Backlist Bonus: Sabriel

518848by Garth Nix
YA Fantasy
5 of 5 stars
Debut novel – May 11, 1995

This book was published twenty years ago today, and for Sabriel Day I thought I would finally post a review here. This is one of my favorite books (as in I’ve read it at least twenty times and the pages are curled and turning yellow). I say this to indicate that I’m not sure it’s possible for me to leave an unbiased review, but I can recount why I want everyone to read it.

There are more teenage girls kicking ass and taking names these days, but they don’t typically have magical powers, a strained alliance with a shape-shifting spirit, or the ability to come and go between Life and Death. Most importantly, they don’t have confidence in these abilities. I love Sabriel because she stays cool under pressure–even when things get completely out of control, she doesn’t freeze up or panic or expect someone to save her–she tries something, anything in her arsenal to save herself. So much of YA is following a character as they grow into their destiny or their powers, but Sabriel has these, and instead we have to watch her grow into being independent and using those gifts as the Abhorsen.

Sabriel’s father is the Abhorsen, the only person in the kingdom who protects everyone from the Dead spirits that try to return to Life and destroy everything in their path. Sabriel’s struggle is taking up this mantle as the next Abhorsen. Her story is the experience every 18-year-old has when they leave high school and realize the world expects them to be an adult now, and no papers or tests prepared them for this responsibility.

There’s excellent world-building, humor, and beautiful lines as we follow Sabriel’s transformation from a schoolgirl to the protector of her kingdom. She learns to trust herself as she discovers her destiny. It has every element I love in a good fantasy novel and there’s a reason it’s in print twenty years later!

Similar reads:

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas – This series is about an assassin trying to subvert the tyrannical king while hiding her true nature. High fantasy with a female protagonist who is tough as nails with a sharp wit. See my
    Throne of Glass review here and my Crown of Midnight review here.
  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley – Another tale from a time when girls weren’t allowed to be the center of a story that involves dark magic, slaying dragons, and choosing her own fate. Still fantastic almost thirty years later. See my review here.
  • Alanna, The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce – From the era of girls passing as boys and becoming knights comes this quartet following Alanna, the first female knight in the kingdom, destined for many more adventures once she gets her shield. See my review here.
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – Another trilogy filled with dark magic and destiny. Lyra gets drawn into the political and religious fronts about to start a war for the freedom of human souls. It’s action-packed but thoughtful as Lyra grows up and faces her role in a prophecy that could change her world forever.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

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