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Sabriel (Old Kingdom) Paperback – April 22, 2008

1,248 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Old Kingdom Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

After receiving a cryptic message from her father, Abhorsen, a necromancer trapped in Death, 18-year-old Sabriel sets off into the Old Kingdom. Fraught with peril and deadly trickery, her journey takes her to a world filled with parasitical spirits, Mordicants, and Shadow Hands. Unlike other necromancers, who raise the dead, Abhorsen lays the disturbed dead back to rest. This obliges him--and now Sabriel, who has taken on her father's title and duties--to slip over the border into the icy river of Death, sometimes battling the evil forces that lurk there, waiting for an opportunity to escape into the realm of the living. Desperate to find her father, and grimly determined to help save the Old Kingdom from destruction by the horrible forces of the evil undead, Sabriel endures almost impossible exhaustion, violent confrontations, and terrifying challenges to her supernatural abilities--and her destiny.

Garth Nix delves deep into the mystical underworld of necromancy, magic, and the monstrous undead. This tale is not for the faint of heart; imbedded in the classic good-versus-evil story line are subplots of grisly ghouls hungry for human life to perpetuate their stay in the world of the living, and dark, devastating secrets of betrayal and loss. Just try to put this book down. For more along this line, try Nix's later novel: Shade's Children. (Ages 12 and older) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Sabriel is her last year at Wyverley College, a private school in Ancelstierre, where Magic does not work, but near the Border with the Old Kingdom, where it does. She and her father are also highly skilled necromancers, who fight the dead who seek to return to Life. But when her father is somehow trapped in Death, she must journey into the Old Kingdom to find him. She does not know that it is wracked by struggle (like that in Ursula LeGuin's The Farthest Shore)-a magician has brought chaos by refusing to die and hopes to use Sabriel and her father to further consolidate his power. Sabriel goes on a long journey throughout a densely imagined world, learning as she goes, and meeting such strange characters as Mogget, a raging natural force contained in the shape of a cat. She also develops a relationship with Touchstone, a young man who turns out to be as crucially involved as she is. Although Sabriel is possessed of much heavy knowledge ("A year ago, I turned the final page of The Book of the Dead. I don't feel young any more"), she is still a teenager and vulnerable where her father and love for Touchstone are concerned, making her a sympathetic heroine. Rich, complex, involving, hard to put down, this first novel, an Australian import, is excellent high fantasy. The suitably climactic ending leaves no loose ends, but readers will hope for a sequel. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Old Kingdom (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; Reprint edition (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061474355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061474354
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,248 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Garth Nix has worked as a bookseller, book sales representative, publicist, editor, marketing consultant and literary agent. He also spent five years as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. A full-time writer since 2001, more than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world and his work has been translated into 40 languages. Garth's books have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly (US), The Bookseller(UK), The Australian and The Sunday Times (UK). He lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

131 of 136 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 19, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Possibly one of the greatest fantasy adventures of our times, Garth Nix's first novel is a lush, magical, dark-witty adventure about a young woman's battle with the hideous Dead.
The story starts with a flashback in which a special necromancer named Abhorsen saves his baby daughter Sabriel from a creature called Kerrigor, in the spiritual river of death. Many years later, at an English-esque boarding school, Sabriel must take up her father's magical sword and bells and try to find out what has happened to him. To do so, she must leave her relatively high-tech home for the Old Kingdom, where magic rules and evil things are stalking her.
Along the way, she is accompanied by the guard Touchstone and the menacing/funny cat-spirit Mogget. They must try to defeat the evil Kerrigor, who wants to blast the Charter which keeps all things from descending into evil.
Sabriel is the best fantasy hero I've read about since Lord of the Rings. Too many fantasy heroines are either damsels or warrior women--Sabriel is neither. She acts and thinks precisely like a young woman in her position. Strong, intriguing, and no slack with a sword in a bad situation, she is a wonderful role model.
Touchstone is a darling, but Mogget really is unique. Is he evil? Good? Or some peculiar mix? This ancient spirit forced to live as a cat is enslaved to the Abhorsen family for the good of everyone (we get a glimpse of how dangerous he is). The world that Garth Nix dreamed up, a mixture of Tolkien and WW2 England, is unparalleled in the fantasy genre. It's populated by animated ghouls, ghastly Mordicants, the almost-human sendings, Charter ghosts, the inhabitants of the river of Death, where only Abhorsens go, and so on...
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Tamsin Green on May 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
We've all read stories starring the tough girl, out to kick the world head over tail kind of character. Sadly, these characters all too often have nothing better to do with their time than to wander around playing hero. Don't get me wrong- I love books with female heroines. But sometimes you get that feeling that they lack- well- heart. All too often the tough girl stance gets taken a little too far. Which is why I love this book. Sabriel is entirely human- a young woman who has her own goals, her own life, and who manages to uphold her values without ever giving in. Yet staunchness does not make the character; Sabriel's basic humanity is what lets her reach out and touch you from within her paper world. She gets angry, she gets even. She loves Touchstone, hates the evil that has invaded the Kingdom, treasures her father, respects Mogget. . . . It is almost a relief to 'meet' a character with such basic reasons. Don't get me wrong; there's nothing elemental about Sabriel. She has her reasons for doing what she does, and Gareth Nix does an exceptional job of writing within the female Psyche. I have, on occassion, run into those few and far between writers whose opposite sex characters behave nothing like real people, and have always regretted the experience. Okay- anyway, I found Nix's characters to be richly portrayed, human, rational, and logical. Better still was his world- on one side, a person might have a life much like ours. On the other you have a place where magic still thrives, and the great charters rule the land. The tension is nicely played out, the book climaxes nicely, and the end is resolved fairly satisfactorially. I certainly would not quibble with the concept of a sequel- In fact, for a book this good, I can only hope that at some point Nix returns and writes a sequel- either about Sabriel or about one of the Abhorsens before her; maybe the story of her father or the woman who built the paperwings. One can only hope.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By bonsai chicken on March 3, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sabriel is the latest in a long line of powerful necromancers who can not only raise the dead but whose task it is to set the undead to rest. Residing at a private school away from home, she receives a message that her father is trapped somewhere beyond the realm of the dead. She must travel back to the Old Kingdom where she was born to free him, but finds herself pursued by dead forces which she may very well lack the training and experience to combat.
Sabriel's world is an unusual one in that there is magic as well as technology, but this book focuses more on the characters and leaves much of the world around them only hinted at. In addition, the author drops us right into the action with little preamble. This is disorienting at first, but it enables the reader to feel firmly entrenched in the world of the novel, and less like an outsider who is only reading about it.
While the story has a slow beginning, once Sabriel begins her journey it is gripping and suspenseful. It is not exactly horror, but its imagery does set it firmly in the realm of dark fantasy. And although it is written for and marketed to younger readers, adults should not find it beneath them. The story is complete but one gets the feeling that there is still much to explore, and I am very much looking forward to doing so in the books that follow.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 3, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I took an extended leave from the fantasy genre; yesterday afternoon, I decided to come back to the world of witchcraft and sorcery. Highly recommended by fellow peers, I chose Garth Nix's well-known 'Sabriel'. Frankly, I was so impressed and drawn into the story that I finished it in two days and rushed to write an amazingly complementary review. So - I won't waste any time with summeries and the like, since I believe that has already been covered by other reviewers and the helpful staff of
The plot was fantastic and fast-paced; there wasn't a moment I wasn't on the edge of my seat. Exhausting chapters of worthless garble is a common trait in many 'classic' fantasies. Nix has created an extremely believable and well-versed world, without the fluff. Poetic, dark, and forbidding, the heroine and companions are worthy of the world they are placed in. I could simply close my eyes and fly across the borders of what is called the Old Kingdom, in all its dangerous beauty. We are foreign visitors, as is the daring Sabriel. The plot was clear, consise, yet not overly simplictic. It begins as a search and rescue mission, and ends in a rich battle to save both the old and new aspects of this odd world.
Characters - wonderful. As rich as the world they reside in, Sabriel, Touchstone, and Mogget fully impressed me. They all read amazingly like living people, rather than a work of fantasy. Mogget, especially - his duel personalities clash wickedly, and he is not always what he appears to be; a cat? free magic?
To end this tiring review of a not-so-tiring story, I will add that this work is new, creative, and bold. There is a striking combination of modern technology and medieval swords and bows; a wall devides the two areas of the world.
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