by Garth Nix
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Date Released: September 2014 (originally published 1995)
For many years Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won't stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that treacherous world - and face the power of her own extraordinary destiny. (Source Goodreads)
This is a book I wish I'd read when I was a pre-teen. It seems to be everyone's childhood favourite story. So, here it is: adult-Jess's review of the first of the Old Kingdom Chronicles.
Sabriel is an interesting character. At first I thought she was going to be a Mary Sue because she's got almost perfect grades, but I loved her realisation that good grades don't mean anything when applied to the real world, and that's when I got really interested.
Sabriel is so sure that her father is in Balisaere--with no evidence, merely a hunch--so when she does find him there, it feels like an act of deus ex machina. She simply knows what to do, without any apparent training. So, it's hard to know exactly how I feel about her, because she changes so often.
I'm not a fan of the romance. It came out of nowhere and only had a small amount of pages to really develop. I'm sure pre-teen Jess would have lapped what little romance there was, but as an adult, I feel cheated and disappointed.
Despite that, the world is a truly magical place. The Wall separates Ancelstierre from The Old Kingdom, where the Old Magic thrives, but at a price. Here, zombie-like creatures of the dead walk about, controlled by a Dead Adept called Kerrigor. It's a wonderful blend of fantasy and horror, giving the book a chilling tone. It's a world I look forward to submerging myself into, over and over again.
The magic system is very original, based on music. It has a very intricate and other feeling to it, but the way the bells are described left me slightly confused. Despite this, I loved the Old Magic that pulsed through the book, giving life to a magical being in a cat's body called Mogget, and a bastard prince stuck as a figurehead on a lost and dilapidated ship. I'm always a fan of animal companions in books, and wish there were more. Taggle from Plain Kate comes to mind, as another magical novel with a cat as an ally.
Despite my grievances, I enjoyed the book. It was fun. It was magical. It was exactly what pre-teen Jess would have adored, and I'm truly downhearted that I didn't read this sooner. Thankfully, though, I have three more books in this series to bury myself in, and I can't wait.
Cover Art: 4