No Shame YA: The Old Kingdom Trilogy


In this series, our editor Ashley talks about some of her favorite YA titles and why you should absolutely, shamelessly check them out. In her first installment, she sings the virtues of necromancers and awesome female protagonists in Garth Nix's beloved Old Kingdom trilogy.

When Sabriel, the first book of Garth Nix's Old Kingdom trilogy, dropped to critical acclaim 20 years ago, I had no idea because I was only a little kid and there was no Goodreads (and because we didn’t even have a computer). Hence, I didn't get the memo about these books until recently, when I came across their gorgeous covers taunting me from Scribd’s YA page. I don't buy the belief that adults shouldn't be reading books written for children (books for children are written by adults, so why can't adults read them?) and soon I was reading Sabriel and its sequels on my commute.


All I knew before starting was that theses books featured both necromancers and awesome female protagonists, which turns out to be just as amazing a combination as it sounds. Here’s the backstory: For the past 200 years, the dead have slowly been encroaching on the land of the living due to the death of the royal bloodline. Things all come to a head at the start of the series. Sabriel, though short and fast-paced, effectively introduces the reader to the Old Kingdom, full of magic and mysteries, along with the heroine, who’s both chasing and being chased by a deadly enemy (pun absolutely intended). The next two books—Lirael and Abhorsen—further explore the world of the Old Kingdom, as an expanding cast of characters attempts to set the world to right.


The Old Kingdom series has much to say about dealing with loss, and many other painful realities of life and death, that apply to anyone, regardless of age. (Also, there are Shakespeare allusions; therefore, it must be smart and engaging for adults.) This epic fantasy has it all—a complex world, non-stop action and adventure, a touch of romance, and did I forget to mention talking animals?


Turns out now is a pretty perfect time to have gotten into the series, because the long-awaited prequel, Clariel, comes out today. There's definitely a thrill in reading a series as it comes out, having to wait a year or two between each installment, but anything more than, say, five years, is just plain torturous (*cough* George R.R. Martin *cough*).

For people who picked up this series 10 or 20 years ago, it's time to start re-reading. It doesn't matter if you're 30- or 40- or whatever-years-old now.

Ashley is an Editorial Curation Assistant at Scribd. She attended the Columbia Publishing Course and previously worked at Byliner as an Associate Editor. She's made it her mission to celebrate the best in young adult fiction with lovingly made collections like Logged In and Prom Night.

No Shame YAAshley McDonnell