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Sabriel (Abhorsen #1)

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  140,863 Ratings  ·  5,257 Reviews
Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him.

With Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen seri
Mass Market Paperback, First American Edition, 491 pages
Published September 30th 1996 by Harper Collins (first published 1995)
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Maya Well, the history behind this explained more in the sequels, but essentially Free Magic in and of itself isn't necessarily "good" or "evil", it's just…moreWell, the history behind this explained more in the sequels, but essentially Free Magic in and of itself isn't necessarily "good" or "evil", it's just pure power-and it's wielded by necromancers because I guess it's stronger, but also more unpredictable. Charter magic was created as a way to harness Free Magic into a more usable and safe method of performing magic--through symbols. I'm not necessarily sure if there's a ~reason~ per say that Free Magic makes mages sick, but it's likely to do with the fact that it's so strong that it has an adverse effect on the body. It's supposed to be almost corrosive, and that wielding it is detrimental to a person's health. Which is why necromancers resort to more and more extreme measures to stay alive. Hope I helped!(less)
Daniel I'm not really sure what you are asking. If you are asking, do some characters induce fear in other characters, the answer is definitely yes. If you…moreI'm not really sure what you are asking. If you are asking, do some characters induce fear in other characters, the answer is definitely yes. If you are asking do they have the explicit power of "inducing fear," I'd still say that yeah, the main villain does that. If you are asking if some characters could induce fear in readers, well that probably depends more on the reader than the character. But...yes. The book has some intense scenes, and a lot of dead things coming to life and walking around trying to kill everyone, so it could be frightening to younger or more sensitive readers.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Kat Kennedy
Jun 24, 2010 Kat Kennedy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of LOTR and Fantasy Genre
I picked this book up from the library and noticed stickers on the book declaring that it was part of a reading challenge here in NSW for grades 7-8.

"This book is acceptable to read for 12-13 year olds? Fuck me, can we turn around and go back to the library?" I asked my husband.

He shook his head and smiled at me. "Just try it. You never know."

"It's for twelve-to-thirteen year olds! No sex! No swearing! Minimum violence! I don't fucking think so!"

In the end, we brought it home and I sulked the wh
This book really should have been exciting but I actually would have had a much better time had I just blared Monster Mash from my stereo and danced around like a zombie with chicken skin pasted to my face.

Jedi knight of the living dead!

I feel like this was probably really cool in the 90's and if I had read it then, as my pre-Harry Potter 10 year old self. I probably would have loved it. But now, my brain has descended into different forms of oblivion and I laugh voraciously at danger.

Cait • A Page with a View
This was a really hard rating... I was nowhere near as into this story as I expected to be, yet I LOVED the last 1/4 of the book and wanted to give it 5 stars after that ending. But I can't deny most of it felt like a 3 star read. So do with that what you will.

My dad found this book at Goodwill when I was 11 and I let it sit on my shelf for years and then lost interest because I thought it was a middle grade story (it's totally not). The publisher sent me an ARC of Goldenhand this summer, so I f
Sh3lly ✨ Bring on the Weird ✨

I'll be honest: this is a book I never would have made it through unless I listened to it. TIM CURRY did a fabulous and amazing job narrating this fantasy. I suppose it's "young adult," even though the book really begins with the main character being 18. Sabriel went to an all-girl school for magic. The story picks up near the end of her education. She leaves because a messenger from her father sends her his bells and sword and she realizes he is in trouble.

Most of the story is about Sabriel's
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
I shall write a wee bit about my thoughts on this book as I read, for I do not trust my foggy brain to keep up with them if I wait until the last minute.

*I like the juxtaposition of 20th Century (early) Ancelstierre with a medieval-esque world of the Old Kingdom. It threw me for a loop at first, how the prologue was very medieval (pre-Industrial), and the first chapter was modernesque. I was thinking, are they immortal or something? But further reading clears that up.

*I don't read as much pure f
Heather Turner
Jul 09, 2016 Heather Turner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Adult, Adult
Shelves: readandloved
Possibly one of the greatest fantasy adventures of our times, Garth Nix's first novel is a lush, magical, dark-witty adventure about a young woman's battle with the hideous Dead.

The story starts with a flashback in which a special necromancer named Abhorsen saves his baby daughter Sabriel from a creature called Kerrigor, in the spiritual river of death. Many years later, at an English-esque boarding school, Sabriel must take up her father's magical sword and bells and try to find out what has ha
“Let this be my final lesson. Everyone and everything has a time to die.”

I really wish I had liked Sabriel more than I had anticipated. It had a decent idea, however as I kept reading I continually kept thinking about other events in my life plus my plans for the next day, and not paying attention to the story - clearly because I was purely so bored. I believe merely saying a book is boring isn’t a convincing or a valid reason to conclude that the book wasn’t good.

Have you ever read a book wh
Apr 15, 2009 Judith rated it it was amazing
When an otherworldly visitor tells Sabriel that her father has been trapped in the world of the dead, she has no choice but to leave her student's life in Ancelstierre and venture into the Old Kingdom to save him. There, in her father's absence, she must take up the mantle of Abhorsen, a necromancer charged with making sure that the dead stay dead.

Although she does not believe herself to be up to the task, Sabriel must make the journey, with only a mysterious talking cat named Mogget, and a re-
Lindsey Rey
Mar 10, 2015 Lindsey Rey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy, 2015
Really enjoyed this one! Although there wasn't much character development, I didn't really care because Sabriel is a total badass. I'm very excited for the sequel.
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Jan 12, 2015 Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, library-has
This is the story of Sabriel, an innocent young woman, and various types of dead, undead, once dead, sorta dead and should-be-dead people and creatures. Luckily, Sabriel is by heritage and training a necromancer, with a fair amount of power over death. Unluckily, some of these once-dead and should-be-dead creatures have apparently killed Sabriel's father, the necromancer-in-chief or "Abhorsen," and are in the process of taking over the kingdom. It's up to Sabriel and her companions, a talking ca ...more
Aug 17, 2015 Sanaa rated it really liked it
[4.5 Stars] Sabriel is such a wonderful story, really. I absolutely adored it! The only criticism I really have is that the magic was at times confusing and there isn't much character development. That being said, I could really ignore most of that because Sabriel was so fabulous and the magic was so cool and Mogget was so great. I'm not really sure what else to say. This book surprised me. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did, but here I am absolutely loving it. I can't wait to read the ...more
Karly *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*
Possibly the greatest compliment that I could give this book is to say that it reminds me, in a non copy-cat way, of the first fantasy series to really sweep me away in my teenhood! That would be none other than The Belgariad Series by David Eddings!!

Sabriel is a story about a badass heroine who is charged with saving the world! I love that shit, guys!!

The world building, although at times tedious, is amazing - I love the way this world is created, how death itself is portrayed AND necromance
Shayantani Das
May 22, 2012 Shayantani Das rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book takes an excruciatingly long time to really pick up its pace. To be honest, if I had not bought this book about a year ago, I would definitely have quit. I have picked it up and abandoned it quite frequently over the year, mostly because about 50 pages through the book, I would start yawning. Now that is a privilege especially reserved for school textbooks, thus my reluctance. But, once you go through those first mind numbing 100 pages, this book is actually pretty decent.

The novel is
Aug 01, 2009 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: GoodReads Fantasy Book Club August 2009
3.75 stars

Sabriel attends Wyverley College, a boarding school for girls on the Ancelstierre side of the Wall. In addition to reading, writing and arithmatic, she studies Charter Magic and necromancy. Her father, the Abhorsen, usually visits from the Old Kingdom once or twice a year. He trains her in binding the Dead so they stay dead using The Book of the Dead, Charter Magic and the Bells.

When her father fails to visit, Sabriel grows worried and seeks to find him across the Wall in the Old King
Jun 11, 2015 Mara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wickedly amazing world building but sadly too little character portrayal, if that's even a thing? It was too adventure-driven for my taste and while the setting immediately fascinated me, I never felt like I knew the characters and thus could never rly connect with them.
Mar 26, 2015 Sesana rated it really liked it
This book has so many great things going for it I almost don't know where to start. Let's go with the title character herself, Sabriel. At the beginning of the book, she's a relatively normal schoolgirl, suddenly thrust into a world that she has a limited understanding of and isn't entirely prepared for, with an incredible responsibility. And she reacts quite admirably. There's a certain reluctance to assume the full depth of her new responsibilities, but that has more than a little to do with h ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Jul 25, 2011 Mike (the Paladin) rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Read this quite some time ago and have been meaning to get to the sequels for some first I reread this one...:)

This is an interesting YA novel set in a world that is split. There is Ancelstierre, the southern Kingdom which is a technological society about at the level of World War I era Earth (that would be our Earth). It seems much like the UK (as they play rugby and cricket at the boarding schools). There is no magic in Ancelstierre. As a matter of fact they (mostly) regard magic and
I have read many fantasy books and I can say with certainty that this is one of those stories that stand out. Sabriel is a very unique, interesting, complex story. Like many other fantasy books, it takes a little time to understand what is going on and really get into the story, but when that happens, you will most likely take a deep breath, dive in and refuse to come out before the end.

Sabriel is a young girl but she is an adult inside. A strong female character is a gem! She is not annoying or
Xime García
Feb 06, 2016 Xime García rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reseñados
El miedo y la aceptación de la propia ignorancia eran la mejor medicina contra el estúpido orgullo.

Hacía bastante que buscaba este libro porque tenía buenas críticas, pero era de edición vieja, y por ende, inencontrable en este país. Sí, esa palabra no existe.

Así que cuando me lo topé en una mesa de saldo (y a $30 OH MI DIOS) no dudé pero ni un segundo. De hecho creo que pegué un grito. Una amiga está de testigo. Además TAPA DURA no lo podía creer.


Al principio me costó entender qué estaba p
Nov 15, 2016 Ryan rated it liked it
Shelves: australiano
The Good:
I’ll start by saying that I would have loved this when I was 13. It is full of cool ideas - the standard fantasy setting here is under threat from an undead wizard and its hordes, and also happens to border (via a magical wall) a setting analogous to early 20th century Britain. All protected by a line of hereditary necromancers. The action scenes are very well written, especially the ending, and there is the most badass cat I’ve ever met in a book.

The Bad:
I know this is intended for a Y
Sep 05, 2009 Becky rated it really liked it
If you don't know already, I love zombies. Because of this, I was really, really looking forward to reading this book. And I really enjoyed it.

Sabriel, the character, is a bit complex. One the one hand, she's 18. She wants to be young and pretend responsibilities don't exist. Unfortunately, she can't do that. Her dad kills Dead things, and is bound to complete this service at the sacrifice of his own life (the kind with kids, a wife, a dog, white picket fence, etc), and from a young age, Sabrie
Sep 19, 2016 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ya
This was a thoroughly enjoyable, fresh-feeling book about 18 year old Sabriel and her quest through the land of her birth. If more YA was written like this, I'd read more of it. Of course, I should point out that this book was published in 1995, well before the genre was Twilighted and, as such, there were no uber emo teenagers angsting over their melodramatic love triangles. And thank the universe for that! Instead we get a sensible and somewhat awkward young heroine who is afraid of the dark c ...more
Mar 17, 2009 Sarah rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: trash cans
piece of trash. dont even bother starting this, i was bored the whole time. Its totally weird and what the heck. i never really got what they were doing and why they were doing it. I never got what the bad guys were. This book is confusing and so boring you dont even want to try to figure out whats going on. Dont waste your time on this, you have better things to do like hitting your head agaisnt the wall.
Jan 17, 2017 BAM rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, own, audiobooks
Tim Curry narration!!!!! OMG! Imma gonna pee my pants!

So far a strong 3.5 storyline 5 Tim Curry
His voice for the cantankerous cat spirit is superb!
This was quite engaging, especially the last couple of chapters. I can see why it instantly became a classic YA fantasy series.
Sabriel searches for her father, the Abhorsen, a sort of necromancer, who is lost in the land of the dead. Along the way she meets a spirit under the control of the Abhorsens for about fourteen centuries and a sailor nickna
Nov 10, 2015 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ya

Sabriel's father is the Abhorsen, the most powerful of necromancers who can bind the dead and stop them breaking through to the real world.Since her mother died when she was born, Sabriel is sent away to boarding school and only sees her father twice per year. The Kingdom they live in is divided into two parts with a wall protected by strong magic. Ancelstierre, the southern kingdom, where Sabriel is sent to school is safe and people live uneventful lives without the use of magic but the norther
Aug 28, 2008 Stephen rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Good characters, strong world-building and an EXCELLENT magic/necromancy system that was very unique, well developed and internally consistant. With as much fantasy as I read, I am always thankful when I come across something truly unique and engaging. This certainly fits the bill. The magic of the Abhorsen and its connection and exploration of the "various stages" of death was very well done and, in my opinion, the best feature of the story. Will defintely read the next book in the s ...more
India Daram
Nov 24, 2015 India Daram rated it it was amazing
Sabriel is relentlessly brave and strong heroine. I liked the fact that this is a heroine centric novel. The description of place in the Ancient Kingdom was magical. I absolutely loved the Abhorsen's house on the river island. I wish I live in one. The names of the magical creatures were simple and didn't need a dictionary. I felt the ending was a bit rushed but that could be because I liked the book so much that I didn't want it end. Magical Read!
Mar 16, 2015 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Quite a good book! Not what I expected, but to be honest I didn't know much about it to begin with.
Definitely more of a world/plot driven book than a character driven one. Unique, if at times confusing magic system. But absolutely wonderful writing and a fantastic kick butt main character!

Protip: Don't google image search this book unless you're looking for Sam Winchester + Gabriel shipping.

Now that I've got that warning out of the way.

I was so conflicted about rating this book. It's sat there between a high 3 to a low 4, to be honest. But then I thought -- a younger Manda would probably have adored this book. My younger self, not having yet read as many fantasy novels as my old-fart-self, would have been absolutely in awe.

What's not to love? Magic, zombies, juxtaposed to a Victo
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Candace Cunard for

The first thing that hit me when I finished reading this book was that I should have read it much sooner. I'd been meaning to read it for the past six or seven years but never quite getting around to it--and that was a mistake. In SABRIEL, Garth Nix introduces the reader to a compelling fantasy world that comes alive through the actions of the title character and others.

The Old Kingdom is a place of magic, both Charter magic, wielded by those with
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  • The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Vol. 1 (Chrestomanci, #1-2)
  • Crown Duel (Crown & Court #1-2)
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Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia, to the sound of the Salvation Army band outside playing 'Hail the Conquering Hero Comes' or possibly 'Roll Out the Barrel'. Garth left Melbourne at an early age for Canberra (the federal capital) and stayed there till he was nineteen, when he left to drive around the UK in a beat-up Austin with a boot full of books and a Silver-Reed typewriter.

More about Garth Nix...

Other Books in the Series

Abhorsen (5 books)
  • Lirael (Abhorsen, #2)
  • Abhorsen (Abhorsen, #3)
  • Clariel (Abhorsen, #4)
  • Goldenhand (Abhorsen, #5)

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“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” 877 likes
“Touchstone watched, suddenly conscious that he probably only had five seconds left to be alone with Sabriel, to say something, to say anything. Perhaps the last five seconds they ever would have alone together.
I am not afraid, he said to himself.
"I love you," he whispered. "I hope you don't mind.”
More quotes…