Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix
Sabriel (The Old Kingdom #1)
By Garth Nix
Format: Paperback
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.


  1. Eeeep! I was SO nervous about you reading this because I was worried you wouldn't like it at all haha! I think it's because I listened to it on audio and with you reading it I was like: what if it isn't as good XD Anyway...WHEW! I am so, SO happy you enjoyed this my friend. I know what you mean, the fact that the non-magical parts of the world were fairly advanced was really unexpected for me too! The different types of magic will be explained more in the following books.

    I just love that you loved Sabriel too, she's a favorite female MC of mine now for sure! LOVED Mogget of course and Touchstone. The darkness of the tone, the world and the baddies BLEW me away, I'm almost glad I didn't read this when it came out, I would have been traumatized LOL! I hope you love Lirael too ♥

    1. Aww, no worries here, Micheline! :D Because you love this series so much, I was very confident that I was going to become a fan, too, and I have! I loved the dark tone, the depth to the story, and, of course, Sabriel herself. I don't think I could've read this when it first came out, either, lol; I would've been too much of a wuss! XD THANK YOU again for gifting me this lovely! ♥

  2. I didn't love this one as much as I was hoping but the story is very good and Sabriel is a wonderful protagonist. I haven't had a chance to read the next books in the series, but I'm curious to read your thoughts on them when you read them!

    1. I'm sorry that this didn't quite work for you as you'd hoped, Charlene! But I'm happy to hear that you thought Sabriel was a fantastic heroine, too! I'm hoping to read the next book soon; I'm finding myself really missing this world!

  3. Oh wow, this does sound good! I can see where this can compare to Martin's series in some aspect. I will check this series out and see if I can keep up with it

    1. It's funny that you mentioned Martin because I was actually thinking of his books as I read this. There are 4 books out so far; a 5th is coming out in October, I think.

  4. I've always loved this series! In terms of the wall - I think both A Song of Ice and Fire and The Old Kingdom walls were inspired by Hadrian's Wall between Scotland and England, built by a Roman Emperor to keep the members of the remaining Celtic tribes out of Roman territory.

    Also, if you haven't read it, read Shade's Children by Garth Nix. Shade's Children is amazing! :)

    1. That's interesting about the possible historical inspiration for the fictional walls! And thank you for the Shade's Children rec; I added it to my TBR!


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