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Go across the "Wall",
This review is from: Across The Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories (Hardcover)
Garth Nix changed the face of dark fantasy with his tales of Sabriel, Lirael and the gruesome enemies they defeated. Now he provides not only a novella in the world of the Abhorsen Trilogy, but several other short stories that he has penned over the years -- dark, chilling, beautiful and amusing.
After the events of "Abhorsen," Nicholas Sayre has decided that he wants to go to the Old Kingdom, to be near Sabriel and Lirael. Unfortunately, he gets sidetracked at a secret government base. Then a maddened official steals his blood to awaken a hideous Free Magic creature, which has lain dormant inside a clear case. Now the creature is on a rampage, seeking more blood to increase its power -- and Nicholas has no way to stop it.
That novella, called "The Creature In the Case," is the main draw for this collection of short stories. But it's also not the only one -- Nix includes several other stories: A pair of Arthurian stories, one about Nimue and the other about the Lady of the Lake; a man comes to the island of Lisden as its new owner... not knowing that he's been duped; and a young boy is enlisted by his grandfather to help save a forest from his greedy dad. Nix also shows off his more playful side in "Down to the Scud Corner," a hilarious spoof of those "choose your own adventure" books.
There are also darker stories in here as well. One story focuses on sex and death, as a young man tries to save the local girls from a lover who can call down lightning. And "Charlie Rabbit" is a surprisingly harrowing story about two boys hiding in a flooded building during a war. And the fairy-tale adaptation "Hansel's Eyes," while not unusually dark, has a rather macabre ending.
In all these stories, Garth Nix shows all his writing talents -- he's funny, he's chilling, and he's good at adventure stories and likable characters. It's wonderful to check out his earlier stories, and see how he has matured as a writer. But the main novella is perhaps the best of all, giving the underrated Nicholas a chance to shine. It also hints at possible future adventures for Sabriel, Lirael and their friends.
The stories are not completely even, since Nix wrote them at different times in his life -- apparently some of his earliest work, including a story written when he was six, were not deemed worthy. But apparently he's had his rich, detailed writing style for a long time now, best evidenced by the internal monologue of the Lady of the Lake. While a few like "Lightning Bringer" feel rather underfleshed, most of his short stories feel satisfyingly complete on their own.
"Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories" adds to Garth Nix's impressive list of dark fantasy. This collection is well-worth reading, for some chilling, vivid storytelling.