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4.7 out of 5 stars
Sabriel
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2006
All those cliches that are trotted out for so many books atcually apply to this one - original - yes! exciting - yes! unputdownable - yes! I wasnt quite sure where Mr Nix intended his audience to be when he wrote this book. Its difficult to classify a specific audience for it. In manys ways it is young adult but several of the themes definetly stray into more adult areas. Then again, the themes of loss and love are universal to so much fiction, that classifying any book would be useless. I first read Sabriel several years ago when it first came out in the UK and I have returned to it several times since, always finding something new and interesting. Its a book I would love to pass on to my children when they are old enough. Its slightly more grown up that the Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl books, less cartoonish. The characters seem more real. The dialogue is fantastic. Not once did I feel that a plot device came along to get Sabriel out of danger in the nick of time. Any help that came seems a logical progression of the story. Sabriel is a great book for all ages and all lovers of adventure fiction. Read it. You wont regret it!
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2003
Garth Nix’s “Sabriel” is striking in many ways. Initially, it’s just the cover – ooh, isn’t it nice? And the book inside? Well, perhaps for once judging a book by its cover is not such a bad idea.
That Philip Pullman graces the cover of “Sabriel”, proclaiming it to be a fantasy that reads like realism, is telling. Reading “Sabriel” I was reminded time and again of Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, which is widely acknowledged as a modern classic. Both take place in a fantasy world only slightly removed from our own, both centre around a young girl as she grows into a woman and discovers love, and both are absolutely, breathtakingly excellent.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this a children’s book. Again, like Pullman’s works, that may be what it says on the tin, but Nix doesn’t pull any punches in his presentation. There’s no patronising and talking down to children in his prose – several times I actually wondered if he’d even attempted to use simple word-choice. Because Nix refuses to sacrifice anything which will take away from his story – he tells it the way he wants to tell it, which is unquestionably a good thing for readers everywhere, even if they occasionally need to fumble for the dictionary.
“Sabriel” followes the eponymous heroine into the Old Kingdom, which is gradually falling apart after the breaking of many Charter Stones (magic that holds the Kingdom together), using the blood of the royal family. Blood is very important in this book, as Sabriel is to discover – she goes in search of her father, the Abhorsen (a necromancer whose task it is to make sure the dead stay dead and don’t come back to claim the living world as their own), and on the way has to come to terms with who and what she is, now that her father may be lost to her forever. On her journey she gains both friends and enemies, and although very occasionally Nix strays into the fantasy cliché area (returning Kings and talking animals), his powerful storytelling just keeps the reader from losing belief in his world.
Magic plays a big part in “Sabriel”, but Nix doesn’t just use it for the sake of it. The magic comes from within the characters, and symbolically it is often only strength of character and the support of others which enables even the simplest spell to be cast. This book is very much about growing up, banishing inner demons and having to make your own way through the often cruel world. Like all the best “children’s” literature, there’s an awful lot more going on under the surface than hocus-pocus and big men with swords.
The only real criticism I can make of “Sabriel” is that sometimes the pacing seems a little uneven. It starts out with a measured pace, drawing you into the mystery of the Old Kingdom and Sabriel’s journey through it. These early chapters are intoxicatingly good, reeling you in as Nix describes his fantasy world. But seemingly within hours of Sabriel entering the Old Kingdom, it’s gung-ho all the way. Incident follows adventure follows incident for the rest of the book, which although engaging offers no moments of pause for any real character analysis or assessment of where the story is and where it’s going. It reads very much like an adventure film with one big explosion after another with very little in between. However, I’m probably making this out to be more of a fault than it is – I know I thoroughly enjoyed the book. In the great panorama of “Sabriel”, this is only a minor quibble. I can only say that Philip Pullman should watch his back in the coming years, as Garth Nix gains further, much deserved, recognition.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2004
First of all, an Abhorsen is someone who puts the dead back to rest, when a necromancer wakes them. It's in only one bloodline, so a heavy burden rests on the shoulders of every Abhorsen.
Sabriel is the Abhorsen-in-waiting, though she hardly knows it. When her father goes missing, and sends her a very powerful sword and the Abhorsen bells (with which an Abhorsen works to ring the dead back into death), Sabriel leaves her school and plunges into the world of danger that is the Old Kingdom.
Meeting Mogget, the sarcastic magical being bound to service to the Abhorsen, she finds a guide, and another danger. Together they rescue a man who then joins them. The trouble is, just about everything and everyone is more beneath the surface. The old Kingdom is like a nightmare world, people fleeing, dead sucking the life out of every living being, scavengers sacrificing children for riches, a world waiting to be rescued.
Can they find Sabriel's father in time to stop an evil that has haunted the Old Kingdom for 200 years, and is about to rise?
The book is seriously magnificent, full of new ideas and plot, adventure, and heart-stopping dangers.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2003
Sabriel is the best book I have read in quite a while. I love finding new and exciting books, and love the feeling of having found an absolute gem that you know will do well! Sabriel is one of these books. It will have you gripped from start to finish...I was up until 5am finishing it! I found it in my local bookshop burried under some other books, and was immediately drawn to its simple but lavish frontcover.
Sabriel is an 18 year old girl, who is thrown into a life changing adventure head first, to rescue her father. Trapped between the gates of life and death, she must find her fathers spirit in the realm of death in order to bring life to his physical body. Sounds complecated? Well it isn't really, it's just hard to sum up 366 pages of magic into a few lines!
If you are like me and enjoy books such as The wind On Fire trilogy, Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, you will enjoy this book. I always feel a bit stupid being an 18 year old searching through the childrens department, but you can't beat books written for the 'Young Adult'.
The book isn't one for younger children, as I feel they might get bogged down by the language and invented magical terminology. Perhaps the age group I would say the book is most enjoyable for is 13years to adult. There is certainly a reference to sex in the book, however mild it may, which maybe useful information to a potential parent wanting a book for their child. I would not let this put you off however, as it isn't crude in anyway.
Over all this book is one that I will be proud to put on my shelf as another one of my great finds in the world of books. Garth Nix gets the big thumbs up!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2007
I found this trilogy by chance here on Amazon and I'm so happy that I did. These 3 books have changed and enhanced my imagination a great deal. I was hooked on Sabriel straight away and I felt attached to her and her mission to find her father, the Abhorsen, after about the first 5 pages. It's an amazing and truly magical trilogy and I can't say a bad thing about it. I have so much respect and admiration for Garth Nix because the characters, places, environment, Old Kingdom creatures and magic are described so brilliantly that it makes it hard to believe that these stories aren't real! In this trilogy you are garaunteed to find stories of sadness, lonliness, determination, independence, loyalty, triumph, happiness, friendship and above all, love. This is definately a book that I think would benefit any keen reader even if you don't think you'll read it at a quick pace, buy Lirael and Abhorsen with Sabriel because you never know!

Sam Bourne, age 18.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2007
This book literally oozes brilliance. It's complex, involving, superbly imaginative and I literally couldn't put it down... this really is compulsive reading and could cost you a good night's sleep!!

There is a great clarity to Garth Nix's writing in this book, which brings this fantasy genre completely to life and lifts it (for me) way above other similar books. Neither adult's or children's, I guess I would kind of fit this into the category teen/adult fantasy.

"Sabriel" is set in a world divided in two by a wall of segregation that few are allowed to cross. There is the Old Kingdom of magic, and its diminishing population, due to the powers of the Dead who just won't stay dead. Sabriel(18) has spent her entire life since the age of 4 in the other world, Ancelstierre - a modern world where magic doesn't extend much beyond the borders with the Old Kingdom. Sabriel has been at a boarding school close to the borders where Charter Magic is still on the syllabus for those who bear the Charter Mark (a brand mark on the forehead), and she has had infrequent visits from her father, the Mage Abhorsen who fights an endless battle against the dead in the Old Kingdom. She has learned something of his Free Magic and Necromancy skills... but she still has a lot to learn about the supernatural ways of the Old Kingdom... and dealings with the dead.

Sabriel is thrown into this world unexpectedly when one day she receives a package of her father's Charter Mark sword, and his necromancy bells (essential weapons against the Dead). Sabriel realises he is missing, possibly dead, or trapped in the world of the dead. What else can she do, but set out to find him.... into the Kingdom she hasn't seen since she was a little girl...

Read this - you won't be disappointed!
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2004
I work in a book shop and Sabriel grabbed my attention the second I saw it. However, I was a bit apprehensive as it was in the young adult section which also contains all the 'girly' books which, being 18 and hating them, aren't really my type. But I thought I'd give it a chance as there was quite a fuss about it.
I'm so glad I did! I just couldn't put this book down! Nix' book is definately in the fantasy genre (which i was delighted about) but it is also unique from any fantasy fiction I've read. Sometimes it's easy to get lost in a book like this but Nix has amazing talent at making you understand and vividly imagine all the ideas he presents. Much easier read than lord of the rings and much more compelling too.
But don't let me tell you how wonderful it is, go and read it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2004
This is an amazing book!
I got it for christams and read it in a couple of days! I am 13 and never used to read all that much but after i read this!
Its a story of a young girl, who never knew her mother and really doesn't know all that much about her farther either!
She lives in Ancelstierre the other side of the wall of which her farther lives.
She sets out on a long journey meeting new people and not all of them are all that good!
This book can make you smile, laugh and cry alot!
It has lots of magic but can be a little morbid at times but that just adds to the charm!
Read this book! If you don't you don't know what you are missing!
I congratulate Garth Nix on his old kingdom series! (Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen) I wish that they never ended! X
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2004
These books are the best books that I have EVER read!!!
Last year I wasbusy reading Harry Potter and Phillip Pullman stories but after readingSabriel nothing compares to Garth Nix.
The books capture your imagination and take you into a world of fantasywith such description that you feel you are actually in the story. Afterreading the first book I could only wait an hour before starting thesecond and finished this in three days! I didn't think anything couldbetter Sabriel but Lirael has a much deeper story to offer the reader. Youlearn more about the past and feel that you know the characters andcountries the book is set in. The journey in the book is one of fun,laughter, sadness and great adventure. It is exciting and intriguing...younever know what will happen next.
I recommend these books to anyone whowants a change from normal predictable stories.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
This book was wonderful. Garth Nix manages to create a world so magical that by the end of the book you're left wanting more.
We follow a young girl on the quest to find her Father who is missing. Not so bad you think until you realsie that he's stuck in the world of the dead and that to rescue him she will have to face difficulties not just in the dangerously magical place around her but within herself aswell.
It's a fast paced book from beginning to end and with such original ideas within it (bells to raise the dead!!) I can imagine children and adults of all ages being enchanted by it. It's definitely for fans of Phillip Pullman and JRR Tolkien.
Roll on part two, we're waiting with bated breath.
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