By Garth Nix
Source: Gift from Micheline of Lunar Rainbows Reviews ♥
To Sum It Up: As both the daughter of a necromancer and a necromancer herself, Sabriel has had a rather unconventional upbringing. Now eighteen, she’s still not quite prepared to assume her father’s title as the Abhorsen, but Sabriel has little choice when her father disappears and is believed to be in very great danger. To find him, Sabriel must journey into the unknown of the Old Kingdom, where all sorts of evil beings created by Free Magic await. Sabriel fears that these creatures are responsible for whatever has befallen her father, but she’s determined to find him.
Review: Sabriel is one of those books that lingered on my TBR for who knows how long and now that I’ve finally moved it to my Read shelf, I have to wonder why I didn’t pick it up sooner.
I admit to finding the world a tad confusing at first. Sabriel’s quest to find her missing father, Abhorsen, begins in Ancelstierre, where our protagonist has spent most of her life. I think I’d expected more of a medieval setting for some reason, but Ancelstierre seemed rather modern. This wasn’t an issue, but it did take me a bit to get a grip on the magic system. Sabriel practices Charter Magic as opposed to Free Magic, which, as its name seems to imply, isn’t bound by rules. On the other side of the Wall that separates Ancelstierre from the Old Kingdom (I couldn’t help thinking of the Wall from A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones here, LOL), Free Magic has been used to raise the Dead, and they take all sorts of grotesque forms. While the differences between the two types of magic become evident, I still thought a little more explanation would have been helpful here.
My tiny hiccup with the world-building aside, this was a tautly paced, wonderfully written novel. I loved the imagery that Garth Nix’s prose evoked, even when said imagery scared the hell out of me. Necromancy plays a huge part in the novel, and Nix totally delivers with the thrills and chills. The Dead seemed all too real, and every time they got too close to Sabriel and her companions, my heart skipped a few beats on their behalf.
Despite Sabriel being eighteen, the novel feels like a coming-of-age story in a way. Sabriel is a skilled necromancer (a good necromancer, one who puts spirits to rest, not one who raises them for an army of the undead), but there’s still so much she doesn’t know. All these years, she believed her father’s name was Abhorsen, and now she learns that he is the Abhorsen, a title that Sabriel must now take on, along with all of its burdens. Sabriel is more than equipped for the responsibility, though; she’s such a steady character, resourceful when questing solo but also willing to accept help when it’s offered. And help in locating her father does arrive in the forms of a sassy cat and a young man awakened after being suspended in time for 200 years.
Mogget is a talking cat with snark to spare. His biting commentary provides some of the book’s most humorous moments. Don’t assume that Mogget is merely the comic relief, though; there’s much more to this feline, I promise. As for Touchstone, the third member of Sabriel’s group, my heart went out to him for losing about 200 years of his life because of some extremely powerful magic. What he hasn’t lost, however, is his guilt over an event in the past that continues to reverberate throughout the present-day Old Kingdom. Although Touchstone struggles to avoid dwelling on the past, he also realizes the urgency to Sabriel’s mission. As much as I still would have enjoyed this book even if Sabriel had continued journeying alone, the addition of her two very intriguing companions was most definitely welcome.
I ended up becoming so engrossed in Sabriel’s tale that the ending arrived all too soon. Seriously—I wasn’t yet ready to say goodbye to this brave young woman who owned everything that life and death threw at her. I’ll certainly be visiting the Old Kingdom again and look forward to discovering more of its secrets.
All in All: A good necromancer? Yes! Sabriel is quite a unique fantasy anchored by a very grounded heroine with formidable inner strength and magical talent. Definitely recommended for fantasy fans.