Author: Garth Nix
Genre: YA Fantasy
Quote: “Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?”
Setting: Fantasy world – past
Premise: Sabriel has spent the first 18 years of her life at a boarding school near the wall. Safely hidden away from the strange and terrible land to the north of the ancient battle line, still guarded by an Army. But Sabriel has a heritage that she cannot ignore. Her father is the Abhorsen, a necromancer fighting a one-man struggle against the rising forces of chaos in a broken land, and upon his death, a new Abhorsen must rise – or else the dead will.
Sabriel has been a core part of my book collection since I was ten, the dark and twisted story through gruesome death and chaotic evil somehow managing to be marketed as a ‘children’s book’ in a time before YA was an option. Despite its categorisation, Sabriel has enough conflict, romance, horror, magic, and wit to easily rival an adult fantasy.
Sabriel’s story starts in a world reminiscent of our own in about the 1940s, in a land called Ancelstierre. To the north of this land is a wall which separates Ancelstierre from the Old Kingdom where magic runs through the earth where monster dwell and the dead rise. Sabriel is from across the wall, where her fate will drag her back to the broken kingdom on a quest to finish her Father’s work. Sabriel herself is 18 years old and already a strong and resilient character before she leaves the safety of the boarding school. Nix knows how to write a strong female character better than a large number of female authors I’ve read, and his portrayal of every character gives a sense of depth to the whole cast.
There is very much a coming of age theme to this book. Sabriel has been raised and trained for this eventuality all of her life, so unlike a lot of YA main characters, she knows what she is getting herself into. Her main conflict is self-doubt that she can ever be the Abhorsen her father was, but she knows that she must try, even if it kills her, for the sake of the old kingdom. Its kindness which drives Sabriel’s bravery, and a fear of letting people down which causes her hesitations.
It’s hard to tell you why ten year old me first plucked this book off the library shelves, but it was probably something to do with the stunning cover design. Fortunately, my childhood self had great taste and I would happily choose this book again and again! I loved this series, Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, and I hope you do too! Happy book hunting!
You’ve heard enough about how much I like this book, but is this book you’re hunting for?
1. Do you love well developed magical worlds?
2. Are you in the mood for a bit of necromancy and horror?
3. Do you want a gripping tale that keeps you up well past bedtime?
If you answered yes, yES, YES! Then this might well be your next favourite read!