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Sabriel (Old Kingdom) Mass Market Paperback – August 11, 1997
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From the Back Cover
Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life'and comes face to face with her own hidden destiny. . . Garth Nix's first young adult novel, Sabriel was recently nominated for the Aurealis Award for Excellence in Science Fiction in Australia.
About the Author
Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia. A full-time writer since 2001, he has worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. Garth's books include the award-winning fantasy novels Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen; Clariel, a prequel in the Abhorsen series; the cult favorite teen science fiction novel Shade's Children; and his critically acclaimed collection of short stories, To Hold the Bridge. His fantasy novels for younger readers include The Ragwitch, the six books of the Seventh Tower sequence, the Keys to the Kingdom series, and A Confusion of Princes. His books have appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, the Guardian, and the Australian, and his work has been translated in forty languages. He lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and two children.
Top customer reviews
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The protagonist, Sabriel, hails from a place called the Old Kingdom but has grown up and been educated in a boarding school across a Wall demarcating the Old Kingdom from a place that sounds a lot like the England of right around WWI (electric lights and telephones were available, and tanks had just been invented). This is very much a coming-of-age story, even though Sabriel has just finished her schooling (and so might be considered an adult). She has lived a fairly sheltered life at the school but is suddenly put into a position where she must venture out into the (to her) unknown Old Kingdom.
As such, Sabriel is a good proxy for the reader for exploring the Old Kingdom. She knows a little, but has been protected from much more. She realizes quickly how little about the Old Kingdom, or even about magic, she knows, and that makes her sympathetic (however, it seems with the appropriate amount of help, she can easily overcome her limitations). She has a couple of companions on her quest -- a cat who is not what he seems, and a young man who goes by the name of Touchstone. You do learn a bit more about each of them, as well, as the story goes on.
I felt like Sabriel's story followed a common pattern -- a young person is forced into undertaking a quest she's not really ready for, and yet she's the only person who can complete it. She rebels against it, but it's her destiny. (In Sabriel's case, rebellion largely involves refusing to be called by a title that is rightfully hers, and also in defining the quest as a mission to save her father when really something else is going on, too.)
My favorite part in this book was the journey. There is a lot of traveling and exploration. Normally I hate such things, but they were done really well here, and the surroundings changed in a way that constantly presented new challenges, which is something most authors don't get right. (I feel that Mr. Nix DID get it right, though.) This was a sort of world where I was interested in learning about the environment and history, and I thought it was nicely woven in to the overarching story. This also speaks to worldbuilding, of course, which I thought was quite good.
I don't have much to say about the writing. For me, anyway, it slid into the background and did its job of telling the story without being obnoxious. There were no repeated tics or verbal crutches that jumped out at me.
Magic was interesting and well-developed. There seemed to be three sorts. Charter Magic is basically the good (orderly?) stuff and can be used for protection, healing, etc. Necromancy can be good or bad, depending on who is wielding it and to what purpose (e.g., raising an army of the Dead or sending the Dead back into Death where they belong), and Necromancy can be constrained by Charter Magic. Free Magic is wild and perhaps unpredictable but can be harnessed. There are also some people who can see the future, but that may be an ability conferred by Charter Magic.
A few things didn't work for me, but they weren't dealbreakers. There is a romance that was predictable from a mile off and, in my mind, not set up as much as it should have been. Also, and I'm still not sure how I feel about this, but the final confrontation was odd. It was more of a series of tasks/confrontations. One takes place in Death and was over too quickly for my liking. The feeling of fear was never really all that palpable for me as few to no obstacles were encountered. The next confrontation follows immediately on its heels and I did feel there was a little more at stake, but it is also over quickly. The third confrontation was the biggest, and even in itself consisted of two incidents at separate sites. There were casualties, but I was never really in doubt that certain parties would survive. I did think the final resolution was clever and nicely set up based on events earlier in the book.
Overall, I was invested enough in the characters to see the book through (and quickly, I might add). I loved the world building and the journey and all the little details like the various bells used in Necromancy. I thought the magic system was great and I think there is a lot of potential for the future books that are set in this world.
I found the descriptions of the Nine Gates in the darkly misted river of Death as fascinating as the clear, icy beauty of the Clayr Glacier in the previous book. The author's descriptive prose is magical. His characters are also captivating, both human and creatures. I loved both Mogget, the cynical cat, and the loyal Disreputable Dog.
Without giving anything away, I found the conclusion unexpected, and satisfying; even though it brought a tearful reaction.
Wonderful world-building. Engrossing storyline.
Re/read on audio. Tim Curry rocks the narration 😊💕
*** "Yes," said Abhorsen. "I am a necromancer, but not of the common kind. where others of the art raise the dead, I lay them back to rest. And those that will not rest, I bind-or try to. I am Abhorsen . . ."
He looked at the baby again, and added, almost with a note of surprise, "Father of Sabriel." ***
Oh, what a wonderful little book. I loved Sabriel so much. She was so tough and just got things done.
She received a message from her father and she knew things were not right. She wasn't sure if he was dying or what was happening at first. She received his sword and other things through a messenger. She was to be the next Abhorsen of sorts.
This message takes Sabriel on a journey to find her father and find and kill the evil that is happening across the land. It's a bit creepy at parts which is good =)
She has a sidekick named Mogget that she picks up at her fathers house. He's a cat and he talks and he is really something different. And he is also bound from being free.
Then they pick up one more person that Mogget names Touchstone and he was a guard to the Queen. There's a big story there but you can read it yourself.
They go on a journey to get away from the evil that is trying to kill Sabriel while trying to set things right. Sabriel has powers herself but she can only do so much.
The end of the story was pretty amaze balls. I look forward to the rest of the books =)