Abhorsen series prequel
by Garth Nix
* * * Stars (Pretty good)

Clariel longs for her former home when her family moves to the city to further her mother’s ambitions in the Goldsmithing Guild.  Clariel’s dream is to become a Boarderer and live in the Great Forest, but everyone else seems to have other plans for her – like setting her up as a puppet Queen.  When she encounters a Free Magic creature, Clariel is tempted by the power it offers her.  Later, when her parents are murdered, Clariel gives into that temptation and uses the power of two such creatures in an attempt to avenge the deaths of her family members and set things right.  Even with her berserker rage, the question remains – will she be able to control these self-serving entities long enough to achieve her own ends?

Clariel’s story takes place before the events of the other books in the Abhorsen series.  Although she’s a strong and capable protagonist, she’s also whiny, naïve, and obsessed with her plans to run away and live in the forest (that’s all she talks about).  Still, she’s likable enough and has a lot of potential, which is hampered by the fact that she’s already been written into Ancelstierre’s history as this scarred figure who did terrible things and wreaked havoc on an imperiled kingdom.  She never had a chance, and readers will ache for her losses.  Those who are familiar with her story from the other books will know exactly where this is headed.  A rather dark exposition of this Ancelstierran legend.