Take a moment to struggle over the pronunciation of this one. LEER-ay-ul? Lur-AYL? According to the fantastic audiobooks narrated by Tim Curry, it is pronounced LEER-ee-ul, which is pretty despite making no phonetic sense whatsoever.
I bought this book, knowing nothing about it, in a used book shop one day because I can be quite mad sometimes and do foolish things like that. Miraculously, though, it turned out well, resulting in this blog post. Once I bought it, it lived on my shelf for six months before I read it one dreadfully boring Easter Day.
Lirael is technically the middle book of Garth Nix's trilogy, preceded by Sabriel. I, however, don't care for Sabriel. I didn't even read it until long after I'd fallen in love with Lirael, which is terrific on its own, provided you follow it immediately with the sequel, Abhorsen (it isn't as good as Lirael but still excellent and named after the hangman from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, which I actually don't like). In fact, do yourself a favor and don't start Lirael until you have Abhorsen in your hand.
Young, shy Lirael has always been unlike her aunts and cousins. Although born of the Clayr, a great and noble people, she is an outcast with neither their trademark fair hair nor their astounding gift of telling the future. After a diverted suicide attempt, her family sends her to work in the Great Library of the Clayr, and there Lirael finds purpose again among the books and secrets. But when she makes one too many discoveries in the depths of the library, she inadvertently fulfills the Clayr's prophecy of a hero who will defeat the encroaching forces of death. Forced into adventure and accompanied only by her incorrigible companion, the Disreputable Dog, Lirael's journey will take her far from the only home she has ever known and cause her to question everything she once believed to be true, down to her own identity.
This book could have ridiculous characters, dry writing, and no plot, and I would still tell you to read it for the Great Library of the Clayr and the Abhorsens. In addition to being a vast depository of written knowledge, the Great Library is also a cold storage for strange creatures. Along with the Hogwarts library, it is tied for my favorite literary library. And the Abhorsens fight the restless dead with a series of seven bells, all with different names and abilities.
It is hard to describe why I love Lirael. No, actually; I lie. It's quite easy to say why I love it; it is more difficult to narrow this down to a paragraph. I love it because it is about a shy, insecure librarian who finds a grand purpose. I love it because it features strange, traditional mythology in interesting new ways, with a whole cast of worthy characters to support it. And I love it because when Lirael confronts her strange, terrible fears, she gives me the courage to face mine.
Reminder: Comment on any of the favorite book posts for a chance to win any book from the list! Entries are capped at one per book. You can earn an extra entry (per post) if you mention that Hannah from the Writer's Window sent you. As for an obscure, thought-provoking hint... tomorrow's book will also be about talking animals, lady-librarians, and the battle between life and death!