Sabriel is the first book in the Abhorsen Trilogy, and tells the story of Sabriel, daughter to Abhorsen and student of Wyverley College. Sabriel is coming to the end of her studies and is anxious to speak with her father about her choices for life after school. But when your father is the Abhorsen, necromancer, binder of the dead to death, what choices can you possibly have? A messenger from the other side, however, makes the choice for Sabriel as it becomes clear her father is trapped in death but not yet dead! How will Sabriel find him and who is the enemy she must face that has placed her father in this perilous place. Sabriel's quest begins but time is against her as is, it seems, most of the dead.
Aimed predominantly at the young adult market but appealing to adults alike this is the first Garth Nix book I have read. Whilst the prologue is written to grab your attention; which it most definately succeeds in doing, I must admit to finding the first part of the book less arresting. I must admit to plodding through the first half of the book, not uninterested but not entirely gripped.
"Charter Magic flared on Cloven Crest again, and Thralk sensed that it was strong and pure - but weakly cast. The strength of the magic scared him, but the lack of skill behind it was reassurig and strong magic meant a strong life. Thralk needed that life, needed it to shore up the body he used, needed it to replenish the leakage of his spirit back into Death. Greed won over the fear. The Dead thing left the mouth of the cave and started climbing the hill, his lidless, rotting eyes fixed on the distant crest."
The addition of 'Mogget' a character Sabriel finds at her father's house, brings much needed humour as do the Sendings, beings of Charter Magic, which appears to be magic used for good, whereas Free Magic can be used for both good and evil. There is also some excellent action quite early on in the story, no less the introduction of a most disagreeable being, the Mordicant, that certainly set the pulse racing.
The first part of any book I suppose is in some part given over to builing the characters, laying down the plot and giving form to the world around them; it's just that, the world of The Old Kingdom, where Sabriel must journey seems more than just bleak, it seems disjointed somehow and I really struggled to visualise it and let myself, my imagination, join Sabriel there.
No matter, for it is the second half of the book that really brings everything to life; even those that are dead! Sabriel finds and saves Touchstone, a young man who has been bound in an undead limbo for 200 years and who holds the key to Sabriel's quest to find her father the introduction of this character also brings a more rounded dimension to Sabriel, which seems somehow missing in the first part of the story.
The second part of the book picked up an immense pace, so much so I almost finished the book without realising just how much I had read; real 'can't put down' stuff. The build to the climax keeps you turning those pages without stopping for breath and the resulting resolution is very neat and definately different.
So is this a book of two halves? Well, it has obviously not been written that way and as this winner of many awards some (many?) would argue it doesn't read that way, but I can only give my personal opinion as to my reading experience of this book. It is a very enjoyable book it just took a while for me to immerse myself into it, but once there, fantastic. I'll certainly be reading more Garth Nix and now I am more accustomed to his writing style I hope to enjoy his books even more.
Review by Amanda White
1 positive reader review(s) for Sabriel
Lauren from United States
I picked up this book thinking that Garth Nix sounded like a cool author name 15 years ago in 2002. I did not expect to have picked up one of the best reads of my adult life. Sabriel is a book different than most fantasy offered. A story of a girl with a gift in the afterlife magic, without demons, but involving the of gates of hell. Abhorsen is a faster paced story, but Sabriel sets the stage. Honestly, Sabriel is akin to Harry Potter meets Dante's Inferno. Read it. This series holds as #6 on my list, which is topped by the Hyperion Cantos.
Elaine from Sweden
What amazed me was the magic system and the fact the main protagonist and her father are necromancers. In most fantasy books I've read so far, necromancers are evil and/or undead themselves and usually the bad guys of the story; even if used by the good guys, necromancy remains black magic. Not so amazing was the rest of it: the plot is rather predictable and the characters would've needed more depth and development.
8.5/10 from 3 reviews