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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

cover of 'Sabriel'

As an infant, Sabriel nearly-- or, to be more accurate, briefly-- died. But her father, Abhorsen, stepped across the boundary between Life and Death, and brought her back. Abhorsen is a necromancer unlike any I have ever read about-- instead of summoning the dead, he binds the dead that haunt the living, and he assists-- or forces-- them to cross the final gate. Now a young woman and nearly finished with her schooling in Ancelstierre, Sabriel learns that something has happened to her father-- he is either bound somewhere in Death, or perhaps actually dead. So, she crosses back into the Old Kingdom, where she discovers that Abhorsen is not a name but a title, and that she has inherited it. A powerful, Greater Dead creature and its minions are stirring, and she must outrace them to find her father and save the kingdom.

Sabriel is assisted by a powerful, flaming white creature of Wild Magic who appears to her in the form of a white cat with a magic collar, and tells her to call him Moggett. Along the way, Sabriel discovers and frees a young man who has been held in a kind of magic stasis for centuries-- and who is, of course, tied up with the events at the beginning of the powerful Greater Dead being Kerrigor that eventually they must face.

One of the more interesting parts of the world that Nix has created is the idea of the Charter. Sabriel and her father practice Charter Magic, and they and others are marked on their forehead with a Charter mark, like a kind of baptism. Sabriel attends a boarding school outside of the Old Kingdom for her own safety and because the Clayr knew she would need familiarity with Ancelstierre to defeat Kerrigor, but as a result she does not learn what children are taught about the Charters that bind the Kingdom, in the ancient stones, and in the bloodlines of royalty and the Abhorsens-- and which Kerrigor has been systematically working to undo.

There are many wonderful details to this world, the story, and the characters-- for instance, the magic that Sabriel and her father do through the bells of the necromancer, each bell with its own name and different power over the dead and the living. Or the whiteness of their skin, because their trips to the Land of the Dead leeches the color out of them. The story is a wonderful adventure, and the conclusion is equally satisfying-- with enough open-endedness to leave you wondering, wanting more.

Author:Garth Nix
Date published:1995
Genre:Young Adult Fantasy
Number of pages:292
Notes:loaned by Catey


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