My pick this week is Garth Nix’s Sabriel, which I just re-read the other day for probably the sixth time. Throughout my teenage years I’d go and scour the Young Adult section at my local library, looking for anything new, or at least anything that seemed interesting. I’m pretty sure I pulled Sabriel off the bookshelf primarily for its size – it’s pretty thick, and at that point, fat books = the best books.
I was immediately sucked into the world Nix had created - a world divided by a Wall. On one side was Ancelstierre, a modern society, a reality identical to my own; the other side, the Old Kingdom, was rife with magic. Sabriel, the young protagonist, faces perils and dark adventures, but she learns, grows and changes as she meets these challenges, and eventually finds that she has the strength to accept her fate and defeat evil. The story is told along a journey, reminiscent in some ways of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, though Nix has a considerably more modern (and less protracted) narrative voice. It’s a wonderful, un-put-downable, dynamic fantasy, and I’d recommend it to anyone craving a well-crafted and persuasive high fantasy in the tradition of heroic romance.
Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds extraordinary companions and embarks on an epic journey as threats mount on all sides. Every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.
Sabriel is a novel that takes readers to a world where the line between the living and the dead isn't always clear—and sometimes disappears altogether.
Sabriel is the first of the Abhorsen trilogy, but also functions as a stand-alone novel. Other stories in the Old Kingdom world include: Lirael, Abhorsen, novella “Nicholas Sayre and The Creature in the Case” in Across the Wall, and upcoming Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen.