Who wrote this book and when?
Garth Nix published it in 1995.
Has there been a film version?
No, not yet. If there is, I think Christina Ricci would do a good job as Sabriel…that’s all.
Who are the important characters?
Sabriel – the daughter of the Abhorsen, raised in Ancelstierre
Mogget – a strange Free Magic creature who is thousands of years old; he comes in the shape of a small white cat collared with a bell.
Touchstone – a young man who was imprisoned in a masthead for over 200 years
The Abhorsen – a calling and a bloodline which is responsible for banishing Dead things out of the Old Kingdom and beyond the Ninth Gate in death; in this case, it refers to Sabriel’s father, (whose real name is Terciel) and Sabriel at times
Kerrigor – one of the Great(est) Dead, an evil creature who used to be human that is intent on destroying everything
What’s it about?
Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen – a man in the Old Kingdom north of Ancelstierre who is responsible for protecting the gates between life and death. Despite the fact that she was raised in Ancelstierre away from many of the influences of magic, she is called to the Old Kingdom to help her father who has been imprisoned by the evil Kerrigor – a Greater Dead and creature of Death and twisted Free Magic. Along the way, she travels with Mogget, another ancient Free Magic creature and she meets up with Touchstone, imprisoned for 200 years. She also must come to realize her place in the Abhorsen bloodline and shoulder the responsibility of who she really is while fighting legions of Dead creatures.
Why is this book a classic?
It’s Nix’s first foray into novel-dom and an excellent journey at that.
Do you recommend I read this book?
Oh yes. Right up there (but below, mind you) Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and C.S. Lewis’ fantasy trilogy.
Why did this book make your list?
Originally, this book was a random pick up encounter at my local library. I read “Shade’s Children” by Nix first, since then I was interested in dystopian societies and armageddon scenarios. And I loved that book so much I went in search of more books by this author. And I found the Old Kingdom series.
Has it won any awards?
It won the Aurealis Award for Excellence (which is an Australian Science Fiction award – Nix is from “Oz.” It was also an ALA Notable Book.
I might just be tempted to quote the entire book, but I’ll settle for one, deal?
“Sabriel digested this in silence, staring at the swirls of fish and sauce on her plate, silver scales and red tomato blurring into a pattern of swords and fire. The table blurred too, and the room beyond, and she felt herself reaching for the border with Death. But try as she might, she couldn’t cross it. She sensed it, but there was no way to cross, in either direction – Abhorsen’s House was too well protected. But she did feel something at the border. Inimical things lurked there, waiting for her to cross, but there was also the faintest thread of something familiar, like the scent of a woman’s perfume after she has left the room, or the waft of a particular pipe tobacco around a corner. Sabriel focussed on it and threw herself once more at the barrier that separated her from Death.” – p 73
There’s a page devoted specifically to the Old Kingdom series. It can be found here.
Plus…I like the British covers on these books more than the cheesy seventies looking ones. That’s all.
I can’t tell you enough how good these books are. Nix is completely unpretentious in his presentation of this world, the separated Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom. He leaves almost nothing unexplained (or at least without the promise of explanation), and I can guarantee you that he builds on things in the next books which you thought were completely covered. Sabriel as a character is unlike any character I can think of. She is part little girl and part warrior, slightly unsure and very courageous, just reckless enough to be interesting, and modern enough to resonate with people in our own reader’s world. And Nix throws her back and forth between three worlds with little to no effort. And he even manages to slip prophecy and a love story in right underneath your nose.
Thea reviews the Old Kingdom Series here.