'This is a masterful short story collection including a rarely seen Old Kingdom novella. Garth Nix proves he is a master of the short story with this intriguing collection of tales. Leading with the novella to hold the bridge, fans of Garth Nix will be more than satisfied with the richly detailed and thrilling tale of Charter Magic and a deathly duel. Fans new and old will delight in the subsequent tales, including fantasy and science fiction, with witches, vampires, strange worlds and stranger creatures making their appearance.' (Publication summary)
Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case is a short story entry in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. Set six months after the events in the novel Abhorsen, it tells of Nicholas's encounter with a Free magic creature in Ancelstierre and his return to the Old Kingdom. The story begins with Nicholas recuperating from the injuries he received at the hands of the Destroyer. After several idle months in Ancelstierre, he is desperate to return to the Old Kingdom, so when the opportunity arrives to actually do something, he accepts immediately. As a favour to his Uncle Edward, the Chief Minister of Ancelstierre, he travels to spend the weekend in a remote country house, the home of a family which would make a good political alliance. That seems easy enough, till he discovers that the house holds many secrets, and the worst of them is a relic of the Old Kingdom, too far from the Wall for any spark of its magical life to reignite. Unless someone finds a way to unleash its power...'
'Clariel is the daughter of the one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most importantly, to the King. When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, there are rumors that her mother is next in line for the throne. However, Clariel wants no part of it—a natural hunter, all she ever thinks about is escaping the city’s confining walls and journeying back to the quiet, green world of the Great Forest.
'But many forces conspire against Clariel’s dream. A dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she discovers hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?' (Publication summary)
'Lirael knows the blood that runs in her veins and her true powers. She also knows that Chlorr of the Mask has been conspiring with the clans of the steppe, from a message she’s received from her long-dead mother, Arielle.
'But no one else believes that nomads can be a real threat. Accompanied by Nicholas Sayre and a young mountain nomad, Lirael goes on a dangerous journey across the steppe and into the mountains to see for herself. There Lirael discovers the future Arielle saw long ago that is now coming to pass: Chlorr has gathered the clans to attack the unsuspecting Old Kingdom.
'The only way Lirael and her companions can stop the attack is to find Chlorr’s original, better human self—Clariel. Only, Clariel has been asleep for centuries beyond the Great Rift. Lirael must reach her—and help her go beyond the Ninth Gate to die the final Death—before it is too late.' (Publication summary)
'As soon as fantasy writers make factual statements about the nature of their fictional worlds, limits come into play. If this is a world ruled by one omnipotent deity, it is going to be tricky to introduce the Greek gods later on; if magic works by a certain set of rules, it cannot work by conflicting rules without the need for justification; if ghosts exist, some explanation will be required when the narrator asserts that no-one comes back from the dead. This paper explores and evaluates ways in which three contemporary fantasy writers set up and dissolve such limits with regard to the after life. Each of these writers has produced an extended, multi-volume fantasy opus amply establishing rules and limits for its fictional world or worlds: Ursula Le Guin in her six-volume Earthsea series, Philip Pullman in his trilogy, His Dark Materials, and Garth Nix in his Old Kingdom series of novels (four volumes to date). Each of these writers sets up what I shall term a ‘first death’ and a ‘second death’; the second death is presented in their fictions as a final stage of being while the first death, although it may initially seem permanent, turns out to be transitional. Each of these fictions ultimately dissolves the limits that seem to have been set up in the first death, but their strategies of release are arguably not always as liberatory as claimed.' (Introduction)