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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: Sabriel

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Sabriel (Abhorsen #1)
by Garth Nix
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.

With Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen trilogy, Garth Nix exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rising star, in a novel that takes readers to a world where the line between the living and the dead isn't always clear—and sometimes disappears altogether.


Although I enjoyed reading Sabriel, it wasn't the amazing read I was hoping for.  I can see why it is such a beloved book because the adventures are captivating and also sometimes grisly, and Sabriel's dedication to see her mission through is really inspiring.  It is not easy for her to fulfill her destiny and it is stirring to go on this journey with her.

The world-building is where I was often disenchanted.  It felt like it took awhile to understand the world, because there was so much kept from Sabriel, and also many of the characters could not physically speak about what was going on.  I think if there was a clearer idea of the stakes earlier in the book, it would have held my interest better.  But there are a few other aspects of the world that felt more arbitrary because they were not very well explained or at least I didn't understand how the system came to be.  This was the most disappointing aspect for me, and made it difficult for me to really get into the story.

The characters in this story are varied and well drawn, but I did find that I was not always very invested in them.  I'm not sure why this is, because they all have an interesting dynamic and an exciting backstory but for some reason the combination did not capture me.  The romantic aspect of the story was very dull in my opinion - engineered and underwhelming.  I was underwhelmed by the villain of the story too, who lacked nuance, and was so relentlessly evil without much explanation for why he became what he was.

I have to say again that I did enjoy this story and my rating wavered between 4 and 3 stars.  But even with the exciting and tense climax, I didn't feel like this book had the depth and the intricate, well-explained world-building that would have made it more of a memorable read for me.  It is a good story overall though, and perhaps better when read with the rest in the series, so my personal preference probably plays a large part in how I felt about this book.

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  1. Nice review! I haven't read this one but it was on my radar- don't know if it's something I'll actually get to though.

  2. Many people seem to like this one, so maybe this will be a great read for you!

  3. Aww, I read this series ages ago and loved it. But it was a long time ago and I'm definitely a more discerning reader now. I'm kind of afraid to reread it because of that! I hope if you continue reading the books they'll get better for you Charlene!!

  4. I wonder how I would feel about it if I read it when I was younger! It might have appealed to me more!

  5. I haven't seen this book around! But I will definitely check it out. Your review is lovely :-)

  6. It's an older book, so maybe it doesn't have the same vibe as fantasy today (it could fit into YA because of the age of Sabriel, but I don't think it's YA like we are familiar with it today.) I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to read it!

  7. This book has been on my to-read list for so long, mainly because it seems that all my friends adore it. It's quite nice to see a review that discusses the weak points of the book, and a well-written one to boot! :) I'll have a try at reading this book, but I'll keep in mind the points you raised. :D Great review, Charlene!

  8. Same for me - I know some people who really loved it, so I feel really sad I didn't quite get there - but I really hope you love it, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on it! It seems like most of the people I know who love it read it when they were in school, so it would be interesting to get the perspective of someone who read it later!

  9. This book has been on my radar since I saw people talking about a read-a-long. As huge fantasy reader, my interest was awakened. It's a shame to hear that the world-building didn't blow you away, but perhaps you get to know more once the story continues? :) I hope to pick it up soon. Great review!

  10. It is really loved by many people, so I hope you will enjoy it! I think I will try to continue with the series someday - I am curious to see how it will all resolve!

  11. Rinn (Rinn Reads)June 6, 2014 at 1:14 PM


    Although I guess it's good to get some variety :P I'm glad you finally got around to reading this one, even if it didn't quite live up to your expectations. Do you think you'll read Lirael and Abhorsen?

  12. Ahh, I know I feel sad I can't join in with your fangirling club with Paola! I think I will read the rest of the books though, just to see what happens. Sabriel had a pretty good ending I thought, so I'm curious to see what else goes horribly wrong. :D