Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: 5/5
Sabriel is eighteen and about to graduate from private school in the country of Ancelstierre. However, she is from the Old Kingdom across the Wall, where magic runs wild and necromancers can command the dead to rise. Her father is the Abhorsen, sworn to combat necromancers and lay the dead to rest. When he sends a message from beyond death, Sabriel must cross the Wall into a land she hasn’t visited since she was five. With help from Mogget, a talking cat who is actually a deadly magical beast, and Touchstone, a man she frees from an enchanted sleep, Sabriel must take on the mantle of the Abhorsen to find her father and defeat a great Enemy who seeks the destruction of the entire kingdom.
I don’t think I can ever review Sabriel as an unbiased reader. It will always be dear to me as one of the books I read annually (along with Lirael and Abhorsen) and as a paragon of the types of stories I want to write. Nix writes Sabriel as a down to earth, intelligent, strong, emotional lead. She was written as a person who happens to be female, rather than as a tropey “strong female character” or, even worse, as a sex object. As a result, she felt more real to me than many female fantasy characters who often come across as caricatures. Sabriel’s companion Mogget is an absolute delight. Will he kill Sabriel? What even is he? It doesn’t matter because you end up liking him regardless. Touchstone takes getting used to because he is overly servile in the beginning, although his motivation for his behavior soon becomes clear. Perhaps the love story between him and Sabriel was a little quick, but I buy it because Sabriel and Touchstone work well together and people who go through great trials together bond deeply and quickly. The pace of Sabriel is quick but not rushed, the worldbuilding is one-of-a-kind (in fact, it wasn’t until many years and many rereads later that I realized this is essentially zombies with magic), and the characters feel real. Sabriel has a permanent spot on my top ten list of favorite books.
“Let this be my final lesson. Everyone and everything has a time to die.”Sabriel, Garth Nix
Full disclosure: I photoshopped the photo of the book for the this post because I’m still in the process of moving and wasn’t able to take a picture. So I reused an old photo and inserted a picture of the cover over top.