Sabriel by Garth Nix

A strange mixture of a book.

Sabriel is a girl who is in the final year of boarding school in a country that is awfully similar to England in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s a world of electricity, a few cars, telephones etc. However it borders The Old Kingdom which is more your standard fantasy world, except it has been overrun by death. Her father is a necromancer from there, though of course he is a ‘good’ necromancer and when something happens to him, Sabriel sets off to the Old Kingdom to find out what happened.

Sabriel is an odd character. I really warmed to her at the beginning of the novel. She came across as extremely competent and level headed but that changed as the book progressed. I get it that she is in an unfamiliar place but she had been relatively well trained but seemed to forget everything and acted more like a kid than she did at the beginning. She did pull it back later but she did not seem like the same person. People might say that this is character progression but something about it rang off tune to me. There are other characters but pretty much the whole story is told from the POV of Sabriel.

Even though I did like the story I also had quite a few issues with it, particularly with some character choices. Honestly the whole journey to get to her father ended up being pointless as I couldn’t see what it accomplished other than to explore the world and meet a few people. There is no subtlety to the big bad and things all read just a bit superficial. I didn’t really feel any suspense throughout the book and it ended all rather abruptly.

The world itself is an interesting place. With all the fantasy books I’ve read this is one of the first that really explored death and what issues it could cause if something went wrong. You don’t really know what’s going on for a lot of the start, whether the current state of affairs is normal, but questions are gradually asked and answered and most things are cleared up.

Even though the main character is eighteen (which is not very young) and the world and subject matter is heavy enough the superficiality I mentioned really brings this book down a bit. There is the promise of a great book here but ultimately I was a bit disappointed as I had heard a lot of good things about it. It wasn’t a bad book either and I don’t regret reading it but I’m unsure whether I’ll continue with the series.

2.5 rounded up.

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