So back on my 2011 Books listing post, Sol asked if I'd ever read any Garth Nix, which I had not. Heather turned around and recommended Sabriel to me and agreed to my demands that she *finally* read Jane Eyre in return. How anyone can live as long as she has, love books as much as she does and not have already read Jane Eyre is incomprehensible to me.
Anyway...so I picked up Sabriel. I think it goes without saying that I finished it a while ago but I've been busy so I'm just getting around to posting. We had one of our women at work literally stand up and walk out on her job on Monday so it's been fun. :)
Right. On to the book!
The main character is a young woman named Sabriel, daughter of Abhorsen. She has been raised, since she was about four years old in the land of Ancelstierre at a boarding school that seems to be set along British boarding school lines. Ancelstierre is the more modern of the two countries in the book, the second being known as the Old Kingdom. Ancelstierre is a place of growing technology while the Old Kingdom, separated from Ancelstierre by the Wall, is a place of magic. The two forces do not get along. Magic won't work too far into Ancelstierre and too close to the Wall or inside of the Old Kingdom technology stops working properly.
The book opens with Sabriel being visited by a magical construct sent from her father, bringing the tools of his trade to her. Abhorsen is a necromancer, but one who lays the dead to rest rather than raises them. So someone who uses potentially dark magic in order to combat darker magic. He has sent his bells, which are used to control the dead in various ways, and his sword to Sabriel, essentially passing on the torch to her.
I think we all know where this is going, right? Sabriel rushes over the Wall (well through, technically, she has a passport and everything so she doesn't have to try and sneak past the army guarding the Wall from the Ancelstierre side or anything) to find her father and try to save him before he's too long in Death for her to bring back. He's not really dead, see, not yet because necromancers can 'step over' into Death, separating their spirits from their bodies for a time. Of course, too long separated from his body and he'll be truly dead.
Sabriel goes back to the country of her birth, finding it over run with the dead and worse things, all signs of a Greater Dead rising. This is a powerful spirit that is trying to claw its way back into life, one of the things that Abhorsen worked to stop.
*handwave* Plot things I don't want to give away...yadda...Sabriel runs all over the place trying to find her father, meets a cat who I adore named Mogget. Well, sort of a cat.Whatever. Mogget is awesome. Saves a handsome young man named Touchstone who then follows her around as a servant/bodyguard/annoying but helpful dogsbody.
Action, adventure, romance, ancient secrets and surprising revelations! All the good stuff.
Now, it's a YA fantasy novel and that's rather obvious in the writing style and the content. There's nothing extremely violent, no graphic anything, really though there are one or two hints to characters having romantic and/or sexual feelings towards one another and a mention of two unknown characters having sex. YA, back in the day before YA became the hot new thing.
Which is just my opinion of it of course. I find it funny, looking for a picture of the cover I stumbled over a couple of other reviews and people are calling it all Dark and Gory and Intense. I...thought it was fun and kind of fluffy. Not that dark, not gory and not all that intense. Clearly, the people who find it Dark and Intense have not read what I have read. I think it comes from being a horror/fantasy/dark things fan in the first place. After a while, you either have to be really dark or really skilled in order to wig me out. Very few people manage that. Stephen King has ceased to wig me out, okay? Dean Koontz *never* wigged me out. I've only ever failed to complete one book due to ick factor and that was American Psycho. And even then it was less the ick and more that it was unnecessarily and gratuitously violent.
So YMMV and you've been warned. It may be darker than I think of it.
The pacing of the story isn't bad, though it does get off to a slow start. It definitely picks up about a quarter of the way through, once the adventure has really started.
There are enough hints at the backgrounds and interplay of the characters to get you interested in them. They could have been explored more fully but not without making the book longer or extending it into more books. It is part of a trilogy but from reading the blurbs for the other two they don't focus on Sabriel or Touchstone.
Over all I enjoyed the book quite a lot and am planning on reading the second book in the series at some point as well. It's in my theoretical To Be Read pile, along with so very many other books!