I was prepared to be mildly disappointed as prequels tend not to live up to the reputation that later novels have built up for them. I was, however, completely blown away by this book.
Clariel, cousin to the Abhorsen, has moved with her Goldsmith parents to a large house in the city of Belisaere. Most would consider this an asset, but Clariel prefers the woods near her own home and wants nothing more than to return. As the Kingdom is stable and at peace, the Abhorsen and Royal Family shirk their responsibilities, allowing dangerous elements to gain a foothold in the world. Clariel is unfortunately smack dab in the middle of it. She is used to help deal with the problem, but her longing for solitude and lack of aptitude or desire for Charter Magic, makes her turn to the easier and far more dangerous Free Magic.
Clariel is a different sort of book to the previous Old Kingdom Novels. Whilst the other two dealt with 'end of world' stuff, this is far more personal and deals with a young woman's 'fall from grace'. I loved it. The main character is deeply flawed, yet satisfying and her road onto her new path is well written and believable.
I highly recommend Clariel to any fans of The Old Kingdom Series and to those who have not read the series before.