Thursday, January 19, 2017
ThrowBook Thursday: Sabriel
I've mentioned my love of Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series a couple of times in the last few weeks, including on Monday's listing of my favorite magic systems. Since I recently finished reading the latest book in the series, Goldenhand, I thought I would take a look back at the book that started it all: Sabriel.
After a brief but thrilling prologue, Sabriel begins with the titular character at school in Ancelstierre, the thoroughly unmagical kingdom to the south. She has been away at school for most of her life in order to keep her safe from the necromancers and Dead creatures that have been rampant in the Old Kingdom (to the north) since the disappearance and death of the Royal Family 200 years before. An unsettling messenger from Sabriel's father sends her into Death (to hear the rest of her father's message) and then into the Old Kingdom to take up his role as Abhorsen, the Charter mage and necromancer tasked with keeping sorcerers, necromancers, and the Dead at bay. Along the way, she encounters Mogget, a seemingly normal talking cat who more or less serves the Abhorsen family, and Touchstone, a lost descendant of the Royal Family. Together, the three of them must hunt down Kerrigor, the necromancer responsible for the disappearance of Sabriel's father, and save the Old Kingdom!
I've heard it said that prologues are useless, skippable, and distracting. Not so with this prologue. It's exactly what hooked me into this book. We are shown the Abhorsen in action, view a thrilling action sequence, and get to know and care about Terciel, Sabriel's father. That last is important since his disappearance and mysterious message are what sets the ball rolling for the rest of the book.
Sabriel does a lot of work for such a relatively small book. It establishes the setting, magic system, and conflict for a series that subsequently is focused on other characters. Its best features are Sabriel's determination to do well in her new role as Abhorsen, Mogget's ever-present sarcasm (not to mention the threat of his freedom hanging over everything), and the skillful way in which Nix uses the magic of the world to drive his story forward. The only slight detraction from the book that I recall (it's been 4.5 years since I first read it) was the romance between Sabriel and Touchstone blossoming so quickly at the end. However, that was a very minor quibble at the time and their relationship in the later books (after many years of marriage and two children) is so wonderful I don't mind their being so suddenly shipped together (pardon the pun, those of you who've read the book).
If you haven't read the Old Kingdom series, go out and pick up Sabriel. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Have you read Sabriel? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
In case you missed it, Albion Academy is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon! You can pick up a paperback copy here. If Kindle's more your style, go here.
Also, I had a guest post on Arthurian legend and its influence on Albion Academy over at The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls Tuesday. You can check that out here.