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Immerse Yourself Into A World Unlike Any Other - "Sabriel" Book Review

Updated on August 6, 2010

While many of us have read classic fantasy stories by well-known authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, no one has composed a tale that's similar to the extraordinary world that has been created by Australian author, Garth Nix, in his novel "Sabriel". In his book, the first of the Abhorsen trilogy, Nix presents the story of a young girl who must confront her destiny in a world where both magic and technology are intertwined as a powerful evil prepares to return.


book cover
book cover

“Sabriel” takes place in two fictional neighboring countries: Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom. Ancelstierre is a country very similar to post World War I England where Sabriel, a young girl of 18, has been going to school throughout most of her life. Her real homeland, however, is the Old Kingdom, which lies across a strange border to the north of Ancelstierre - the kind of border where it’s always a different time of the day and a different season of the year. Another difference between these two lands is that lately, dead people in the Old Kingdom refuse to stay dead.

The story starts off one night as Sabriel is waiting in her room at Wyverley College for her Father to show up as he did every year on her birthday. Sabriel’s father was no ordinary man. He was the Abhorsen, “…a necromancer, but not of the common sort, while others of the art raise the dead, I lay them to rest - or try to - and those that will not rest I bind…”. It was his duty, as many others before him, to safeguard the Old Kingdom from the threat of the dead by going into the realm of death itself with the assistance of the 7 bells of power, the tools of a necromancer, which he always carried with him. As both his daughter and the Abhorsen-in-waiting, Sabriel has learned some skills with the use of magic and the bells as well as the ability to go into death.

When her Father doesn’t show up that night, Sabriel begins to worry since it was unusual for him to be late. Before she could continue to brood over the subject, she’s alerted to a noise that is heard outside the dormitory by one of the other girls. When Sabriel opens the door to see what the disturbance was, she finds “…an intensely dark…” and indistinguishable figure standing in front of her which she knows to be one of the dead. As the being approached her, Sabriel “…let herself slip over the border into Death…” and she soon found herself standing in a river that “…flowed around her legs, cold as always…”. All around her, “...the light, grey and without warmth, still stretched to an entirely flat horizon…”, and in the distance, “she could hear the roar of the First Gate”. Here Sabriel was able to see the creature for what it was - a dead, humanoid-like servant that was clutching a sack. Sabriel whistled several notes imbued with power that caused the creature to drop the sack as it brought both hands over its ears in agony. Instantly, the creature bent down to retrieve the sack but lost its footing and plunged into the river which pulled it towards the waterfall of the First Gate. As it slid away, the creature’s head broke through the surface and cried out “‘Sabriel! My messenger! Take the sack!’ The voice was Abhorsen's”.

“Sabriel” has been one of the most convincing and well developed fantasy novels that I have read. Nix does an excellent job of creating an atmosphere into which the reader can completely absorb themselves and it keeps one on the edge of their seats and wanting for more. Any fan of fiction or fantasy will find this book appealing as it deals with an eccentric world that they have never encountered before.

Looking for the rest of the Abhorsen series?

What do you think about the book?

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    • UndercoverAgent19 profile image

      UndercoverAgent19 5 years ago

      I definitely agree that Sabriel is an excellent fantasy book. I'm only now getting into the sci-fi/fantasy genre, and I must say that this book is a big part of what is keeping me engaged in pursuing more fantasy stories to read.

    • SEO IT! profile image

      Karla Whitmore 7 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      I love fantasy fiction. You've convinced me to add this one to my list. Thanks! :)