Sabriel (Abhorsen Series #1)

Sabriel (Abhorsen Series #1)

4.7 536
by Garth Nix, Tim Curry

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Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Charter-Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that world. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and

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Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Charter-Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that world. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There, she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life - and comes face-to-face with her own hidden destiny.

Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
By turns rousing, charming and slyly funny, Sabriel is an engaging tale that slays sexual sterotypes along with its monsters.
Lloyd Alexanderm
... Nix has created a ... remarkable and persuasive world; and done it in the grand style of heroic romance.
The ALAN Review - M. Jean Greenlaw
The juxtaposition of a prologue that sets the scene in a fantasy world where Sabriel is born dead and brought back to life by her necromancer father and the first chapter, set in an obviously modern world, gains the reader's immediate attention. Sabriel comes from the Old Kingdom and is drawn back into it when her father dies. Her quest is to rescue him from the river of death, as he is a special necromancer, the Abhorsen, whose task is to lay the undead back to rest. Sabriel and two companions struggle with the legions of evil until it becomes obvious what her fate is: She is the new Abhorsen and her companion Touchstone is the last of the royal line. The story is rife with the trappings of fantasy, including magical bells and swords, and cats and other creatures that are more than they seem. Nix is a new and welcome voice in the fold of those who write high fantasy. He creates a believable setting and peoples it with characters who are fascinating and about whom one cares. The adventure is dramatic enough to make a reader lose a night's sleep, because the book cannot be put down.
VOYA - Joyce Davidson
The Wall divides the Old Kingdom from the rest of the world, but more than the Wall makes the Old Kingdom different. Behind that Wall magic still works, Dead come back, and even the moon and seasons are different. In Ancelstierre no one believes in magic unless they live on the border beside the Wall. Sabriel was born in the Old Kingdom, but from the age of four she has lived in the border town of Wyverley. She is now eighteen and about to graduate from school when she receives a message brought by the Dead from her father, Abhorsen, one of the most powerful necromancers in the Old Kingdom. Abhorsen is not the usual necromancer; he doesn't raise the Dead, but lays them back to rest with the magic of his bells, making him the enemy of both the Dead and many living mages. Sabriel must return to the Old Kingdom and attempt to rescue her father. Along the way she discovers her heritage, the lost heir to the Kingdom, and the greatest enemy her family and her land have ever faced. Only the courage of the soldiers at the border and her friends at school will prevent the Dead Mage Kerrigor from returning to Life. This wonderful new fantasy is filled with rich and complex imagery. Determined to rescue her father, Sabriel is alone in a world she does not remember, surrounded by unknown enemies. She does not hesitate, but continues onward no matter the odds. However, while Sabriel might love her father, she shows little concern for the rest of the human race. To prevent the Dead from reaching her at one point, she floods a cavern, destroying the Dead and their human slaves. She shows no regret for the many humans she killed, nor does she consider any rescue. Even her romance with Touchstone is very superficial. Despite these flaws, this fantasy is recommended for most libraries, especially those with large fantasy collections or fantasy readers. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Alexandria LaFaye
This Australian fantasy takes a unique approach to the hero quest; Nix's hero is a young woman. Sabriel is an apprentice necromancer who must enter the realm of dead to save her trapped father and defeat the evil spirit who entrapped him. To accomplish this task, Sabriel must leave the modern world of Ancelstierre to journey into the Old Kingdom that is being overtaken by the walking dead. This split between the modern and the magically medieval worlds is another unusual aspect of the novel. These worlds clash when the evil spirit Kerrigor returns to the modern world to claim his mortal body. The Ancelstierre army tries to stop him with modern weapons, but it is Sabriel who defeats him with magic. Another curious aspect of the story is that Sabriel's main helper is not a benevolent creature. He is an enslaved evil spirit who turns against her and must be recaptured. Still, this book has many of the traditional fantasy qualities-swords, royalty, magical creatures, mythical and ancient lands, and magic spells. Nix adds his own flavor to the fantasy novel and tells a unique tale of the female hero quest.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 UpThis vividly imagined fantasy pits a young necromancer against a shambling horde of deliciously gruesome minions of an unspeakably evil sorcerer. Raised in peaceful Ancelstierre, where magic is weak and technology has reached the level of automobiles and flying machines, teenaged Sabriel suddenly receives evidence that her wandering father is no longer in the Land of the Living. She sets out to find him, though it means crossing over into the Old Kingdom, where time and the very stars are different, and then past the Gates of Death. Sabriel is no stranger to these dangerous domains, but she quickly learns that the physical and magical walls erected to keep the living and dead separate are nearly broken down. With the help of a depressed, half-blood prince who has spent the last two centuries as a wooden statue and a seeming cat who is actually a powerful magical creature, the young woman evades a thicket of traps and hazards to rescue her fatheronly to lose him permanently in the opening rounds of a vicious, wild climax. Nix fills in the background with inventively developed details. Though he doesn't handle every element with equal skill, his monsters are scary and repulsive, his sense of humor is downright sneaky, and he puts his competent but not superhuman heroine through engrossing physical and emotional wringers. This book is guaranteed to keep readers up way past their bedtimes.John Peters, New York Public Library
Guardian Unlimited
“Sabriel has a fast pace, drama, vivid descriptions, excitement and humour. Packs of putrefying zombies, too. What more could you want?”
Philip Pullman
“Sabriel is a winner, a fantasy that reads like realism. Here is a world with the same solidity and four dimensional authority as our own, created with invention, clarity, and intelligence. I congratulate Garth Nix. And I look forward to reading his next piece of work.”

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Product Details

Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Abhorsen Series, #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The rabbit had been run over minutes before. Its pink eyes were glazed and blood stained its clean white fur. Unnaturally clean fur, for it had just escaped from a bath. It still smelt faintly of lavender water.

A tall, curiously pale young woman stood over the rabbit. Her night-black hair, fashionably bobbed, was hanging slightly over her face. She wore no makeup or jewelry, save for an enamelled school badge pinned to her regulation navy blazer. That, coupled with her long skirt, stockings and sensible shoes, identified her as a schoolgirl. A nameplate under the badge read "Sabriel" and the Roman "VI" and gilt crown proclaimed her to be both a member of the Sixth Form and a prefect.

The rabbit was, unquestionably, dead. Sabriel looked up from it and back along the bricked drive that left the road and curved up to an imposing pair of wrought-iron gates. A sign above the gate, in gilt letters of mock Gothic, announced that they were the gates to Wyverley College. Smaller letters added that the school was "Established in 1652 for Young Ladies of Quality."

A small figure was busy climbing over the gate, nimbly avoiding the spikes that were supposed to stop such activities. She dropped the last few feet and started running, her pigtails flying, shoes clacking on the bricks. Her head was down to gain momentum, but as cruising speed was established, she looked up, saw Sabriel and the dead rabbit, and screamed.

"Bunny! "

Sabriel flinched as the girl screamed, hesitated for a moment, then bent down by the rabbit's side and reached out with one pale hand to touch it between its long ears. Her eyes closed and her face set as if she hadsuddenly turned to stone. A faint whistling sound came from her slightly parted lips, like the wind heard from far away. Frost formed on her fingertips and rimed the asphalt beneath her feet and knees.

The other girl, running, saw her suddenly tip forward over the rabbit, and topple towards the road, but at the last minute her hand came out and she caught herself. A second later, she had regained her balance and was using both hands to restrain the rabbit--a rabbit now inexplicably lively again, its eyes bright and shiny, as eager to be off as when it escaped from its bath.

"Bunny!" shrieked the younger girl again, as Sabriel stood up, holding the rabbit by the scruff of its neck. "Oh, thank you, Sabriel! When I heard the car skidding I thought . . ."

She faltered as Sabriel handed the rabbit over and blood stained her expectant hands.

"He'll be fine, Jacinth," Sabriel replied wearily. "A scratch. It's already closed up."

Jacinth examined Bunny carefully, then looked up at Sabriel, the beginnings of a wriggling fear showing at the back of her eyes.

"There isn't anything under the blood," stammered Jacinth. "What did you . . ."

"I didn't," snapped Sabriel. "But perhaps you can tell me what you are doing out of bounds?"

"Chasing Bunny," replied Jacinth, her eyes clearing as life reverted to a more normal situation. "You see . . ."

"No excuses," recited Sabriel. "Remember what Mrs. Umbrade said at Assembly on Monday."

"It's not an excuse," insisted Jacinth. "It's a reason."

"You can explain it to Mrs. Umbrade then."

"Oh, Sabriel! You wouldn't! You know I was only chasing Bunny. I'd never have come out--"

Sabriel held up her hands in mock defeat, and gestured back to the gates.

"If you're back inside within three minutes, I won't have seen you. And open the gate this time. They won't be locked till I go back inside."

Jacinth smiled, her whole face beaming, whirled around and sped back up the drive, Bunny clutched against her neck. Sabriel watched till she had gone through the gate, then let the tremors take her till she was bent over, shaking with cold. A moment of weakness and she had broken the promise she had made both to herself and her father. It was only a rabbit and Jacinth did love it so much--but what would that lead to? It was no great step from bringing back a rabbit to bringing back a person.

Worse, it had been so easy. She had caught the spirit right at the wellspring of the river, and had returned it with barely a gesture of power, patching the body with simple Charter symbols as they stepped from death to life. She hadn't even needed bells, or the other apparatus of a necromancer. Only a whistle and her will.

Death and what came after death was no great mystery to Sabriel. She just wished it was.

It was Sabriel's last term at Wyverley--the last three weeks, in fact. She had graduated already, coming first in English, equal first in Music, third in Mathematics, seventh in Science, second in Fighting Arts and fourth in Etiquette. She had also been a runaway first in Magic, but that wasn't printed on the certificate. Magic only worked in those regions of Ancelstierre close to the Wall which marked the border with the Old Kingdom. Farther away, it was considered to be quite beyond the pale, if it existed at all, and persons of repute did not mention it. Wyverley College was only forty miles from the Wall, had a good all-round reputation, and taught Magic to those students who could obtain special permission from their parents.

Sabriel's father had chosen it for that reason when he had emerged from the Old Kingdom with a five-year-old girl in tow to seek a boarding school. He had paid in advance for that first year, in Old Kingdom silver deniers that stood up to surreptitious touches with cold iron.

Sabriel. Copyright © by Garth Nix. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Philip Pullman
Sabriel is a winner, a fantasy that reads like realism. I congratulate Mr. Nix, and I look forward to reading his next piece of work.

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