Review: Sabriel

Series: Abhorsen: #1

Sabriel is a wonderful book. Fantasy books dealing with death magic are among my favorites, the worldbuilding is fantastic (in the truest sense of the world), and the main characters are all a lot of fun. Each time I spend long enough without reading it, I always forget just how much I enjoy reading (or in this case listening too) this book.

The worldbuilding is great. You don’t get the sense of mechanical precision you would get from someone like Sanderson, but it’s a world that feels both magical and ‘real’, which is always something I’m looking for. In particular, the idea of a magical world and a WWIish era technological world, separated by a sometimes porous wall is a neat one. Even though it’s not an uncommon trope, I have yet to find a book that does it quite as well. Especially the eponymous Sabriel’s experience being born and of one kingdom, but raised in a boarding school and with the perspective of the other. I really want to know so much more than we’re given about this history of this world…

On top of that, I really like the main character of Sabriel. She’s young, but still an adult, thrust into her powers over the dead and rising to meet the challenge wonderfully. She’s strong and smart, a great roll model.

And then there’s comic-relief-ish, snarky animal (ish) sidekick Mogget. It’s a trope that can be done badly, but it’s done oh so well here, with an added bonus of a terrifying power that sometimes you just have to let go. And best of all–the audiobook narration is done by Tim Curry; his voice for Mogget is magnificent.

One oddity is that it’s surprisingly adult for what’s billed as a children’s book. The main character deals in death magic and several characters die, right from the beginning. There’s all manner of violence and at least mentions of sex. Perhaps a book to read first? I’d still recommend it whole heartedly for perhaps teenagers/young adults

Speaking of which, it’s interesting reading a book like this again, several years and children of my own later. It certainly makes the whole relationship between Sabriel and her parents hit quite a bit harder…

“Yes,” said Abhorsen. “I am a necromancer, but not of the common kind. where others of the art raise the dead, I lay them back to rest. And those that will not rest, I bind-or try to. I am Abhorsen . . .”

He looked at the baby again, and added, almost with a note of surprise, “Father of Sabriel.”