Patrick Burgess's Reviews > Sabriel

Sabriel by Garth Nix
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's review
Sep 17, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed
Recommended for: chasers of zombies and a-typical fantasy

Elegant and Original

When I say original, I'm usually describing something beyond the basic elements of the story (plot, characters, etc). Be realistic, most stories follow a common (if broad) formula that gives them structure. Most fantasy today isn't very original, if we go down deep enough.

What I look for in stories I consider "original" are the ways that the writer takes something we've seen before (which is usually the case) and twists and molds it into something else interesting and refreshing. And that's why I enjoyed Sabriel so much, not because the story was something I'd never seen before (it's kind of a coming-of-age, rescue-the-kingdom, quest thing), but because the skin the story wore was new and shiny.

Nix has taken necromancy and magic and spun a brilliant yarn about death, life and everything in between in his thoughtful, elegant way. In his story, Nix's necromancers channel their power through the use of seven bells, each of which has its own attributes and functions. Death itself has several layers, and it is the Abhorsen who is the one and only necromancer sanctioned to lay the dead to rest and undo the work of all other death-dealers. Except he is missing and it's up to his daughter, Sabriel, trained to be the next Abhorsen, to find out where he is and why the greater forces of the dead are rising.

Exciting and completely engrossing, Nix has created a fascinating mythology that will delight anyone who enjoys less typical approaches to popular genres (in this case, zombie and spellcaster tales).
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