Friday, 7 August 2009


Rounding off the books in books theme, I couldn't resist mentioning the wonderfully strange library in Garth Nix's novel Lirael. This book belongs to the Abhorsen trilogy, an intelligent and brilliantly realised fantasy series that, while packaged for young adults, should appeal to any discriminating book lover. One of the series' particular strengths, and where many lesser books of this type fall short, is in the way it delineates the relationship and differences between 'our' world and the magical realm. The ways in which the latter is constructed and operates are particularly well thought through. I would rank this writing alongside the Earthsea books for its handling of fantasy material and seriousness of purpose and subject matter.

The library in question, being a repository of arcane and magical material, is not a place into which to tread lightly, in that one may encounter within its walls not only powerful and dangerous books but also deadly creatures who are 'shelved' along with the more conventional items, and releasing whom may prove fatal. Much witty play is made of how dangerous it is to accept the sacred role of a librarian in this library. I wonder if Mr. Nix (not a nom-de-plume, apparently) is reacting here against the (profoundly unjust) stereotyping of the species as timid and colourless, and if so whether this is borne out of having been a librarian himself.

For anyone who hasn't discovered this series, I suggest you weave the appropraite spell and manifest immediately in your local bookshop to rectify this grave omission.