Returning to the Old Kingdom and one of my all-time favorite series, Garth Nix here expounds upon a subject I have always wondered about: Just what lies to the north of our heroines' home? Goldenhand begins about half a year after the events in Lirael. It's been a while since fans have visited these characters. Between the latter and the former, Nix wrote a series of short stories set in the Old Kingdom (Across the Wall) and the hundreds-of-years-earlier prequel, Clariel, which I was unimpressed with.
Goldenhand is more a return to form, happily. Lirael is settling into her position as Abhorsen-in-Waiting, equipped with a new Charter Magic-infused metal hand, fashioned by her nephew, Prince Sameth. Though she is taking to her new duties with aplomb, she's finding a social life much harder to come by. When a cryptic message about a Free Magic creature in the southern country of Ancelstierre (impossible!) arrives, she jumps at the chance to be reunited with Nicholas Sayre. Their ensuring awkward flirtation is adorably realistic.
Alternating with Lirael's story are chapters following a young girl of the Northern Clans, Ferin. These chapters were the juiciest for me. We know what lies to the south of the Old Kingdom but I have long wondered about its northern border. We learn of the horse clans, nomadic raiders with their own developed religion and societies quite separate and unique from the Old Kingdom's. These fearsome warriors, we quickly learn, have been in thrall to an old, familiar enemy.
I thoroughly enjoyed the expansion of the world I first dove into long ago with Sabriel. The writing is much the same, though of course reading it lacks the joy of initial discovery. I welcome any journey back to the Old Kingdom in Nix's capable hands.