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Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories    by Garth Nix order for
Across the Wall
by Garth Nix
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Open the short story collection Across the Wall and enter into 'a fantasy world according to Garth'. It begins in a context familiar to fans of Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, with 'Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case'. Nicholas is determined to cross over from Ancelstierre to the Old Kingdom. Nick knows that his destiny lies with Lirael and Sam, and regrets not leaving with them six months before. His Uncle, Chief Minister of Ancelstierre, delivers Nick to the eccentric Alastor Dorrance, head of the secretive 'Department Thirteen', and 'a tall, expensively dressed, vacant-looking man with ridiculous sideburns'. Dorrance has agreed to issue a Perimeter Pass. Nick meets Dorrance, Professor Lackridge, and meek-looking Mr. Malthan, an Old Kingdom advisor. When the Professor takes Nicholas on a facility tour, they enter a room housing a 'Creature in the Case'. The drama unfolds suspensefully as Sayre is strapped to a table!

Next comes 'Under the Lake', with an Arthurian flavor, but with a twist. The Lady of the Lake is in her underwater realm of 'water as cold and hard as steel'. She and Merlin negotiate, needing something from each other. The Grail and Excalibur were spun by the Lady from 'harvested dreams and breath, nets of light, and consumed lives'. The Lady changes to an eagle, and back to human, before morphing to an unpleasing form. 'Charlie Rabbit' is taken from Nix's contribution to the War Child charity anthology. 'Joshua! Get up!' Abbas calls to his brother as he hears the blare of sirens and pounding of missiles. Floppy-eared, hero Charlie Rabbit is hugged by Joshua as they head for the shelter, the house crumbling around them. Then read about a great-grandfather of 108 years of age who refuses to sell the family's last piece of property, 'The Hill'.

The Hagmom and dad in 'Hansel's Eyes' abandon their children in various places. Hansel and Gretel enter a PlayStation, and meet a spider, who reveals 'I'm not a spider, Gretel. I'm a shadow against the moon, a dark shape in the night ... witch!' The witch's habitat is full of organ transplants. In exchange for Hansel's beautiful eyes, the witch offers Gretel instruction in sorcery. A baby girl grows into a heroine in Nix's outstanding western, 'Hope Chest'. A steamer trunk and a baby girl are found with a note attached to her blanket, 'Alice May Susan, born on the Summer Solstice, 1921. Look after her and she'll look after you.' The Hopkins family adopts Alice, storing the trunk in the attic - Alice only succeeds in opening it on her 16th birthday. It contains a rifle, pistols, ammunition, a white dress, and a star badge that shines when she touches it. Then hard times hit and the government is run by 'Servants of the State', ruled by a Master of evil ...

The thirteen stories in Across the Wall range from fantasy and Arthurian legend to a western and the reality of children in war, including of course 'A Tale of the Abhorsen'. Nix's creations are much more than things that go bump in the night. Rather they are deliriously satisfying, and leave the reader clamoring for more, Mr. Nix, more!

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