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on January 4, 2016
Sabriel's father is the Abhorsen, the most powerful of necromancers who can bind the dead and stop them breaking through to the real world.Since her mother died when she was born, Sabriel is sent away to boarding school and only sees her father twice per year. The Kingdom they live in is divided into two parts with a wall protected by strong magic. Ancelstierre, the southern kingdom, where Sabriel is sent to school is safe and people live uneventful lives without the use of magic but the northern part of the kingdom, the Old Kingdom where Abhorsen must live is full of magic, good and evil where the dead can break through more easily and come back to attack the living. When Sabriel is about to leave school she receives the news that her father is dead and she must travel to the Old Kingdom to find out what has happened.

This is a very well told YA fantasy for young and old. Sabriel is a strong female character who nevertheless makes some blunders and grows into her role. Helping her she has Mogget, a cat shaped spirit who provides some humour by making snide comments at her expense and Touchstone who becomes more likeable as the book goes on. The world building is good, with the good, safe non-magical kingdom separated from the more chaotic, magical side and the system of magic is interesting, based on an agreed Charter as well as free magic that has no rules.
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on February 18, 2015
Sabriel is a very strong character. She is sympathetic, proactive and while in the beginning she isn't very confident in her abilities she slowly grows, as the story progresses, to the imposing person she's meant to be.

She is sympathetic because she is compassionate and kindhearted, she stops to offer help whenever possible despite the urgency of her quest, she is patient with everyone around her, from Mogget's sardonic nature, to her secretive father, she is responsible, smart, cautious yet brave, selfless, perfectly aware of her shortcomings and striving to live up to everyone's expectations in spite of them. She fears and hopes and falls in love like every girl at the brink of adulthood, overcome by equal parts of enthusiasm and trepidation as she is about to spread her wings into the world.

"[...] Sabriel picked her way among the broken timbers of the gate. Going through the arch, from mud into snow, from bright sun into the pallid luminescence of a snowfall, from her past into her future."

She is proactive because she always takes charge of the situation, even when the outcome is uncertain. Her father's messenger calls for her to fulfill her responsibilities as the Abhorsen and she immediately takes action. She is trapped by the Mordicant in her father's house and she what's to know what her options of defense and flight are and carries them out, the trip from Nestowe to Belisaere is too long by land so she finds a boat, her father is trapped in Death so she finds his living body and tries to free him, Kerrigor threatens her world so she strikes him down.

She doubts but she doesn't falter, she struggles but she doesn't whine, she fears but she doesn't panic, she grieves but she doesn't fall apart, she needs help but she doesn't need saving. She is a heroine of her own story without overshadowing or diminishing the importance of any other character in the book.

Apart from the strong characters I marveled at Nix's decision to blend two completely different eras into one world. The Southern modern Ancelstrierre, resembling our world sometime around early 1900, and the Northern medieval Old Kingdom. It is a unique setting that I'd never come across before the Abhorsen Chronicles. It's just so bizarre and intriguing picturing a soldier holding a sword in one hand and a revolver in the other while in khaki and mail.

The depiction of Death is also very original. Death is a river drifting the souls past nine gates to their true death. The Abhorsen is a Necromancer devoted to putting the dead to rest by using seven bells to wake, bind, walk e.c.t. them past the gates. I'd never read anything like that before!! I should also mention that while necromancy is a central point in this book if you are hoping for cool zombies you are going to be disappointed. Cool? Yes! Zombies? Thankfully, no!

Three things that bothered me were:

1. Garth Nix's sporadic change from the 3rd limited to the 3rd omniscient point of view, especially towards the end,

2. The occasional lack of thought processing, characters seem to reach conclusions and possess knowledge without making clear how that came to be. For example, Sabriel tells Horyse "Kerrigor can work the weather, bring fog or dense cloud" How did Sabriel know that? If someone told her in one of the previous chapters I apologize, but I'm fairly certain no one did. While they were in the reservoir Kerrigor was engulfed in fog but I didn't think, and it was not made clear, it was connected to the weather. I assumed it had to do with the great broken Charter Stones and his proximity to Death, and I certainly didn't think he could repeat it just about anywhere and at a grant scale.

3. The last, but no the least, was the info dumping. It wasn't delicately or artfully done and sometimes it was hindering the momentum of the plot. At the end, for example, Horyse is called to decide whether he should lend his Charter Mages to Sabriel or not. Instead of considering his option and reaching a decision he goes on about the line of command in the Perimeter Garrison and how those who wear the Charter mark are viewed within the Ancelstierran army before giving his decision, almost as an afterthought. At a time where the Dead are about to descend on them within hours, and every moment counted, a lesson in Ancelstierran culture felt grossly untimely.

I also felt that Sabriel created a lot of questions that were left unanswered but that isn't necessarily a bad thing because it opened the possibility of a very promising sequel.

Can anyone receive the Charter Mark or do they have to descend from the Old Kingdom? What happens if the Charter does not "grand" them the Mark? How was the drift between the Old Kingdom and Ancelstrierre forged? Was it forged when the Wallmakers build the wall or was the wall build because magic didn't work on the lands of Ancelstrierre? e.c.t.
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on February 18, 2017
I've always loved Sabriel. I read it again now, many years later, and even though I knew from memory most of what was going to happen, I had forgotten the suspense, the feel of the story, and the way that everything just sucks you in! I love hearing about the Charter magic and Free Magic, and Mogget will forever be my favorite character. Very much a look into adulthood--you can think you're prepared, that you're a top-notch student and you know what you're getting into, but putting those theories into practice are seldom as easy as you think it's going to be, and the responsibilities of the world--whether as an Abhorsen or simply as a human being--can often come forth at a great cost and at the worst possible time.
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on August 15, 2017
The Old Kingdom Series has some of the best and most unique books that are out there. This is a truly stunning fantasy world (with a touch of steampunk!), and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The main characters are strong females, the world is dark and interesting, and the magic in this book is a bit unique, which keeps it interesting. Stop reading this review and buy the book! In fact, save yourself the time and money and just buy the entire series so that when you can't put it down, you can just go on to the next one!
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on April 29, 2017
Thats completely true. This is one of the best books I've ever read. The sequels are ok, but this one is the best one.
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on August 23, 2013
A wonderful introduction to the Abhorsen trilogy, Sabriel contains wonderful world building, a tightly plotted storyline, lovely pacing, and memorable characters. I consider it one of the best in the young adult fantasy genre, and it is a great read for anyone who enjoys fantasy stories with female heroines.

This is a novel which contains a female character who is strong, but still retains her femininity. Too often a work that contains a strong female lead focuses overly on her doing "manly" things. Sabriel does not fall into this trap at all, but rather contains a strong leading character who happens to be female, who does things that are suited to her talents and isn't overcoming her "physical weakness" to become better than men (looking at you, Tortall trilogy).

All in all, an often overlooked novel that deserves more attention than it gets.
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on May 3, 2017
Absolutely floored by how much I love this book. It was recommended by a friend and they were not wrong. The world is imaginative and creative, almost a post-apocalyptic story set in a historical fantasy setting. I immediately rooted for all of the characters as well, which is unusual in today's age of grey heroes. I can't recommend this enough if you like fantasy and adventure!
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on August 6, 2015
Pleasant enough writing. The inclusion of some of the typical tropes of Young Adult lit are present, but there's little whining (unlike the sequel). I agree with a previous review that the "chemistry" between the protagonist and her beau is very weak. I also thought that Mogget's tranformation between bound behavior (all helpful and nurturing) and unbound (angry violent killer) contradicted the idea that a character has continuity of personality. And that the contradiction between her quest (to bring back her father from the Dead) and her beliefs (only Necromancer's do that kind of "black magic") was extremely inadequately presented. Plot was fairly linear. If you're looking for a "fun" series (like Harry Potter) this is not it: definitely "lite" reading. So, no real romance (although Garth attempts to portray Sabriel's salacious interest, his scenes fail to be credible, imho. Definitely half-hearted and weak). A fine read, but not 5 stars due to an overall lack of depth.
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Enthusiast: Cookingon June 21, 2015
Very well written, although I didn't love any of the characters. It's an excellent YA story, although I don't think anything matches Tamora Pierce's incomparable The Song of the Lioness series, featuring Alanna of Trebond. Coming to this as an adult, I'd recommend it for young teens. The AU's mysticism is nicely developed and consistent, an intriguing twist on visiting the realms of the Dead that doesn't rely on the more familiar Greek/Roman mythologies.
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on August 1, 2013
"... I loved the woman who lies here. She would have lived if she had loved another, but she did not. Sabriel is our child. Can you not see the kinship?"

That is how the life of Sabriel begins. Her mother has died giving birth to her and her father decides to join the wanderers he finds in the forest. Sabriel's father is the Abhorsen. A necromancer who banishes or binds the dead that plague the living.

"... the Kingdom sinks day by day, into a darkness from which no one will rise..."

Sabriel is now 18 and finishing up her last year at Wyverly College.
Everything has gone good until she gets word that her father has disappeared. She has no choice but to leave school and search for him on her own. The road will be long and perilous ,with death threatening her every step of the way, but she must find her father.

"May the Charter be with you, Sabriel."

Wow.
I had no idea how much I would like this book when I first started reading it. There were many strange names, the beginning confused me, and it didn't really catch my interest. At first.

From what I understand, Sabriel was published in 1995. It is my personal opinion that some of the best books written were published between the late 90s and early 2000s. Sabriel is a perfect example of that theory. Let's be honest, books published in the last few years (especially after Twilight) are more "romance" than anything else. And I, for one, prefer a lot more action and magic in my books. I don't enjoy having to sit through page after page of teenagers lusting after each other. Yuck!
This book can't be compared to anything I have ever read before. Not Harry Potter, not The Last Apprentice, nothing. The magic is different, the atmosphere is pretty much the same: good vs evil, the town, city, country, is plagued by evil, only a few people possess the willpower and strength to defeat it, blah blah blah. But the way the magic is performed and used is different.

The characters are fully fleshed, intelligent, outspoken, and brave. Well, brave enough. I loved them. From Sabriel and Touchstone to Mogget and Colonel Horyse. Except for Kerrigor, of course. I didn't like Kerrigor...

I liked Sabriel more than I liked Katniss, believe it or not. I only hope she stays how she is now and doesn't get annoying like most characters tend do later on down the line.

& Touchstone. Oh, Touchstone. By page 220 I was irrevocably and undeniably in love with him. Touchstone, please tell me that I'll be reunited with you in the next 2 books. I won't be able to stand it if you're not there!

Mogget. I actually liked Mogget, he's witty and sarcastic. And scary when without a collar...

The story couldn't have been any cooler. Don't get me wrong, some parts left me a bit confused but I'm blaming that on the fact that I'm a little slow and because I rushed through some parts to find out what happens in the end. I'm sure I'll get it when I re-read it.
I've noticed that many Fantasy books are dark. Sabriel falls into that category. People are betrayed, murdered, enslaved by both the living and the dead.
But I find that I prefer reading books with dark undertones. It always makes the story more interesting for some reason...

But, anyway, this book is excellent. There's plenty of action and only a tiny bit of romance. That's the perfect combination for me.
Take note, YA authors, THIS is what YA books should be like. More action, less making out. I would read a lot more YA books if I knew it wasn't just a huge kiss-fest.

If you like the HP series or The Last Apprentice series,
I HIGHLY recommend Sabriel.
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