Sabriel by Garth Nix (published by Harper Collins) 1995.
“Five Great Charters knit the land together linked, hand in hand…”
– Aline, p.216, Sabriel.
I’m giving this book 3.5 stars. It could easily have been a 3 or even a 2, but some of the concepts in this book are so delicious I had to bump up the score a little.
Bells that sing to the dead. A sassy, talking cat. A world where the South doesn’t believe in magic and the North is drowning in it. Dead things that swim in the river of death which runs through nine gates in a frosty underworld…
All the same, it was a real effort for me to trudge through this book; it has so much promise, but as much as I tried to, I couldn’t make myself enjoy this adventure. I understand that Sabriel is the first in a trilogy that apparently gets better and better, but I’m not desperate to get my hands on Lirael. My biggest problem was the writing itself.
Occasionally I felt a twinge of empathy for the characters, but most of the time I felt distant and disconnected to their plight. The book is narrated in third person, but as soon there was more than one hero on the move, there were some irritating lurches between being an omniscient and a limited narrator. I never knew whose head I was supposed to be in and who knew or felt what at any given moment. The landscape was often unclear in my head, I found myself re-reading lines that contradicted themselves and descriptions that painted odd images in my mind that weren’t quite fitting. Some of it was super cheesy and predictable, other parts seemed to come out of nowhere, or were so drawn out that it jarred the action.
Just not a fan. Sorry!
*SPOILERS AHEAD BEWARE*
Notes on notable characters
Sabriel – I get what she was supposed to be – smart, resourceful, brave- but I couldn’t warm to her at all. Just accept your identity please.
Mogget – The saving grace. Loved this character from his blunt snubs to his fluffy white fur and cute little red collar that kept his murderous spirit at bay. The only reason I want to continue the series is to see if he makes furry friends with Kerrigor, seeing as they might be sharing a litter tray from now on….
Touchstone – What a waste of space. Spent the first half of the book hoping he wouldn’t be the love interest. Then he was the love interest. For once I wish there was a love triangle so I could pick the other one instead.
Abhorsen – Absent father who has a hundred hundred heartbeats left or something. I actually found his rescue hilarious. How he was just communicating with his eyebrows.
Kerrigor – WHY is Kerrigor just Rogirek spelled backwards… no thanks. Gah! This isn’t The Shining. That was an eye roll moment.
The Clayr Twins – I really liked this pair for some reason, their striking look is sticking in my head. You go Sanar and Ryelle.
- The motif of the silver key.
- The paperwings (but not the random bird attack).
- The nine Gates of Death.
- The fact that Touchstone and Rogirek are half-brothers.
- My copy of Sabriel had embossed Charter Marks on the cover that you can only see if you catch them in the light – very cool.
The fact that Sabriel woke Touchstone. She should have left him as the perfectly fine, and rather pretty, carved statue that he was.
All in all, a little disappointed in this story, but glad I pushed through.
*… screaming in the distance I’M NOT ABHORSEN CALL ME SABRIEL PLEASE … *