Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen

I just finished (re)reading the three books in Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy.

I still like them. In fact, I think that they are some of my favorite books. I will even say that the third, Abhorsen, is one of my top favorite books and it has my favorite ending of any book I've ever read.

I like the feel of the worlds that Nix places us into with these books, and I am in awe of the things that his imagination conjured up for these stories. Things like Charter magic; two different worlds with very different realities separated only by a wall; the seven bells that are used as tools by the Abhorsen; the nine gates of Death; and creatures like Mogget the cat and The Disreputable Dog.

The first book, Sabriel, introduces us to the Old Kingdom, land of Charter magic; and the country of Ancelstierre, reminiscent of an early 1900's England. If the last book contains my favorite ending, this first book contains my favorite beginnning. I listened to this book as an audio book read by Tim Curry the first time I became acquainted with it, and the beginning drew me in immediately. And I was in awe the whole time with the bells and drawing magic down from the ever-flowing Charter. The Abhorsen must use the bells and the Charter to keep the Dead in their place - and the necromancers who would use the dead to wreak havoc and gain power.

Sabriel, daughter of the Abhorsen and raised in a bording school in Ancelstierre, is thrust into being Abhorsen when her father disappears and a terrible and powerful entity is loose in the Old Kingdom. She barely knows the Old Kingdom but must go there to face her duties, find her father, and keep the Dead at bay.

The second book, Lirael, is excellent. It's about Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr - Seers who live in a glacier (another amazing part of the intricate world that Nix creates). In Lirael we are introduced to the title character who doesn't quite fit in, and the friend she creates with powerful Charter magic - the Disreputable Dog. We also come to know Prince Sameth, son of Sabriel, and his struggles to live up to being the Aborsen in waiting.

Lirael and Sameth's paths cross right when things are going downhill fast in the Old Kingdom. A couple of extremely powerful necromancers are on the loose, but something even more dangerous, more powerful, is behind a very carefully laid plan which has loosed all kinds of Dead.

The third book, Abhorsen, picks up where Lirael ends. It's a masterfully drawn conclusion, full of revelations, emotions, tied-up ends, and a few left for us to tie ourselves. Hats off to Garth Nix, this really is one of my favorite books of all time. And that's all I will say because I don't want to give things away.

If you enjoy young adult fantasy, you might give these books a try. And even though there are a lot of dead things in them, it doesn't have a zombie feel. The places in the books feel real with problems which must be overcome, or at the very least, kept under control, and the walking Dead are part of that. Luckily, there is an Abhorsen who can draw upon the well-ordered Charter magic to counter the effects of free magic, which powers the Dead. How it all works is fascinating and not zombified at all.


adrienne said...

I haven't heard of these. Sounds like something my kids might like.

ICQB said...

Hi adrienne!

The author is from Australia. I wonder if anything about growing up in Australia caused his imagination to come up with the things in these books.

Kim said...

I've often wondered about these books, as they seem to appeal to me, but then my skeptisism steps in and I put them back on the shelf. After your wonderful review, which tickled my curiosity, but revealed only a smidge of the plot, I think they may go on my wish list, along with a few others!

I loved your post on Comfrey too. It's a herb that I've used before, but thankfully, only sparingly.

Kim x

ICQB said...

Hi Kim!

I hope you enjoy the books if/when you read them. If you think they might appeal to you, then I just bet they will.

Glad to know the comfrey post was helpful!

Have a lovely day!

Jules said...

I found your blog while searching for fans of these books. I think this is my favorite fantasy series, and I really loved some of the characters, like Mogget! Garth Nix really can bring his characters to life. Luckily for us, Nix says he is writing two more books for the series, one about Chlorr and another as a sequel to Abhorsen! I'll have to check out some of your book recommendations in the meanwhile :)

ICQB said...

Hi Jules!

Wow, thanks for the heads up on the upcomming Garth Nix books! That's exciting news.

If you haven't already read them, the books by Megan Whalen Turner - The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia - are also excellent and you may like them.