Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m bringing you my review of Sabriel, the first book in the Abhorsen series, which frankly, I am now a little obsessed with. It just took one book, and I am absolutely in love. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to reading it, but equally, hurrah for a great book.
Sabriel has spent most of her young life far away from the magical realm of the Old Kingdom, and the Dead that roam it. So when a creature from across the Wall arrives at her all-girls boarding school, she surprises herself with her ability to deal with it. The creature carries a message from her father, the Abhorsen – the magical protector of the realm whose task it is to bind and send back to Death those that won’t stay Dead. Since the demise of the Royal Family the Dead have become stronger and more fearless, and now it seems their forces are threatening to overwhelm the Old Kingdom.
Sabriel’s father has been trapped in Death by a dangerous Free Magic creature. He urges her to return to her homeland, and to discover who or what is behind this uprising. Armed with her father’s binding-bells and sword, she soon finds companions in Mogget, an ancient spirit bound into the body of a cat, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage whom Sabriel frees from a long, magical imprisonment. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death – and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.
Just like many first books in a fantasy series, this book did a lot of world building, but did it in a way that seemed as natural as breathing. It was so easy to sink into the story, to get lost in the tale and to know that of course this girl could enter the world of death; it just was that simple. All the while, the adventure is spinning around us, sweeping us away, and readying us for more books to come.
Sabriel as a character is written very realistically, all things considered. She knows she’s powerful, but equally she’s just a teenage girl who is trying to be polite to adults and hates that she’s being considered based on her power. That said, when the challenge first rises to meet her, she knows what she has to do, and she absolutely does not hesitate. I’ve got a lot of love for her as a character already, and I think I’ll only come to like her more as the story progresses.
I’m a big fan of worlds where magic has been created with its own rules and limitations (see here for my post on unique magic systems), and this is very much true of the Old Kingdom. Sabriel is powerful, but isn’t the most powerful creature we meet, and I liked that; sometimes it’s just too dramatic, a teenager being all powerful. Knowing that she’s up against a lot of challenges, with people more powerful than her both for and against what she’s doing, kept the story engaging on a level that is realistic, all while being magical.
My first jump into the world of the Old Kingdom was a wonderful adventure, and I’m planning on reading book two this month. I’m going to try and pace them out despite the urge to binge on the series!!