Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel (adult) (The Abhorsen Trilogy)
Series: The Abhorsen Trilogy Book 1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Copyright: 1995
Pages: 395

For many years Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won't stay dead. But now her father, the Charter-Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that world.

Though her journey begins alone, she soon finds companions: Mogget, whose seemingly harmless feline form hides a powerful --- and perhaps malevolent --- spirit, and Touchstone, a Charter-Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories.

With threats on all sides and only each other to trust, the three of them must travel deep into the Old Kingdom, toward a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death --- and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own hidden destiny.

Nix takes a familiar quest/journey storyline and gives it a very unique flavour. I really enjoyed this dark fantasy but it did take me a while to read, I put it down and picked it up a number of times. Parts of the novel were a bit slow, but that may have been because it was an involved read with quite a few new concepts for me. (I actually read this 12 months ago, reviewed it but never posted. I think this would be a quicker read now as I've read so much more in the fantasy genre.)

The setting of 'Sabriel' moves from Ancelstierre, a modern society to the Old Kingdom a world of free magic. 18 year old Sabriel becomes the next Abhorsen, a challenging & dangerous job protecting the living from the dead, when her father is trapped in 'death' by a powerful, evil opponent.

Nix's magic system was enthralling - free magic; unbound, chaotic, dangerous magic & charter magic; used by Charter Mages, all those bearing a baptismal charter mark on their forehead. This was also my first involved reading about necromancers (usually free magic sorcerers who summon and control the dead with seven bells.) However the Abhorsen family necromancers use the bells to defeat the dead who won't stay dead and force them to return to 'Death' beyond the 9th gate, the point of no return.

I loved the description of the seven bells & their powers and the nine gates & precincts of death. I also loved the ending; it wasn't a 'get out of jail free' ending. You might think from all the mentions of death, dead, undead, raising dead, defeating the dead, that this is a dark, horror read but it isn't like that at all. Yes there are a few bits that are not for the squeamish and there are some concepts that are a little confronting but I didn't find it a dark, depressing read, the magic more than negates any nasties. I'm definitely intrigued so I'll be continuing on with the next book in the trilogy, Lirael.

Australian author Garth Nix has a fantastic website for The Abhorsen Trilogy which explains much about this unique fantasy world.


To celebrate my 1st Blogoversary two lucky readers can take their pick from a choice of 6 books in this month's spookalicious competition. Check this blog post for details. International entrants welcome.


  1. I really loved this series! I remember almost nothing else about it but that, unfortunately. I did read all three books and really enjoyed them all, so I hope you do too!

    Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

  2. Thanks for this great review, Teddyree! I have Sabriel on my "I want to borrow from my library"-list =)

    I'm not quite sure if I understood what you meant about "involved reading about necromancers" (maybe because English is not my native tongue). The main character in Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series is a necromancer, isn't she? I know that you've read The Summoning :)

  3. Glad you liked it! I loved this book when I was younger. I read it straight through in one night. I especially loved the world Garth Nix created, it was so fascinating!

  4. I read this one a couple of years ago. I hadn't read much fantasy before, but I really enjoyed it. I keep saying I'm going to read the rest of the series, but I haven't gotten to them yet!

  5. I actually listened to it and it was read by Tim Curry which was perfect for the nature of the book. I really enjoyed the whole series and I thought Sabriel was a great character.

    You should join my Garth Nix Mini-Challenge!

  6. My son is a huge fantasy fam and really enjoyed Nix's days of the week series. I will definitely tell him about this new series - it sounds like something he'd love.

    Thanks for the great review -


  7. I LOVE this series! Lirael is my favourite of the three!

  8. I have heard a lot about this series and still haven't read any of it. Shall add to my list.

  9. This series has one of the best settings/imaginary worlds I've ever read. LOVED it.

  10. I really liked Sabriel. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into the two sequels.

  11. This sounds like an imaginative, intriguing series.

  12. Meghan ~ glad you enjoyed them, I really should bump the next two up my reading list.

    Ladybug ~ don't worry it's not your English, I should have mentioned in my review that I actually read Sabriel way before The Summoning & The Awakening but only posted my review on goodreads, so the concepts were all quite new to me. But Garth Nix's world is definitely more complex than the world in The Summoning.

    Anna ~ I read this one a while ago & did a review but never posted it. From everything I've read since, Nix's world is quite unique.

    Tricia ~ maybe we should both participate in Andrea's mini-challenge lol

    Andrea ~ thanks, will pop over and check out your mini-challenge, sounds like just what I need.

    Sue ~ thanks for coming by and commenting. This was my 1st Garth Nix read so I'm keen to try more.

    Nicola ~ thanks, that makes me keen to get to the next book, I have them on my bookshelf too!

  13. Viv ~ I think you'd enjoy this, keep an eye out for it at all your wonderful car boot sales.

    Melissa ~ totally agree, very unique

    La Coccinelle ~ I have the next 2 on my bookshelf waiting, I hope I enjoy them.

    Laughing Stars ~ thanks for stopping by and commenting :-)

  14. Wonderful review! I hadn't heard of this series, but it sounds great.

  15. This is what I love about this link-up party. Just when I tell someone that I don't read outside the thriller genre, I read all these wonderful reviews that make me eat my words.

    Thanks for linking up!


  16. I have never heard of this series. I'll have to check it out. Yuu're right about first fantasy readings; they can be a little tough to get used to. I guess because the "worlds" are so different.

  17. I read this quite some time ago and I found it to be hard at times to follow the storyline. But I did enjoy it and would love to visit that fantasy land again. But I fear I may have to re-read this one first!! Excellent review!

  18. I hadn't seen this one your review...

  19. Great review....I love dark books, but not sure about the fantasy part.

  20. Hi Teddyree!

    I think this one sounds like one for me! I love dark fantasy tales, and this one seems to have it all. Magic, mayhem, and a perilous journey!

    Thanks for deciding to post this great review, otherwise I might have missed it altogether.

    Dottie :)

  21. Great review. This one sounds like fun! I wasn't so much into straight fantasy until I read Graceling. Thanks!


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