Book Review: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel is the first installment in the award-winning Abhorsen trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Garth Nix.  Originally released in 1995, this reprint paperback edition published by HarperCollins hit the stores in April 2008.

I can’t believe that I hadn’t discovered Garth Nix before now.  He has been prolific in the young adult and children’s fantasy genre.  This particular young adult novel is dripping with magic, suspense, danger, and adventure on every page.

Sabriel is a teenage girl who grew up while attending boarding school in Ancelstierre, the country on the side of the Wall where magic does not reign.  However, as she comes of age, she must return to the role predestined for her by birthright, thrusting her into the midst of magic and danger in the Old Kingdom.  She must quickly learn to walk the veil between life and death, in order to protect and preserve the land of the living from that of the dead.

Sabriel had to enter Death, albeit briefly, to call and converse with the guide. … But who knew what might be lurking, watching, in the cold river beyond.

Sabriel stood for a minute, shivering, listening, every sense concentrated, like some small animal that knows a predator hunts nearby.

Though the main character is female, there are also intriguing male characters interwoven throughout the plot, and I think that this series will also appeal to the male youth population.  The question is whether or not the story of transcending the lands of life and death might be appealing to individual readers.  According to the storyline, those who cross over from death can be dead creatures of various hierarchical standings, ranging from mindless zombies controlled by necromancers to independent and self-directed Greater Dead and Free Magic creatures.  Though I am not traditionally a fan of zombie-type stories myself, I admit that I found this layered structure of the dead and the magical fantasy realm described in the this story more captivating than I had anticipated.

3 comments

  1. Of course that’s what I meant, Liz! 🙂 Actually, if all zombie stories could be like yours — somehow witty, funny, scary, and human all at the same time — I would indeed be a fan of zombie stories.

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