Review: Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) – Garth Nix

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Kindle and Paper versions purchased by myself

Summary:

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. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.

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.

Review:

Sabriel is the tale of a girl whose Dead Father, the Abhorsen, sends her his sword and bells so she can take over his duties as the new Abhorsen, basically a kind of necromancer who only binds the Dead, and doesn’t use them to do their bidding. The Old Kingdom remains a fun place to visit, and I still love the concept of the bells and the gods that are associated with them. It’s a great world.

Reading this after Clariel was an interesting exercise. On the one hand, it was neat seeing how things tied together – characters like Mogget and places like the Abhorsen house. On the other hand, you can still tell that Sabriel was the earlier book: Sabriel doesn’t come across as well developed as Clariel. Furthermore, where as Clariel was decidedly asexual, here we have an underdeveloped relationship: characters go from barely talking to each other, to “hey, she’s pretty” to “I think I love you” quicker than necessarily feels natural.

Like Clariel though, I will question why this series is considered to be Young Adult. Sabriel is 18, but she feels like an adult from the get go, and her adventure is very much a traditional epic fantasy. Plus, the themes of the Dead and Death feel much more adult than what you normally get out of YA. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy it feels like adult. If anything, it again frustrates me that a protagonist under the age of 20 is almost automatically seen as YA, even if it has no other connection to that genre.

Regardless how one feels about Young Adult, it’s still a book worth looking at. Nix unquestionably has grown as a writer, and I am confident that both Lireal and Abhorsen will continue to improve. Nix at the top of his game is in a class of his own, and you can certainly see him starting to climb that mountain here.

Verdict: Buy It

Available Now.

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