Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Point of View: Third (Sabriel & Touchstone mostly)
My Rating: 8/10 Stars
Predictability: 4 out of 5 (Where 1 is George RR Martin (If the characters make a plan or think about the future I know it isn’t going to go that way.) And 5 is Cinder (where I guessed what was going to happen long before it did, but it was still a great book.)
Abhorsen is a necromancer, but unlike ordinary necromancers he sends the Dead back to death. He lives in the land of the Old Kingdom, but life there is dangerous, so he sends his daughter Sabriel to a boarding school in Ancelstierre, which is protected from the magic in the Old Kingdom by a wall. Sabriel’s boarding school is on the border so she can learn Charter magic there while Abhorsen teaches her necromancy when he visits her twice a year.
Sabriel knows something is wrong when Abhorsen’s late for his visit. He sends her his sword covered in Charter Marks and his bells of necromancy. She knows he’s in danger, so she braves the difficult journey to his house in the Old Kingdom.
Sabriel meets a white cat at her father’s house who calls himself Mogget, (Yes, he can talk.) who is really an ancient being of Free Magic. He tells her that her father was on his way to the capital. On their journey to save her father she frees a guard of the royal family who has secrets of his own and is known only as Touchstone.
The beginning of the book is slow, but it’s worth the wait. Once Touchstone comes in the story gets better. Though it’s awkward at first when he joins the point of view and we randomly jumps heads between Sabriel and Touchstone.
This is a fantasy novel, but there are horror elements as well. I’m usually bothered by this sort of thing, but I wasn’t in this book even though the Dead throughout are certainly grotesque.
The Good: The world building is fantastic. It truly felt like a real world with a rich history. Both Ancelstierre, which reminded me of the 1910s with its beginning technology, and the Old Kingdom’s crumbling Monarchy.
The magical system was complex and unique. I particularly liked the use of bells for magic and picturing marks in one’s mind. How they were hard to remember sometimes and easy at others depending on what the characters were going through.
Sabriel has a good solid plot. The pacing was just okay, because it’s slowed by descriptions and time passing, but in the end it really picks up.
Sabriel (the character) really grows up over the course of the novel and she’s a good influence on Touchstone.
The Bad: The romance was too slow then too all of a sudden. (If that makes sense) I wish that Sabriel and Touchstone talked more on their journey and gradually got to know each other. It felt like their secrets were blurted too suddenly since it was mentioned that they didn’t talk while traveling.
Sabriel (the book)’s weakness is the characters. They had potential, but they had no voice and therefore came off flat. It takes quite the book to make up for weak character building, but Sabriel manages it because the world building, magic system, and plot are all so good.
Nix is rather long winded when it comes to descriptions. For instance one time our characters reach a pine forest. That was all we really needed, he didn’t have to describe the pine needles on the ground, and the pine cones looking like skulls.
I didn’t like how the villain’s motivations were just stated, when the character speaking was really guessing. It made the villain seem simpler than he was.
The Ugly: That cover! What’s up with her hand? Yes, that is a girl…
Would I recommend it? Yes, if you can get through the beginning it’s defiantly worth it. Am I going to read the sequel? Yep.