Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1)” as Want to Read:
Sabriel (Abhorsen,  #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(The Old Kingdom #1)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  199,574 ratings  ·  8,945 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 May 1995)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sabriel, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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)
Cassandra Yes it does jump straight in, but if you just keep going the world-building happens as you go. In case you still want some info, basically the world i…moreYes it does jump straight in, but if you just keep going the world-building happens as you go. In case you still want some info, basically the world is two parts - Ancelstierre, where Sabriel grows up, is like a late 19th century Britain - early electricity, guns, some cars, etc. The Old Kingdom, separated by a wall, is more mediævil and has magic and necromancy and cool stuff like that. Most of this book happens in the Old Kingdom. Hope that helps!(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  199,574 ratings  ·  8,945 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1)
Kat Kennedy
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
Miranda Reads
Sep 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
3.5 stars
Death and what came after death was no great mystery to Sabriel. She just wished it was.
Sabriel and her father have a very unique brand of magic. They can communicate with the dead and the damned from the Old Kingdom.

Only they can confront such creatures and send them back to the gates of death.

Then, during the first semester of Sabriel's school, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing and Sabriel is unwittingly promoted to the Abhorson.
Does the walker choose the path, or the path
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
UPDATE: $1.99 Kindle US 8/22/19

Tim Curry rocks the narration 😊💕

"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."

Oh, what a wonderful little book. I loved Sabriel so much. She was so tough and just got things done.

She received a message from her fa
Ahmad Sharabiani
Sabriel (The Old Kingdom #1), Garth Nix

First published in 1995. It is the first in his Abhorsen (Old Kingdom) series, followed by Lirael, Abhorsen, and Goldenhand.

The novel is set in two neighboring fictional countries: To the South lies Ancelstierre, which has a technology level and society similar to that of early-20th century Australia, and to the North lies the Old Kingdom, where both Free magic and Charter Magic exist — a fact officially denied by the government of Ancelstierre and disbeli
i read this entire story about sabriels journey and i honestly couldnt tell you one thing about her, other than shes a necromancer of a sort (which is a fact thats given in the synopsis).

this book does do a lot of things right - theres a fast moving plot with imaginative magic and has really accessible writing. so im shocked at how lacking the characters are. they are so flat, so devoid of any development that it made me really hard to care about them, connect to them. which in turn lead to me n
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.

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Very good YA fantasy! The adventures of Sabriel, an innocent young woman, and her run-ins with various types of dead, undead, once dead, sorta dead and should-be-dead people and creatures. Luckily for almost everyone concerned (except the forces of evil and the dead ones they control), 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-i ...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress
Reread completed on September 17th via Audiobook.

I just wanted to post a quick review of my thoughts on the reread.

This book definitely stands up to my memory. What I am so glad about is that I forgot many of the plot twists, so it was like reading it again for the first time. I love when horror/scary elements are thrown in with fantasy. There are some very chilling moments in the book and the villain is really really bad.

I love the story of a young woman coming into her own and realizing wha
Jan 22, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2021
Sabriel was probably the oldest (numbering wise) fantasy sitting on my Goodreads shelf. When I first came across it, I was in one of those weird periods where I only liked to read about female protagonists... yeah, don’t ask. And from the cover, I’ve assumed that Sabriel is a boy.. And then it just wasn’t the right time and it sat there until I mentioned to my friend that I want to read it this year. We ended up buddy reading it last week and we shared the same opinion basically. Both of us have ...more
Charlotte May
“Then Sabriel hears it - the massed grinding of Dead joints, no longer joined by gristle; the padding of Dead feet, bones like hobtails clicking through necrotic flesh.”

Now, I’ll admit a book involving the dead (or zombies if you will) wouldn’t be a normal pick for me. Despite this, Sabriel kept my attention and there was plenty of magic and world building to hook me in!

Sabriel’s father is the Abhorsen - a necromancer with a difference! He returns the dead to their resting place, sends creature
“Let this be my final lesson. Everyone and everything has a time to die.”

I really wish I had liked Sabriel more than I actually did. It had a decent idea, however, as I kept reading I continuously kept thinking about events in my life or my plans for the next day. My mind kept drifting off 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 where endless things are happen
destiny ♡ howling libraries
#1 Sabriel ★★★☆☆
#2 Lirael ???
#3 Abhorsen ???
#4 Clariel ???
#5 Goldenhand ???

Five Great Charters knit the land
Together linked, hand in hand
One in the people who wear the crown
Two in the folk who keep the Dead down
Three and Five became stone and mortar
Four sees all in frozen water.

I first read Sabriel as a preteen, and while I know I loved it – I must have, as I asked my parents to buy me the second book in the series, too – I never continued the series, nor did I remember any of the details wh
Heather Turner
Apr 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Becca & The Books
if you're a fan of old-school-feeling cost fantasy then you may enjoy this classic adventure story entering on necromancy and a young girl's journey to save her father.

Unfortunately for me, it was reminiscent of fantasy stories that I've previously read and not enjoyed such as The Tales of Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin, Stardust by Neil Gaiman and The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett - all of which are very highly regarded fantasy stories, but have narrative structure and tone that I don't enjoy.
Caz (littlebookowl)
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
4.5 stars

Dannii Elle
Years before I was aware of the online bookish community, the YA genre was one I was never exposed to. I read primarily classics, fantasies, and thrillers for lighter relief. One day my auntie deposited a stack of books next to me and ordered to read them all. Some of the titles included were The Hunger Games series, the Divergent series, and the first two or three books in the Abhorsen series. There were others, that I have now forgotten, but these three series are ones I can vividly recall rea ...more
TS Chan
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sabriel is a captivating and original tale of destiny.

Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?

I picked up this book because Brandon Sanderson recommended it in his review for Goldenhand, the 5th book in the Abhorsen series. He termed this as "one of the fundamental experiences that helped me shape my philosophy on magic systems and worldbuilding." With such an endorsement from my favourite author of all time, I cannot possibly pass over this book. And I am glad that I didn't.

Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?"

I’ve had a long-term project going for about five years now, where I try to hunt down and read all the YA adventure series that I was supposed to read when I was in middle school (instead, I spent those years re-reading the Prydain series, and also every single one of those Royal Diaries books – no regrets!). Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, checks off another box on that list, although I’m pretty sure t
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where was this book when I needed it?

5 stars!

Seriously, this book was GLORIOUS. If you want fast-paced, will-keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat, action-packed book, this one is for you.

Mogget is hands down my favourite character in this book. He's so sassy and sarcastic and morbid and fluffy and I just love him!

“It sounds like a terribly brilliant plan to me,” muttered Mogget. “The genius of simplicity…”

The character development of Sabriel and Touchstone was brilliant especially Sabriel's. Sh
This left me very unmoved throughout. I was initially somewhat intrigued by the original depiction of the realm of the Dead, and I’m always interested in an exploration of magic interacting with dead (and undead) creatures and beings. But I would hope that a story that has so much death in it would also have some sense of the impact of death on life, and on the living, and it barely scratched that surface for me.

The writing is competent, the dialogue mostly flows, but the plot just feels like on
Judith Arvesu
Sep 22, 2008 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-
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
Coming up next in my YA reread challenge. I actually have only read the first book and while cleaning out my hoard, I found out that I own the first three books in the series, plus the bonus collection of short stories, ACROSS THE WALL.

Have any of you read this book? I barely remember it at all, but I know I loved it.
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Sabriel is one hell of a kick ass character. No whinging, no feeling sorry for herself - she gets shit done! Anyone who loves ya fiction, magic and dystopian universes definitely needs to give this book a try!!
BAM the enigma
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 12, 2013 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. ...more
Lindsey Rey
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, young-adult, fantasy
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. ...more
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
Oct 30, 2015 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
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 11, 2009 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Crow's Revenge (Keeper of the Realms, #1)
  • Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)
  • The Dark Army (Keeper of the Realms, #2)
  • Wild Magic (Immortals, #1)
  • The Blue Sword (Damar, #1)
  • The Golden Enclaves (The Scholomance, #3)
  • The Last Graduate (The Scholomance, #2)
  • In the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness, #2)
  • Squire (Protector of the Small, #3)
  • Uprooted
  • The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus, #1)
  • The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness, #3)
  • Dreamless
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle, #1)
  • Nona the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #3)
  • Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)
  • Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #1)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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.


Other books in the series

The Old Kingdom (7 books)
  • Lirael (Abhorsen, #2)
  • Abhorsen (Abhorsen, #3)
  • Clariel (Abhorsen, #4)
  • Goldenhand (Abhorsen, #5)
  • Terciel and Elinor (The Old Kingdom #6)
  • To Hold the Bridge

Articles featuring this book

Whether it’s magic schools, dystopias, paranormal love stories, or contemporary explorations of important real-life issues, young adult books...
255 likes · 173 comments
“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” 1066 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…