Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Odo and Eleanor did not set out to find their destiny. At best, they were hoping for eels.
‘I’ve never seen the river so low before,’ said Odo as he climbed down the banks and began to trudge through the thick, reddish mud. He’d walked along and waded in the same stretch of the Silverrun for what felt like every single day of his life. Like his days, the river was always much the same. But now, there was a lot more mud and a lot less river.

While searching for eels, Odo unearths a sword in the mud beside the river. He can’t believe that he is the sword’s ‘true master’. Neither can Eleanor. It’s HER dream to be a knight, not Odo’s. But the sword is adamant – Odo is now Sir Odo, and before long, the trio are off on a quest. This makes the sword, called Biter, and Eleanor very happy. Odo’s still not convinced, but gives in to the entreaties of the other two. And a big quest it is too, destined to take them to many places and into many dangerous adventures.

Have Sword, Will Travel’ is Book 1 in a new series from Garth Nix and Sean Williams. It follows the adventures of two young friends who learn a lot about themselves as they travel far from their homes. Biter, the sword, has a very traditional notion of what it means to be a knight, and is keen to impose these notions on every situation they encounter. But, although Odo and Eleanor are young, they are very good at working together and solving problems. There are additional mysteries throughout that will surely surface in subsequent titles. Ideal for introducing young, competent readers to fantasy, ‘Have Sword, Will Travel’ is also jam-packed with humour. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Have Sword, Will Travel, Garth Nix & Sean Williams
Allen & Unwin 2017 ISBN: 9781742374024

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Goldenhand, by Garth Nix

‘I’m a messenger!’ bawled the nomad. She was even younger than the young guard, perhaps having seen only sixteen or seventeen of the harsh winters of her homeland. Her lustrous skin was acorn brown, her hair black, worn in a plaited queue that was wound several times around her head like a crown, and her dark eyes appealing. ‘I claim the message right!’

With the Abhorsen, Sabriel, and her husband the King on holidays, the Abhorsen-in-waiting Lirael is responsible for protecting the Old Kingdom from the Dead and any Free Magic creatures. The last six months have been quiet, but two messages are coming her way. One, carried by a stranger from beyond the walls, is in danger of not being delivered because its carrier, a girl named Ferin, is being pursued by sorcerers determined to stop her. The other message, carried by a messenger hawk, is more successful in getting through. It’s from Nicholas Sayre, who Sabriel feared she might never see again. When she responds to the message she finds him unconscious, near to death. To help him heal, and to learn more about the taint of Free Magic he carries, she must take him to her childhood home with the Clayr. With Nicholas safe she must turn her attention to the other message – one which predicts great danger for the Old Kingdom.

Fans of the Old Kingdom series will be delighted with this latest installment, featuring favourite characters including Lirael, Sabriel, Nicholas and Sam, alongside new ones. Nix seemingly weaves his stories with the magic that is found in his world. The Old Kingdom is a richly woven setting, and the people and beings that populate it are intriguing. This is deeply satisfying fantasy at its very best.

With a bonus Old Kingdom story, Goldenhand is divine.

Goldenhand, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781741758634


Also in the Series:


Clariel (Prequel)

Newt's Emerald, by Garth Nix

9781760112653.jpg‘One – two – three – heave!’ cried the admiral, and the table was slid back in place. He gazed down on its polished surface happily, observed there wasn’t a single irreperable scratch, and then his smile faded like a powder disolving in a glass. A red flush spread up his neck and across his face, and he swayed on his feet as he treid to speak.
‘The Emerald! Where is the – ‘
This was all he got out before he pitched headfirst onto the table, his great bulk making it resound like an enormous drum.

It is Lady Truthful Newington’s eighteenth birthday and, at a small family gathering, her father is keen to show off the Newington Emerald which will one day be hers. The night goes well until a sudden storm hits the house and, in the chaos that follows, the emerald disappears. As her father lies ill, Truthful decides she must travel to London and attempt to recover the heirloom.

Soon, Truthful is balancing twin roles – that of herself, and that of her alter-ego, a young Frenchman. Disgused as a man she can take risks and gain entry to places she never could as a young man. But there are many dangers, not the least of which is discovery.Then there is the risk of falling in love. Truthful must stay safe and focussed if she is to find the Emerald and save her father’s life.

Newt’s Emerald is a treat. In the style of a Regency Romance, the fantasy blends mystery, romance and intrigue, with the addition of magic and sorcery for an absorbing, satisfying whole.

Fans of Nix’s work will find this a little different – but still with the quality we’ve come to expect. Lovers of regency romances such as those of Georgette Heyer will also enjoy Newt’s Emerald.

A ripping read.

Newt’s Emerald, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760112653

Clariel, by Garth Nix

His fingers arched and suddenly shards of sharp metal spat straight at her, shards made not of true metal but of Charter marks, conjured so swiftly that he must have already had most of the spell put together and hidden on his person, awaiting only a single mark to activate it.
Clariel reacted instantly, ducking under her shards, but even so she felt the heat of their passage above her head.
‘What are you doing?’ squeaked Clariel…
‘Use the Charter,’ bellowed Kagrin, his eyes intent on her own. ‘Defend yourself!’

Clariel doesn’t want to be in the city of Belisaere. All her life she has lived close to the forest, and that is where she feels called to be. But her parents have other plans for her – and so, it seems, do many others. Clariel’s mother has been invited to join the High Guild of Goldsmiths, the main reason for moving to Belisaere. Clariel is a granddaughter to the Abhorsen – though they’ve never met because of an estrangement – and is also related to the King. Her parents want her to marry the Guildmaster’s son; the Guildmaster, too, wants this – because he can then overthrow the King and install her as Queen. Her few allies also find her bloodlines useful, meaning even they can not be completely trusted. All Clariel wants is to escape the city and return to the forest – but that is going to be nearly impossible.

Clariel marks a much awaited return to the Old Kingdom for lovers of the series. Set 600 years before Sabriel, this prequel is set in a world which will be familiar to fans, and which will intrigue new readers. Clariel is a strong female lead, with an interesting mix of skills and problems, most notably her ability to connect to free magic and the fact that she is a berserk, prone to deep rages which give her great strength, but are difficult to harness.

With extras including maps of the Old Kingdom and of Belisaere, a sample of Sabriel and an essay on Free Magic, from the Library of Clayr, fans will be satisfied after their long wait – and many new fans will be hooked.


Clariel, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781741758627

Available from good bookstores or online. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Spirit Animals: Blood Ties, by Garth Nix & Sean Williams

This time Meilin didn’t run, She just didn’t have the energy anymore. But she walked fast, ignoring her hunger pains and rasping throat, the heat and the humidity.
“I will find a way out,: she whispered. “I will get to Zhong. I will fight the Devourer and our enemies.
But against that, there was a small voice in her head that whispered a hopeless, constantly repeating thought.
I’m going to die. I’m lost and I’m going to die.

Meilin is lost in a bamboo maze, regretting leaving the rest of the group, and wondering if she’ll ever see them again. The other young Greencloaks are searching for the next talisman, that of Dinesh, the great elephant. But there are enemies everywhere. The Conquerors want to destroy the balance between humans, animals and the spirit world, and Conor, Abeke, Rollan and Meilin will need to work together if they have any chance.

Blood Ties is the third title in the Spirit Animals series following four young heroes as they try to save Erdas. It stands on its own reasonably well, with enough back story filled in to make sense both of what happens and what has gone before, but is most suitable for readers who have read the first two.

Plenty of action, beasts both mystical and real, and a strong cast of characters make this likely to appeal to young fantasy and action lovers.


Blood Ties, by Garth Nix & Sean Williams
Scholastic, 2014
ISBN 9781743620007

Available from good bookstores and online.

Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix

Shade’s secret home was a submarine. Soon after the Change it had come away from its mooring and drifted between two old, long, wooden finger wharves…Shade’s children came and went via a torpedo tube in the bow, safely out of sight under the wharf. They could then wade between the piles up to a storm-water tunnel that led into the city’s network of drains.

Fifteen years after a dramatic ‘Change’ the world is populated only by evil creatures and children under the age of fourteen. All the adults have disappeared, vanishing without trace on the morning of the Change, and the children have been herded into dormitories where they are raised until the age of fourteen, when they are taken for body parts. Overlords rule various horrible beasts, crafted from these body parts, which fight in the battles over which the overlords preside. Human beings have no place in the world outside the dormitories.

But living hidden in the city are the few children who have managed to avoid or escape capture. They are Shade’s children, and it is Shade, a computer memory of a man, who looks after them until such time as the change can be reversed. But could Shade be an enemy too?

Shade’s Children is a dark fantasy, set in an unimaginably desperate future where creatures from a parallel world have taken over and where teenagers are the only ones able to resist their dark forces. The central characters are four such teens, two boys and two girls, each with their own special gift, and each coping with the daily horrors of their lives in different ways, yet all also very strong in their desire for a better world.

This is a book which is disturbingly compelling. The young characters are faced with death and violence on a daily basis and must learn to accept it without being so immune that they become inhuman. Young readers must also look past the violence to the positive portrayal of strength and selflessness which sees the young characters working not just for their own survival, but for the restoration of the human race.

An absorbing read.

Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
First Published in 1997, this new edition Allen & Unwin, 2012

Trouble Twisters: The Monster, by Garth Nix & Sean WIlliams

Through the predawn silence, something moved in the middle of River Road – something huge and dark and struggling. The length of a bus, but not as high, it propelled itself, awkwardly and with great effort, sideways up the slight slope towards Main Street.

As it grew near the next streetlight, it raised one strange, dark eye – and the light went out. The thing opened its great maw and let out a soft, almost yawning hiss of satisfaction, then dragged itself on, leaving a trail of slime and a line of fizzled-out streetlights behind it.

Everyone in Portland seems to know someone who knows someone who has seen the Monster of Portland – but it seems no one has actually seen it for themselves! It could be scaly, have a shell, or even be hairy like a gorilla, depending who you believe. The twins, Jack and Jaide, are’t sure who to believe, but they are sure something strange is going on in Portland. Every since they defeated The Evil, they haven’t felt quite safe. Now the’re sure that it’s still out there, waiting to strike again. Gradnma X seems to know more than she’s willing to reveal and the cats, their Companions, are also caught up in strange goings on. If only they could bring their newly discovered powers under control and overcome The Evil once and for all.

The Monster is the second in the Trouble Twisters series, a collaboration between Garth Nix and Sean Williams which will appeal to upper primary aged readers. The twins are Trouble Twisters, destined to be Wardens when they finish growing and fine-tuning their magical gifts. Their strange grandmother oversees their training, whilst their father, also a Warden, travels and their mother, who is a regular human, works away.

Continuing from the first book, but largely self contained, the book also sees the introduction of a new character, the twins’ friend, Tara, and some further revelations about their mysterious role, with hints of more to come in future installments.

The Monster (Troubletwisters)

The Monster, by Garth Nix & Sean Williams
Allen & Uniwn, 2012
ISBN 9781742373997

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix

A fabulous new space-opera offering from one of Australia’s finest spec-fic creators. Set in a far-distant universe almost unrecognisable from the present, where technology and human consciousness have both evolved to a level where social structure, communication and every day life bear little resemblance to the present day

I have died three times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old Earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time.
This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between.
My name is Khemri.

Being a Prince should offer a life of privilege and ease, or so Prince Khemri thinks on the day of his investiture. But when you are only one priest out of millions, all hoping to one day be Emperor, then life can get pretty complicated. Khemri is no sooner a Prince than he is forced to use all of his skills and those of his Master Assassin Haddad, just to stay alive. In his subsequent training Kemri makes more enemies than friends, and has more than enough adventures for one life time – which is partly why he dies three times, each time being reborn.

While being an immortal Prince has its attractions, Khemri also learns what it means to be human – and has some tough choices to make.

A Confusion of Princes is a fabulous new space-opera offering from one of Australia’s finest spec-fic creators. Set in a far-distant universe almost unrecognisable from the present, where technology and human consciousness have both evolved to a level where  social structure, communication and every day life bear little resemblance to the present day, the story features one young prince’s adventures as he struggles to adapt to a life very different from that he envisaged for himself. Along the way, it explores themes of humanity, valour and ambition, with unexpected elements of romance and family.

The world Nix creates is complex and, at times, a little confusing, but whilst he doesn’t pause to explain, readers gradually build an understanding of how things work. Khemri is an intriguing first person narrator who seems at times arrogant and at others likeable, and sometimes foreshadows, allowing the reader to guess at what might be yet to come. There is action aplenty, with Khemri managing to land himself – or just to be landed, against his will – in crisis after crisis.

Suitable for young adult readers, particularly those with a thirst for action.

A Confusion of Princes

A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781741758610

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Trouble Twisters, by Garth Nix & Sean Williams

A mysterious card from a long-lost Grandmother signals the start of strange events in Jaide and Jack’s lives. Soon after, their father returns from one of his many trips away, and as he unpacks voices start to call to the twins, before their house strangely explodes. When they are sent to stay with their Grandmother in a town far from home, they are pretty unimpressed…

‘It does have our names on it,’ Jaide pointed out. She flipped open the card.
Inside were a few lines written in the same old-person handwriting.
My dear troubletwisters,
The cats have been very restless,
so I expect I will see you soon.
With love,
Grandma X.

A mysterious card from a long-lost Grandmother signals the start of strange events in Jaide and Jack’s lives. Soon after, their father returns from one of his many trips away, and as he unpacks voices start to call to the twins, before their house strangely explodes. When they are sent to stay with their Grandmother in a town far from home, they are pretty unimpressed. Their Grandmother is far from normal, and the town has more than its fair share of odd happenings – talking cats, swarming insects, and tornadoes that appear inside. The twins, it seems, are troublewisters, and have to learn quickly just what that means.

Troubletwisters is the first exciting book in a new fantasy series for tweens. There are lots of scary bits – with the twins having to fight to save their grandmother, their town and maybe the whole world as they battle The Evil, a force which wants to take them over – but there is also humour, particularly in the form of a pair of talking cats, and character development. Jack and Jaide are twins each with their own strengths and quirks, and Grandma X is a curious character who will intrigue readers.

Troubletwisters is an exciting, satisfying start to a series which readers will love.

Troubletwisters (Troubletwisters)

Troubletwisters , by Garth Nix & Sean Williams
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN 9781742373980

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

The Old Kingdom Chronicles, by Garth Nix

Born in the Old Kingdom, Sabriel has not been within its walls for many years. She has lived in the safety of her school, away from the power of free magic. But something has happened – her father, Abhorsen, has vanished and she is the only one who can find him.

Sabriel is the first in the Old Kingdom trilogy, rereleased together in one volume for the first time. The first instalment, published in 1995 was the winner of an Aurelis Award and was followed by Lirael (2001) and Abhorsen (2003). All three stories have been widely acclaimed and much loved by fantasy readers worldwide.

This weighty offering is a boon for collectors, especially those who perhaps enjoyed the individual titles but don’t have them in their home libraries. It is also a wonderful opportunity for new readers to discover this outstanding trilogy.

Great stuff.

The Old Kingdom Chronicles: Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, by Garth Nix
Alllen & Unwin, 2009