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Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel (original 1995; edition 2008)

by Garth Nix

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,462192594 (4.22)328
Authors:Garth Nix
Info:HarperTeen (2008), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:listsofbests to get
Tags:unowned, listsofbests, readingrants, teenreads.com ultimate reading list

Work details

Sabriel by Garth Nix (1995)

  1. 200
    The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (staram)
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    A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (wosret)
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    ed.pendragon: Both titles involve musical instruments (cwidder in one, bells in the other) which have extraordinary magical powers in the correct hands.
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    sandstone78: The roles of Chrestomanci and Abhorsen are similar- magicians who police the use of magic. Both books feature their protagonists growing into these roles.
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English (189)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (192)
Showing 1-5 of 189 (next | show all)
Sabriel by Garth Nix is set in a world where Necromancy holds sway. Things and people die but death is not always so permanent. Traditionally necromancy is a really weird and creepy practice but in this book the main character is a necromancer whose job is to help those who have died complete their journey to death so that they are not reawakened by someone with sinister purposes. The main character is also sometimes able to return to life those who only just recently died but it comes at a cost and can be very dangerous.

I'm not typically into stories that revolve around death but Nix was able to craft a story that focused on death but did not become super heavy and overwhelming. I very much recommend this book to anybody interested in a fantasy type story.

(****) ( )
  mcroushorn | Aug 14, 2014 |
This one came highly recommended, and justly so. A highly enjoyable first installment, and I can hardly wait to find out what's around the next bend for Sabriel and her companions. Nix has built an intriguing fantasy world and populated it with fascinating characters (even if the baddies here are a bit one-dimensional). ( )
  JBD1 | Aug 6, 2014 |
It was lovely to reread Sabriel. I think I read it quite a few times when I was younger, but luckily, Garth Nix seems to have lost none of his charm for me. It helps that he has a female protagonist who isn't perfect, who ends up with a near-broken nose, battered to bits, and still finds love -- but that love isn't the most important thing: the important thing, the thing Sabriel really has to accept, is the passing on of her father's duties to her, and her own entry into adulthood.

I enjoy the fact that no detail is wasted, too. The story could open with Sabriel crossing into the Old Kingdom: not much terribly important happens before that, just scene setting. But then it turns out to be important because the story cycles back to that location, because the previous Abhorsen knew it would from the Clayr -- and we get to see life on that side of the border, we see the people Sabriel's been raised with and how that interacts with what she has to become. And we see people that later will prove important: those innocent schoolgirls who are Charter Mages, who ultimately give up their life to help Sabriel, because that's the person she has to become, the person who accepts those lives as part of the cost of what she must do. They have a kind of strength that serves Sabriel well, both because she's been raised among them and because they then help her, even though she ends up so alien to them. And I like the little details, like the dying schoolgirl's touch to Sabriel's ankle which is ultimately what gives her the strength to fight on, or Horyse's vision of what's going to happen to him.

The nice thing about the UK ebook of this is that it contains some commentary from Garth Nix on the process of writing the story. It was interesting to have him point things out, like the focus on clothing, armour, weaponry, that adds the touch of realism -- I hadn't thought about that before. It can be a liiiittle jarring to read those at the end of chapters like that, but I'm glad that extra content was included anyway.

I think of the three books, this is actually my favourite. Lirael has its attractions too, but I'm most attached to Sabriel's character and the vitality of her romance with Touchstone -- I always thought that bite/kiss to keep them both in Life when her father rang Astarael was the most wonderful thing ever, and I still found that scene pretty powerful. ( )
2 vote shanaqui | Jun 24, 2014 |
A great fantasy novel that blends traditional elements to create an original voice. Sabriel, who has completed her schooling south of the Wall, discovers her father is missing and embarks on a journey to the Old Kingdom, a magical northern land above the Wall. As she journeys, she learns new things about herself, her father, and their unique roles in the Old Kingdom. Great reading. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jun 21, 2014 |

I'm having a lot of mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand, it is so refreshing to read a fantasy novel - especially one that aims at kids or teens - that doesn't pander to its audience. This novel starts off fast and does not let up. You miss something as you go, tough cookies (especially if you're reading an ebook and it's hard to return to prior parts of the novel...). I love that there's no extraneous description, but jeez, you better like this story right away - it flies at you fast and there is no room for "getting used to" anything.

On the other hand, I just couldn't get into the characters. They felt briefly sketched, not fully realized. Sabriel is one more in the long line of girls left by their parents to fend for themselves, with skills they weren't really aware of (magical skills, duh) and thrust into extraordinarily difficult situations whereby they have to use those skills.

In trying to pinpoint what I specifically disliked, I think it's the lack of angst on the part of Sabriel. That's an odd thing for me to say because I have very little sympathy for whiny heroines, but even though there's some guilt and some sadness and some frustration, it didn't seem like a girl with this set of problems should be so, well, put together. Again, I think this may be the speed problem - "just like her right off the bat, darn it, because there's a lot more for me to tell you."

One of my fave Goodreads reviewers says the second book is better than the first, so I'll try that one in a bit. Hopefully, I'll like it a little more. ( )
  khage | Jun 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 189 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Garth Nixprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Curry, TimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kattelus, KaisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
It was little more than three miles from the Wall into the Old Kingdom, but that was enough.
Sabriel digested this in silence, staring at the swirls of fish and sauce on her plate, silver scales and red tomato blurring into a pattern of swords and fire. The table blurred too, and the room beyond, and she felt herself reaching for the border with Death. But try as she might, she couldn’t cross it. She sensed it, but there was no way to cross, in either direction – Abhorsen’s House was too well protected. But she did feel something at the border. Inimical things lurked there, waiting for her to cross, but there was also the faintest thread of something familiar, like the scent of a woman’s perfume after she has left the room, or the waft of a particular pipe tobacco around a corner. Sabriel focused on it and threw herself once more at the barrier that separated her from Death. -- p.73
The marks became silver blades as they left her hand, mind and voice, flashing through the air swifter than any thrown dagger. -- p. 107
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Sabriel, the daughter of the Abhorsen (a 'lawfully-good' necromancer charged with putting the dead back into death) finds herself on a journey to find out what happened to her father after she is sent his necromancer's tools. At her father's house she meets a cat with strange and dangerous abilities, the sarcastic Mogget. She soon takes up her quest as an Abhorsen and finds that looking for her father is looking for trouble as she accepts her fate. But evil waits for her in Death...
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0064471837, Mass Market Paperback)

After receiving a cryptic message from her father, Abhorsen, a necromancer trapped in Death, 18-year-old Sabriel sets off into the Old Kingdom. Fraught with peril and deadly trickery, her journey takes her to a world filled with parasitical spirits, Mordicants, and Shadow Hands. Unlike other necromancers, who raise the dead, Abhorsen lays the disturbed dead back to rest. This obliges him--and now Sabriel, who has taken on her father's title and duties--to slip over the border into the icy river of Death, sometimes battling the evil forces that lurk there, waiting for an opportunity to escape into the realm of the living. Desperate to find her father, and grimly determined to help save the Old Kingdom from destruction by the horrible forces of the evil undead, Sabriel endures almost impossible exhaustion, violent confrontations, and terrifying challenges to her supernatural abilities--and her destiny.

Garth Nix delves deep into the mystical underworld of necromancy, magic, and the monstrous undead. This tale is not for the faint of heart; imbedded in the classic good-versus-evil story line are subplots of grisly ghouls hungry for human life to perpetuate their stay in the world of the living, and dark, devastating secrets of betrayal and loss. Just try to put this book down. For more along this line, try Nix's later novel: Shade's Children. (Ages 12 and older) --Emilie Coulter

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:10 -0400)

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Sabriel, daughter of the necromancer Abhorsen, must journey into the mysterious and magical Old Kingdom to rescue her father from the Land of the Dead.

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