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Sabriel | [Garth Nix]

Sabriel

Ever since she was a tiny child, 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 world.
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Publisher's Summary

Ever since she was a tiny child, 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 world.

Though her journey begins alone, she soon finds companions: Mogget, whose seemingly harmless feline form hides a powerful and perhaps malevolent spirit; and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories.

With threats on all sides and only each other to trust, the three must travel deep into the Old Kingdom, toward a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death, and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own hidden destiny.

A tale of dark secrets, deep love and dangerous magic, Sabriel introduces Garth Nix as an exceptional new talent.

Don't miss books two and three of this trilogy! Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr and Abhorsen.

©1995 Garth Nix; (P)2002 Random House, Inc., Listening Library, An Imprint Of The Random House Audio Publishing Group

What the Critics Say

"It's an epic journey in a world as richly realized as Middle-earth and much darker and bloodier than Harry's trials at Hogwarts...Tim Curry brings authority to the reading, grounding the fantastic elements with nuance of character and depth of emotion. (AudioFile)
"Rich, complex, involving, hard to put down, this first novel...is excellent high fantasy." (Publishers Weekly)
"A page-turner for sure." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    Erin Alexandria, NH, USA 12-09-03
    Erin Alexandria, NH, USA 12-09-03
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    "One of the Best Audio Books I've Heard"

    Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen, a high necromancer whose main duty is to reverse the ills done by evil necromancers that are hell-bent on raising the dead and letting them rule the earth. She lives in a world where realistic early 20th century Great Britain co-exists with the ?Old Kingdom?, a place of magic, sorcery and fear of the undead. A border, guarded by soldiers from both realms, separates the two kingdoms. When Sabriel was five-years-old, her father sent her to a special school in the new kingdom, just near the border so that she would be protected from his enemies, but close enough to the border to learn the ways of the old kingdom. In this school his daughter learns necromancy and magic as well as ?real world? lessons such as etiquette and combat.

    When the Abhorsen appears to Sabriel one night speaking through an undead minion, she learns that he is trapped in the world of the dead and she sets-off on a journey to free him. Along the way she learns of a great undead leader whose powers have grown to the extent where he may break the boundary dividing the land of the dead and the living, and no one in either kingdom will be safe from his rule.

    As an aside, one of my favorite characters is an elemental of sorts who had been forced into servitude by an Abhorsen from centuries past. He has taken the shape of a cat, and though he has many ?cat mannerisms?, he speaks and is highly intellectual. His sarcastic comments and sharp wit made me laugh out loud on several occasions. He is Sabriel?s constant companion, a great help and a great pain in her behind all at the same time!

    I could not stop listening to this book! Tim Curry reads it and there is no better voice for the undead than he! I highly recommend it. It is the first in a trilogy, and all three books have been received with high praise.

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    TOY E. HICKS WASHINGTON, DC United States 06-20-09
    TOY E. HICKS WASHINGTON, DC United States 06-20-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Enraptured"

    I am 62 years old and found myself completely enraptured by the combination of Grath Nix's prose and Tim Curry's narration. I am thrilled to have discovered this series that now ranks #1 on my list of all time favorite fantasy novels.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sophie philadelphia, PA, USA 11-18-03
    Sophie philadelphia, PA, USA 11-18-03
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    "sabriel, yeah!"

    garth nix is really great at creating complex, beleivable worlds that are the right mix of similar and different from our own. every time i read one of his books i wonder how he thought up such original ideas. out of all his books i like this one the best, the characters a real and well rounded, the world is interesting and has depth and history, and the story is gripping. sabriel is a great character, a women who can fight the undead and save the prince! sweet! i reccomend this to people who like his dark materials, or are looking for a more developed book along the lines of harry potter.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ethan M. Cambridge, MA 10-11-06
    Ethan M. Cambridge, MA 10-11-06 Member Since 2000

    On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Top-notch (and quite adult) fantasy"

    After listening to this book, I was shocked that I had not previously heard of this wonderful series, which is one of the best of the written-for-children-but-better-for-adult fantasies in recent years, though more like Phillip Pullman than J. K. Rowling. Like Pullman, the series is ultimately rather dark, and it is a terrific example of coherent world-building -- figuring out how the world works is part of what makes the book so exciting. It is also excellently read, and is one of my top picks on Audible.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kay Sandy, UT, USA 11-18-03
    Kay Sandy, UT, USA 11-18-03
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    "Great book"

    This is the book that got me into reading. I was about 12 when I first read it and I couldn't put it down. It's as detailed as Lord of the Rings but it has a faster paece so you never get board reading or listening to it. Great book, if you like LOTR or Harry Potter.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tango Texas 09-08-13
    Tango Texas 09-08-13 Member Since 2012

    Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.

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    "Young Adult as it should be - First Rate Fantasy"

    When I heard that a fourth book in the Abhorsen (Old Kingdom Trilogy) series now has a definite publication date (September, 2014) and that Garth Nix plans a 5th book in the series as well, I decided it was time to re-read and refresh my nice memories of this YA fantasy so I'm ready for sequels/prequels. In my mind, it makes sense to use the YA stamp when protagonists are young and the themes may be oriented to younger readers, but I find it really irritating that more often than not YA is code for really sloppy writing, weak plot lines, 2-dimensional characters, and sappy romances. The Abhorsen series is NOT one of "those" YA's. This series does follow 3 different young people, Sabriel, Lirael, and Sameth, as they come to terms with each of their own destinies and learn to use their talents and overcome their handicaps to save both the Old Kingdom (the world with magic) and Ancelstierre (the world without magic). Nix has written a lot of YA fantasy and sci-fi, none of it as good as The Old Kingdom Trilogy and some of it not worth reading, but this series is not only great YA, it is a lovely work of fantasy for any age reader.

    I think the second two books in the series are better than the first although you must start with Sabriel to get the world building/magic system for the series. Sabriel is 18 and just on the cusp of adulthood when she is suddenly forced to pick of the mantle of her father, the Abhorsen (Master of the Dead - one who undoes the work of necromancers and sends bewitched spirits back to the land of Dead where they belong), without the experience or training to do the job. My favorite thing about Sabriel is how very "only child/"oldest child" she behaves in automatically assuming the weight of the world without a clue as to how she will execute her responsibilities. My second favorite thing about this first book is the introduction of Mogget the Cat, a magical construction who looks and acts very catlike, but always with a bit of a hidden agenda and a wonderful sense of catty humor. Although Sabriel is the central figure in this first book, she takes a back seat in the remainder of the series, although Mogget reappears often and always adds a lot of fun to the story.

    I think most folks who read Sabriel will immediately want to read Lirael and Abhorsen so I won't review them separately, but a couple of mentions about the remainder of the series. Lirael is one of the best coming of age stories from an introverted girl's POV I've read in any genre and this entire series is totally free of the sexist attitudes that run through much of fantasy fiction. Neither Sabiel nor Lirael is waiting around for a prince to rescue them, although they each get some help from a cat and a dog. And, if you like great magical creatures, there are none better than the Despicable Dog (short of Aslan maybe). The Despicable Dog is undoubtedly the best fantasy dog ever (I love you, Oberon, but you are 2nd in my heart to the Despicable Dog); only a real life dog could be a better friend! The ending of Abhorsen which wraps up the series is phenomenally good - conclusive, not sappy, but quite poignant. Few readers will get through the ending with totally dry eyes, but those are the best endings, right?

    Nix's writing in this series is dark and lyrical, the magical system in consistent (magic always requires a price and has limitations), and the characters are fully developed. When you add that that to the wonderful reading of Tim Curry you have real magic. Curry is a terrific narrator who does inventive character voices (his Moggett is delightful) and makes this one of those books that is even better heard than read. This is YA that doesn't insult your intelligence, is appropriate for any age (no coarse language, no sexual content, plenty of action but gore kept to a minimum), and will keep you immensely entertained. I'm anxious to see if Nix can maintain the quality with his additions to the series and I hope Audible will bring them out as soon as they are released.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jefferson Jonan-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Japan 07-24-10
    Jefferson Jonan-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Japan 07-24-10 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

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    "Tim Curry Does an Irresistible Sabriel"

    Garth Nix's novel was already a wonderful read: exciting, scary, funny, moving, imaginative, and vivid, with great characters (like Sabriel, Mogget, and Touchstone), inventions (like the River of Death and its Nine Gates, the Abhorsen, the Bells, and the paperwings), descriptions (like when dead "Hands" are edging closer to Sabriel and company like starving rats approaching a passed out drunk's meal), scenes (like the reservoir climax), dialogue (like almost anything Sabriel, Touchstone, and Mogget say to one another), and themes (like the sensual joy of life and the natural inevitability of death).

    But Tim Curry enhances all of the book's virtues via his powerful, witty, and emotional reading of it. Curry's enthusiasm for and understanding of the text are engaging, and he effectively changes his voice for characters ranging from an evil undead villain and a hidebound headmistress to a conflicted Touchstone and a strong but panic-prone Sabriel. And I love his Mogget! Superior, mysterious, and, well, catty, with feline sibilants purring or snarling out the sides of his mouth.

    In short, Tim Curry reading Garth Nix makes for an irresistible and thoroughly enjoyable listen.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Pyrmont, NSW, Australia 07-05-09
    Martin Pyrmont, NSW, Australia 07-05-09
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    "Sabriel - a definite winner"

    Garth Nix's wonderfully engaging novel is read by Tim Curry, who brings a masterfully creepy voice to this tale of the girl who inherits the job of keeping the dead, dead. This is the first part of the Abhorsen trilogy, a must-read (or must-listen) for those into suspenseful, thrilling, well-written and -paced fantasy. A classic tale read by a master of camp creepiness.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carl West Palm Beach, FL, United States 11-30-05
    Carl West Palm Beach, FL, United States 11-30-05 Member Since 2001
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    "Why can't adult fantasy be this good"

    Paradoxically if an adult wants original fantasy literature (that is not Lord of the Rings redux) the best place to look is in the "teen" section. Sabriel is a great example. The reader is great and the story is even better. Very original, exciting, adverturous, and (since I can't get the next 2 books in the series on audio)it has me rushing to the bookstore to buy the two other books in the trilogy. Very fun. Don't miss it.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-27-12
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-27-12 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Dark, serious YA fantasy"

    If you're in the mood for a somber, gorgeously visual novel that's part Philip Pullman, part Tolkien, and part a world out of one those artful fantasy illustrations that seemed to have had a heyday in the 1970s, Sabriel might fit the bill. The heroine of the title is a girl of mysterious origins who was born in the magical "Old Kingdom" and possesses a rare natural gift for necromancy. However, Sabriel has spent most of her life in Ancelstierre, a non-magical country that resembles Britain of the early 1900s, but shares a strange border region with the Old Kingdom. The story begins with its heroine, who is completing a clandestine education in magic, learning that her often-absent father, who spends most of his time in the Old Kingdom, has gone missing. Meanwhile, the undead ghouls and spirits that plague that region have been acting up, for reasons that Sabriel doesn't understand, having been away from home for so long.

    While the quest that ensues follows a well-worn good-versus-darkness script, I enjoyed its world creation. Many of Nix's ideas, from the militarized zone between Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom, to the different bells that perform different kinds of necromantic magic, to the beautifully eerie World of the Dead, a Stygian realm populated by beings and souls that have not yet passed entirely from life (and a third parallel reality in the story), have a delicious sense of old history to them. I also enjoyed the side characters, a sardonic, semi-helpful creature of unclear origins named Mogget, who is trapped inside a cat's body, and a stolid, brooding young man named Touchstone, who is wrapped up in his own past.

    The writing resembles Pullman's The Golden Compass in that it takes its dark reality seriously and contains a few "adult" things, such as some glancing references to sex and several grim scenes of death. There's nothing I'd consider prurient or inappropriate for the average 12-13 year old, though. For my money, The Golden Compass was more interesting, but readers looking for a work like it, albeit with a more traditional sensibility, would probably enjoy Sabriel.

    Tim Curry's audiobook performance, which is a touch campfire tale and a touch Shakespearean theatre, fits the tone delightfully.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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  • Sian
    Wakefield, West yorkshire, United Kingdom
    5/20/07
    Overall
    "Awsome for adults as well as children"

    Awesome audiobook, beautifully read! I'm 23 and loved it without the excuse of a child. I would recommend it to anyone. It is a wonderful book and an exciting trilogy!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Alex
    MalakoffFrance
    4/23/07
    Overall
    "Black, black, black"

    The narrator is excellent, but oh my, is this book heavy going. Technically, it is well-written: the author succeeds (if that was what was intended) in creating a frightening and grim world, full of foreboding and menace. Indeed, the book is really a horror story rather than a fantasy, and the atmosphere is unrelieved gloom; this is hardly surprising as the central theme is death (the word must appear 1,000 times in the text), and the narrative contains repeated and prolonged descriptions of blackness, ill-defined monstrosities, ghoulish apparitions, and terrifying shadow worlds.
    I can't honestly say that my family and I enjoyed this book. However, if you want to terrify your children, or if you are a child who wants to be terrified, this is the book for you.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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