Title: Sabriel (25th Anniversary)
Author: Garth Nix
Published: August, 2021
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Readership: Young Adult
Content Warnings: Death of parents, death in childbirth, ghosts, necromancy
I received a copy of Sabriel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Garth Nix’s masterwork is a compelling high fantasy, the gripping story of a young heroine who must do battle in Death itself to defeat a powerful enemy. A tale of dark secrets, deep love and dangerous magic.
WINNER: 1996 American Library Association Award, Best Book for Young Adults
SHORT-LISTED: 1996 Ditmar Award, Best Long Fiction
SHORT-LISTED: 2003 W. H. Smith Book Awards, Children’s Book of the Year
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.
This special 25th Anniversary Edition features bonus material including a letter from Garth, original notes and a facsimile of a first hand-written draft.
Sabriel is a book I remember reading in high school (back when I was in my ‘fantasy’ phase) and it’s always stuck in my mind as a book that I enjoyed. I haven’t read it nearly two decades, so having the opportunity to revisit The Old Kingdom was really lovely. It’s amazing to think that this book, an Australian young adult fantasy book, is 25th years old this year.
Sabriel is the story of a teenage girl born to an Abhorsen father. Her father’s job has been to protect The Old Kingdom by sending the Dead (who won’t stay dead) back through the Nine Gates. When her father goes missing, Sabriel returns across The Wall to The Old Kingdom in search of him. What she finds is a mystery, some danger, a talking cat (that’s not just a talking cat) and a palace guard frozen in time for hundreds of years as a wooden statue. It’s up to her to learn about her powers and abilities and apply them quickly to save the world.
This was just as fun as I remembered it to be.
I will say, the pacing is a little slow, but there’s a lot of world-building that needs to be done in this book to create a well-rounded sense of the world that this story exists in, and it didn’t detract significantly from the story. It was written for young adults, so there are concerns in her that teens would identify with – growing up and coming of age in uncertain times – but there’s also tons of adventure and fun.
Sabriel is a character who starts out with the world on her soldiers, and eventually finds allies in Mogget and Touchstone. Mogget is probably my favourite character, mostly because this talking cat is much more than it seems and has a very droll sense of humour. Pretty much all of my favourite scenes involve Moggett.
The special edition book is just gorgeous – it’s a hardback (sans dusk jacket) with a gorgeously eerie illustration of Sabriel on the front. The spine is navy, with gold lettering and symbols. The extras include some of Garth Nix’s original notes from writing the book, which is a really fascinating look into an author’s process.
If you like magic, mystery, adventure – and a big necromancy – this is definitely a book to check out. Or revisit.
Happy 25th Anniversary to this Australian YA classic!