note: I had this post scheduled with the intentions of finishing it last week and never got around to it. I forgot to re-save it as a draft so it published while very unfinished. If you saw the pre-ready version, my apologies! Trip exhaustion got the better of me. Hopefully this one is better, even if it takes a ramble-y turn.
While at boarding school across the border in Ancelstierre, Sabriel inherits the title of Abhorsen when her father dies unexpectedly. She believes he died as a mistake and wants to try to rescue him. His death makes her the necromancer of the Old Kingdom, which means it is her duty to put the dead other necromancers raise to rest. With reluctant assistance from Mogget, a cat-like creature and prisoner of the Abhorsen, she sets out to save her father and restore his title. She learns that the Old Kingdom is in chaos. A dark, dead power called Kerrigor is using dead to take over the realm. On her journey, she finds and wakes Touchstone, a frozen-in-time-and-Death Charter Mage, who can’t seem to remember or at any rate speak about his life in the past. Touchstone is powerful and joins Sabriel and Mogget on their mission against Kerrigor.
Lirael is a daughter of the Clayr, the Seers of the Old Kingdom. She expects to receive the Sight, but it never comes. She is depressed and isolated. She badly wants to be a part of the Clayr and wants to have family. She eventually gets to help in the library, learns all about magic, and meets the Disreputable Dog, who becomes her best and only friend. She discovers the Sight is not for her, but there is something else waiting.
Sameth is Abhorsen-in-waiting. He went to boarding school over the wall, in Ancelstierre. He faces Death bravely, but after that he wants no more to do with it. He isn’t interested in being the Abhorsen, he only wants to create and invent things. Instead of learning more about necromancy, he takes off to do what he wants. Meanwhile, his friend Nick from boarding school is being used to resurrect an ancient evil.
Along the way, Sam and Lirael meet and discover their interests are aligned and they need to work together, along with furry friends Disreputable Dog and Mogget, the angry, sleepy cat we already know. As one would expect, Dog and Mogget don’t get along.
Sameth and Lirael have to try to save the world. They learn that Nick is being used to raise an evil so serious, it will actually wipe out the world. They have to use their various skills and powers and every other resource they can find to put the evil to rest.
Not many. A few times I thought the story was going a little slower than I wanted it to, but it wasn’t ever too bad. I also didn’t know that the last book continued off the third, (since the first is a bit separate and contained) so I was confused by that and I was worried about so much setup and expected a quick wrap up. That’s probably more of a personal error.
The Abhorsen world is full of rich magic.
Free Magic is magic that has no rules, which often leads to unsavory things. Including people using the dead for nefarious purposes and trying to TAKE OVER THE WORLD (said in The Brain’s voice, from Pinky and the Brain).
Charter Magic was created to contain Free Magic. This added guidelines and rules instead of lawlessness. There are Charter marks which mages can use by writing, speaking, or thinking. There are Charter stones which
Necromancers go into the realm of Death and raise the dead to do their bidding. The realm of Death is filled with a river and nine gates. Each gate takes a spirit where it needs to go, away from life. Necromancers take spirits out of this realm and into the realm of life. A few different kinds of dead used are: Hands are mindless reanimated corpses, Shadow Hands are raised spirits, and gore crows are a group of dead crows infused with the spirit of a human. There are many more, including scary Greater Dead. SO many dead things creeping around!
The Abhorsen is an “official” necromancer and uses Charter Magic to put the dead to rest and stop necromancers from using dead bodies and spirits. The Abhorsen also goes in the realm of Death. They use bells to “sing” the dead to sleep and bind their spirits. The bells are important and too complex for me to easily explain, but they are so awesome. I never knew I could be so excited about bells!
The Clayr have the Sight and can see possible futures. One thing I found really interesting about The Clayr is that each Clayr sees something of her death, but not the death itself. Creepy! They also live in a glacier!
Nix also does a stellar job weaving the magical Old Kingdom with its less magical and more modern neighbor, Ancelstierre. These countries share a border with a guarded wall and they are so different. Not only is the world-building amazing, but the way the differing countries interact is incredible to me.
It’s filled with strong and enjoyable characters.
Sabriel is thrown into a completely unexpected responsibility. She knows about necromancy and she’s studied the Book of the Dead, but she’s unprepared for the weight of the title of Abhorsen. She misses her father and wants to save him so he can be Abhorsen and do what needs to be done. She’s scared and she would like to be able to go back across the wall and not worry about anything, but she really steps up. She is strong, determined and she has awesome bells and a kick ass sword. She’s a fun character to read about, and her relationship with her father was really touching.
Mogget is a Free Magic creature who is a prisoner and unwilling servant of the Abhorsen. He has a Charter Magic collar keeping him in line and under control. He’s snarky and can be rather unpleasant. He’s also hilarious, especially when exasperated. I could tell he’s just biding his time, and his anger is evident in vivid detail throughout the books. However, there is so much more to Mogget than I originally thought, in multiple ways. He is surprising and I’m not sure how anyone could resist liking him! Easily one of my favorite characters of the series, and probably somewhere on the list of all-time favorite characters.
Touchstone is a bit harder to talk about him without spoiling, because the mystery of his background is important, as is the revelation of said mystery. When he first shows up, he seems kind of slow to Sabriel (and to me!) but he’s been frozen in a non-conscious limbo for a really long time. Plus he’s under a spell that won’t let him speak about what happened to him. He shows his worth and his power soon enough, and he is not to be underestimated. He’s an important character and his help and friendship to Sabriel is paramount.
Lirael is a daughter of the Clayr and grows up as an outsider because she doesn’t have the Sight. She’s learns a lot about Charter Magic and becomes intensely skilled. She can even make animal skins with Charter marks and when she wears them she transforms into the animal. Awesome, right? She’s a really sad character who just wants to belong. I think anyone that’s been lonely can relate and sympathize with her. However, with the help of Dog, she sets out on a mission and gets to discover a whole world outside of the Clayr and what she is lacking. She’s meant for great things! She’s also very no nonsense and doesn’t take crap from anyone.
Dog or Disreputable Dog: It’s difficult to explain the origin of Dog out of context, but I will sum it up for you in a word: magic! Dog is Lirael’s friend and kind mentor. Like with most things, there’s more to Dog than anyone can imagine. She is kind and loyal, but she’s also really knowledgeable and helpful. Easy to love and a very important character.
Sam: He is the very reluctant heir. He likes creating toys and gadgets. He has a responsibility to the Kingdom and his parents, but he’d rather do his own thing. The thought of necromancy makes him scared. He’s kind of a mess, but he means well.
The characters go on journeys and use magic to fight evil, while learning and growing.
The first book is about Sabriel and her wish to save her father, which turns into a mission to save the kingdom. It’s also about her doubt, struggle, and self discovery. She learns so much about the world and herself. She’s unsure of herself, but she’s determined. I love watching her fumble and watching her find her way. I also love the romance that sparks between Sabriel and Touchstone.
The second two books are about Lirael and Sam finding their ways and saving the world. Sabriel and Touchstone make appearances in these books, too. Lirael is so easy to relate to because who hasn’t been lonely? She’s such an outsider and she’s longing to fit in. It’s exciting to see her leave the place that’s holding her down and discover there is so much more out there. She has an important task, but it’s also a time of discovery for her. Sam is so bogged down by expectations. He wants to slink them off and be free. He feels scared and helpless and he’s searching for something better.He’s immature and selfish, but his feelings are understandable.
I knew I liked these books, but I guess I underestimated how much I enjoyed them. I had a lot of fun writing this and remembering all the things I loved about this world and these characters. If you like fantasy worlds with magic, the walking dead (not zombies but still gross), journeys, friendship, talking animals, swords and battles then you should definitely give these books a shot! My favorite of the series is probably Sabriel, but each book is incredible and the ending of the series is kind of everything, even if I wanted more (I am greedy like that).
Bonus fun fact: The other day I was shoe shopping at Payless and there was a really cute little girl and I overheard her parents calling her Sabriel. I’m sure there’s a chance they found it somewhere else, but I choose to believe they named her after these books and I love it.