To come of age. There are thousands of books written on the subject, of course. No matter that humanity has been completing the process quite casually for hundreds of years, we remain obsessed with it, never fully tiring, filling first our heads then our bookshelves with centuries of the story.
One of the things we face as we come of age is that we are not the people we think we are. Perhaps we want something that everyone around us has—in the case of Lirael, this is the Sight, the ability to see into the future that everyone of her blood possesses. Lirael is isolated and changed by her lack of Sight, her lack of ability to blend in among her peers, just as is every young man or woman who feels she is unalterably different. But in our differences lies our power, and just because we lack one gift does not mean we are empty.
In Sam’s case, he lacks a rarity which everyone expects him to have: the ability to become a necromancer. It is his birthright, but he is terrified of it, physically revolted by it and unable to admit to anyone that this is the case. The fact of the matter is, he cannot be what everyone expects him to be. He can only be something else.
“Does the walker choose the path? Or the path, the walker?” It’s a repeated question in these books, but as is the case with every good enigmatic statement it contains far more depth than at first glance. It is not a bland statement of destiny, that our paths choose us and we must walk them. Because the walker is not chosen indiscriminately. And no one can be forced to walk a path that they do not choose—Sam cannot become the Abhorsen because his character is fundemntally unable to deal with the realities of Abhorsen, yet Lirael can become an Abhorsen because her character would lead her down the path anyway, even were her blood different.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they regret their decisions, when they seek to disown them. When they ask “why is this happening to me?” But once our feet are set on a path, we continue walking (rather than turning aside) because of who we are. Because our character has guided us to a place, and our sense of duty or longing or belief calls us onward.
The future, these books constantly empathize, is not a set thing. There are many possible futures, often dark and dangerous. There is no such thing as destiny, no matter how much it seems that we are forced into situations some higher power has thrust upon us. We choose our own paths, never able to know how hard they will be or what will await us at their endings. We are the walkers, and though the paths are long and hard, we have chosen each other.