Sabriel By Garth Nix Book Review

Title: Sabriel (Abhorsen book 1 AKA The Old Kingdom book 1)

Author: Garth Nix

Genre(s): High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Summary: Sabriel once dreamed of the magic and adventure of the Old Kingdom. Now she would give almost anything to return to her quiet life in Acelstierre. Perhaps when she saves her father she will.

The Old Kingdom has been in a state of complete anarchy for the past twenty years. Cities and villages are overrun with the dead that won’t stay dead and with each day the death count rises. There is only one person left standing between the undead and the citizens of the Old Kingdom: the Abhorsen.

Other necromancers wake the dead. It is the Abhorsen’s job to put the dead to rest. But now even the Abhorsen has become trapped in death. When this news reaches his daughter, Sabriel, she is willing to do anything to bring him back.

Even if “anything” entails traveling to the former capital of a nation overrun by the dead and passing through the gates of death themselves.

Review: There is only one book I have ever read and been truly unable to put down. That book was a part of the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. I have a distinct memory of hiding this book under my desk at school and reading as my teachers gave instruction. My social life was likewise abused.

With this in mind I started Sabriel in the hopes of revisiting the author’s particular style of world building. I was not disappointed in that regard as Sabriel has some great world building. I found the contrast between the cars, telephones, and electric lights of Ancelstierre and the magic of the Old Kingdom to make the setting highly unique.

I read on for about a hundred pages then stopped. Despite this, below I have given this book four stars, and for good reason.

I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about the world of the Old Kingdom. Each time I thought of the book I should read next I kept thinking that I wanted to go back to reading Sabrel. Eventually I gave in and finished the book.

This time I found myself absorbed in the plot line, loving the characters, and even getting a little teary eyed for the final chapter. Sabrel makes for an intelligent heroine. Learning about her family history was enjoyable and I found the world of necromancers, Charter Mages, and free magic to be complex and interesting.

Even though this book doesn’t show much of Abhorsen (Sabriel’s father) the reader gains an appreciation of their relationship. Sabriel does not see her father very often but she’s still willing to travel to a place she knows nothing about to find him. I found this touching and I loved the complexity of their relationship.

The ending is somewhat open and leaves some questions and events of the story unresolved. The story almost felt like it was ending at the climax as opposed to the resolution. I would have liked to have known more about what happens directly after the ending.

Normally I would suspect that the story ended this way because  this is the first in the trilogy, but from what I understand books two and three are not told from Sabriel’s prospective. Regardless, I do plan to return to the Old Kingdom. This has been my first read in the Abhorsen trilogy but it will not be my last.

Rating/Recommendations: I give this book four blue jays for the most original take on necromancers I have ever read and some of the most  creative world building I have ever seen.

I recommend this book to people who enjoy High Fantasy, YA fiction that does not revolve around a love triangle, and are willing to read through the first hundred or so pages to reach the bittersweet end.

4 blue jays