Abhorsen - Garth Nix

Reviewed for Usenet (or see Google archive).

Garth Nix
Eos publishers
ISBN: 0060278250 (Amazon link)

This is a short review since this is the third in a trilogy, and those who have read the previous books will probably merely want to know this is out, and those of you who have't will want to know if it is a good series, but won't care for details that will mean little without the previous books.

Sabriel is a standalone YA fantasy. I am not a YA and feel the kids are getting a better deal than I did, with this, and Philip Pullman's books around.

Sabriel was followed by Lirael, a loose sequel. This third and last book is a direct successor to Lirael, basically these two are one long book.

The world that Sabriel sets up is very appealing. On one side we have The Old Kingdom, a land of Charter magic, free magic, the dead and little technology. Then there is the Wall, with its militarised zone reminiscent of WW I trenches, which protects the mundane world of Ancelstierre.

The series as a whole deals with the succession of the Abhorsen, a pivotal figure in the Old Kingdom. The Abhorsen is not a necromancer, but their nemesis. The Abhorsen wields the bells and magic to keep the dead in, well, Death. I found the rituals of the Abhorsen compelling, and while I occasionally found the last book a little too YA (two talking animals? Even as terrifying as Mogget and as fun as The Disreputable Dog are, that's too many when combined with mention of boarding schools!) I'm happily going to find Garth Nix's other books and devour them too.

If you haven't tried this author pick up Sabriel; it's a great fantasy and can be read standalone. If you have read Lireal this neatly ties up all the threads and despite fairly linear plotting and characterisation it manages to avoid feeling cliched even during the final fight with the Big Bad.

YA fantasy with ideas-rich worldbuilding. Recommended to Pullman fans in particular.

Posted: Sun - February 9, 2003 at 11:44 PM