Sabriel by Garth Nix | Book Review

For many years Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won’t stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that treacherous world – and face the power of her own extraordinary destiny.

Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?

Before receiving this book as a Christmas I was unaware this book even existed, and I am quite upset. Why doesn’t this book have a big following like some other books? It deserves it, because it is marvelous.

“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.”

We follow the story of Sabriel, an 18-year-old girl who lives in a world where magic and science combine, one night while at school she learns that her father is in danger so she leaves the comfort of her to go rescue her only family. She receives her father’s magical items, a saber and a set of seven bells, which aid in keeping the Dead dead. Along the way she learns more about who her father was and it means to be the special necromancer called Abhorsen.

Sabriel throughout the stories learns from her foolish mistakes and does her best to not get her pride in the way when she has to make dire decisions where lives are at stake. It is a bit refreshing find a character who makes mistakes, is aware of their mistakes, admits their mistakes, and remembers the original mistake when a similar situation arises. Most characters, like most people, do not admit their mistakes and while they may learn from it admitting one is wrong is not frequently seen or read.

Garth Nix writing is fast-paced, lush and hypnotic. He describes people, places and scenery poetically and thoroughly and he does not spend two pages doing in doing. We are given a complete picture with all the five senses and it only took a few paragraphs.

Nix’s world building is interesting, for he sets the foundation of his Old Kingdom world without it being a massive information dump. The details seep through the narrative passively, because Sabriel has grown up in this land and nothing to her nothing is new, but we as readers everything is mysterious and we only learn bits and pieces along the way making the world actually feel like a magical unexplored world (leaving a number of things with no real explanations at times).

The magic system in the Old Kingdom is unlike anything I have read before (and I read a lot of fantasy), Nix blend and mixes magic and science, not as enemies, but as equals. Science has strengths and weaknesses in the world just as magic has its own strengths and weaknesses. There was never a time where one was superior to the other, which was so strange and new.

“Let this be my final lesson. Everyone and everything has a time to die.”

My Rating: 5/5

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