Latest in a long line of Abhorsens, Sabriel knows more than most about death. The Abhorsens are necromancers who use Charter magic to put the dead to rest. Or, if that fails, bind them where they cannot return to Life. As one of the oldest family lines in the Old Kingdom, the Abhorsens are tasked with keeping the kingdom safe from the dead as well as dangerous Free Magic creatures.
When her father, the current Abhorsen, becomes trapped in Death–a dangerous river few can find and fewer can walk–Sabriel has to leave the relative shelter of her boarding school across the Wall in Ancelstierre to assume her rightful duties as the next Abhorsen to save her father, and perhaps many others, from the dead that would keep him and claim the world of the living for themselves in Sabriel (1995) by Garth Nix.
Sabriel is the first book in Nix’s Old Kingdom series. It is followed by Lirael, Abhorsen, the novella Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case and the prequel Clariel. Although this novel sets up all of the events that follow later in the series, Sabriel works as a standalone with a contained story arc.
Sabriel is a beautifully well-realized fantasy. Evocative descriptions bring both the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre to life as Nix weaves a complex world of magic and adventure. Sabriel easily negotiates the world of the Old Kingdom with its allies who may not be allies and all manner of magical wonders and dangers. She easily fits into the more modern world of Ancelstierre with its modern technology reminiscent of our own world in the 1910s.
Accompanied by distinct characters including a possibly dangerous cat and a statue come to life, Sabriel is a clever and capable heroine in a story that is as compelling as it is exciting. With action, romance and humor this novel has something for everyone. Sabriel is an exemplary start to a classic fantasy series. Highly recommended.
Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White