Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations

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*****Sabriel

by Garth Nix

Reviewed January 20, 2004.
HarperTrophy, New York, 1996.  First published in Australia in 1995.  491 pages.
Available at Vogelweh Library (JF NIX).
Winner of the Aurealis Award for Excellence in Australian Science Fiction
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #3, Fantasy for Young Adults

I’ve meant to read this book for a long time, since both my teenage son and my husband recommended it, and the library has two sequels.  I finally got around to it this vacation, and was completely captivated.

Garth Nix has created a fantasy novel that isn’t quite like any other.

Sabriel died at birth, but her father, the Abhorsen, pulled her back from Death.  The Abhorsen knows how to travel in Death.  He is the one who makes things right by laying back to rest those whom other necromancers try to raise.  He binds those who will not rest.

When Sabriel is eighteen, she learns that her father has been trapped in Death, although his body is still alive, somewhere in the Old Kingdom.  He leaves her the tools to become the next Abhorsen.  Now begins a grand adventure in which she tries to save her father, against fearful odds and an overabundance of terrifying creatures coming out of Death.

One of the difficult parts of writing a fantasy is explaining the background without long-winded exposition.  Garth Nix accomplishes this beautifully, making Charter Magic and nine Gates of Death all seem perfectly natural and understandable.  Perhaps it helps that Sabriel herself doesn’t know much about what she is to do, and we learn as she learns.

You would think that a book dealing with Death would be oppressively dark, but I didn’t find that to be the case.  Sabriel is clearly on the side of good, even though she is up against great evil.

This is a magnificent book for teens and up.  It’s frightening in spots, but intriguing and action-packed, as well as touching.  A fantasy yarn not quite like any other.

Reviews of other books by Garth Nix:
Lirael
Abhorsen
Across the Wall
A Confusion of Princes

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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