This was a very interesting follow up to Sabriel. I read it relatively quickly, and really enjoyed it.
Lirael, the character, doesn't know who she is, or why she is different from the other girls of the Clayr, which is a group of people who have the ability to see into the future, or possible futures. She just knows that she IS different. She soon joins up with The Disreputable Dog, fights fun creatures who are trying to eat her, and goes exploring... And thus we begin tagging along on her journey to find herself.
Fun stuff... We do get to see more of the Old Kingdom, we learn more about the Charter and Free Magic (and I was right in that Free Magic came first!) and we get to meet Sabriel's kids.
Speaking of which, that brings me to Sam, or properly, Prince Sameth of the Old Kingdom. When first we meet, he is winning a cricket match, and then shortly afterward, we see him sort of almost hold his own against a necromancer. Awesome. Exactly what I would expect from the Abhorsen's kid, even if untrained. But unfortunately, Sam turns into a right wimp immediately afterward. Scared of his own shadow, scared of the prospect of one day becoming the Abhorsen, scared of everything!
I guess that's understandable... he's 17 barely, has been sheltered and protected his entire life, and barely taught anything of what being the Abhorsen actually means. Of course he'll be ill-prepared for that kind of life.
That goes to show the difference that parenting can make. Sabriel's dad shipped her off to school to protect her, but he made sure that she was at least marginally prepared should danger come calling. Sabriel should have learned from her father and done the same for her son.
Anyway... the story flips back and forth between Lirael and Sam, showing each of their separate adventures until they meet up with each other by chance... and of course this is where things get interesting. Right at the end. Figures.
There was a good amount of politics in this book, and I think this brought a bit of realism to the story. We can identify with unwanted war-time refugees. We can identify with corrupt politicians willing to sell people across the Wall for a buck. We can identify with people being herded off to anywhere but here, because we see it every day.
I am anxious to see where the story goes from here. Must. Read. Abhorsen.