enjoyed the Old Kingdom series since I discovered it many years ago. While I recommend this book to anyone looking for something relatively light and enjoyable to read, I must insist on starting at the beginning. I fully expect that anyone discovering this series for the first time, regardless of age, will be hooked on Garth Nix and the incredible worlds he creates.
Happy reading xx