Author: Garth Nix
Series: Abhorsen #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: September 30, 1996
Rating: 5 Stars
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Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him.
With Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen trilogy, Garth Nix exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rising star, in a novel that takes readers to a world where the line between the living and the dead isn’t always clear—and sometimes disappears altogether.
I first read this book way back when I was in middle school so it’s been years. But I read and reread this series back then because I was captivated by the world and the magic. This was the first time I had been exposed to high fantasy and I fell completely in love and never looked back, fantasy still being my favorite genre today. And of course when the prequel, Clariel, was released last year it gave me the perfect excuse to do a reread. I was a little nervous going in, to be honest. What if it wasn’t the same as when I first read it? What if I didn’t like it as much? But I shouldn’t have feared. This book still held all the magic it did for 12 year old Becca.
Our main character, Sabriel, is the daughter of the Abhorsen, a necromancer who specializes in laying the dead to rest rather than raising them to do his bidding. Sabriel has been sent off to boarding school in a place called Ancelstierre, where magic doesn’t exist. You have to go beyond the wall to the Old Kingdom for that. And that brings me to my first point. The world-building is so fantastic in this series. I love the use of the Charter (what their magic is called) that comes from the stones and the use of Charter symbols to weave spells and use the magic. And of course, the bells. Abhorsen carries a bandolier of bells and each bell does something different to dead creatures. Then there is death which is a whole different, creative world with gates and different perils waiting behind each gate. This is such a unique world and I loved being back in it.
And then there’s Sabriel who makes for a fantastic main character. I love how determined Sabriel is to save her father. I loved her trepidation and caution when it came to the Old Kingdom. She doesn’t know as much as she feels she should, growing up in Ancelstierre and I loved seeing her learn and ask questions. Sabriel isn’t the kind of main character who charges straight into action without a thought or care in the world. She slows down and thinks about things before doing them and I loved that change of pace. I loved watching her grow and develop from a scared young girl to a strong and confident necromancer who could face creatures from the 9th gate of death.
And of course, I can’t talk about this book without mentioning her trusty sidekick Mogget, the talking cat. Oh my gosh, I love Mogget so so much. He’s not really a cat, that’s just the form he takes, but he’s so snarky and hilarious and I love what he brings to the story. He’s dangerous and can’t exactly be trusted, but at times I felt like he did in fact care for Sabriel.
The romance is the one thing that’s not so great about the book. We’ve got major instalove here, but I don’t even care. I love the rest of the book so much that I just ignored it. There’s just not a lot of time for romantic development because the focus is on the plot and the magic, not the romance. And I didn’t mind that at all.
A successful reread. I just started Lirael and I plan on just binging the whole series and then reading the prequel because oh my gosh you guys it’s so good. If you love high fantasy, I highly, highly recommend these books. It’s not your typical YA and I think will be a breath of fresh air for many people.
Have you read this book/series? What’s your favorite aspect?