Sabriel by Garth Nix | book review

This review is spoiler-free!

“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.”

Garth Nix, Sabriel

Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1) by Garth NixTitle: Sabriel
Series: The Old Kingdom
Author: Garth Nix
Published: May 1995
Publisher: Harper Collins
Category: YA
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 367
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
Goodreads page

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Sabriel is the daughter of the Mage Abhorsen. Ever since she was a tiny child, she has lived outside the Wall of the Old Kingdom–far away from the uncontrolled power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won’t stay dead.

But now, her father is missing and Sabriel is called upon to cross into the world to find him, Leaving the safety of the school she has known as home, Sabriel embarks upon a quest fraught with supernatural dangers, with companions she is unsure of–for nothing is as it seems within the boundary of the Old Kingdom. There, she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life, and comes face to face with her hidden destiny.

[ This synopsis was taken directly from Goodreads. ]

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Sabriel was the second book I put in my Goodreads TBR list since joining back in 2014. I had never heard of it before, but Sarah J. Maas said in a panel that it was one of her favorite books growing up and inspired her to write the Throne of Glass series. Seven years later, I finally picked it up thanks to a friend of mine. She was with me at that book festival where we got to meet SJM and Garth Nix and bought the whole series. Recently, she contacted me saying that she’s getting rid of the books and wanted to know if I wanted the series before she donates them. I said I’d love to take them off her hands, and here we are.

I mainly listened to this on audiobook, and I’m super glad I did. There were so many names I had no idea how to pronounce (like Astarael and Belgaer), but the narrator did all the pronunciation work so I didn’t have to.

In all my years of reading YA fantasy, I never come across a world quite like the Old Kingdom. The concept of being able to travel between life and death, and that there are different levels of death, is an interesting one. At the same time, this story screams first generation YA fantasy books. It feels very reminiscent of books from the late 90s/early 2000s.

[Edit: I looked it up and apparently this book was originally published in 1995… now I know why it felt like it was written a decade or two ago.]

I liked the pacing: it wasn’t too fast or too slow. There was a good ebb and flow of action, so I wasn’t too overwhelmed with excitement and adrenaline or bored out of my mind because nothing was happening.

All that being said, I’m torn on continuing this series. I feel 50/50 about it. I enjoyed the story. I’m interested in what’s going to happen next, but I have so many other books that I’m more excited about. If I’m going to continue this series, I’ll probably listen to it on audiobook while I’m working out or doing chores.


✅ recommended by SJM
✅ interesting, unique world and magic
✅ good pacing
➖ feels like an early 2000s fantasy novel
❌ maybe not interesting enough to continue the series

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I give Sabriel 3.5 out of 5 stars!

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Have you read Sabriel before when it was first published?
What were your thoughts?
What are some books you’ve read that authors recommended?

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Stay awkward and amazing!

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