Book 23: Sabriel

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Similar to the work of Diana Wynn Jones, Garth Nix creates characters that are the embodiment of real people and not of an ideal specimen. You love them, you hate them, and occasionally they make you cringe from their stupidity but I wouldn’t want it any other way. This aspect of literature creates a significant raw reality feel that is lost when characters are embodiments of an ideal person. Their problems, though often fantastical or far beyond anything most of us will experience, are relatable on a much deeper level.

Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen who’s task it is to guard the gates between life and death to make sure those who have died don’t come back. But when she receives a spectral visitor who gives her her father’s sword and bells used to control the dead she knows something terrible has happened.

Setting out to learn what has befallen her father she travels back to her native land, The Old Kingdom, and discovers a dark being who has returned to the world of the living to finish a mission it started two hundred years before; a mission that could remake the world into a place where the undead roam un-imposed.

This book is a creation of a remarkable plot and a fantastic world. The concept of death has been reinvented again and again by writers for years and it will probably continue in this way for as long as books continue to be written. Death is the next big adventure and one that invokes both fear and/or curiosity in men and women around the world. In Nix’s world death is a physical place where spirits float in it’s current until they pass all the gates and enter eternity. The tangible nature of it allows characters to interact with it in an almost godlike way, helping some through and bringing some back to the living. I found this created an original setting reminiscent in some ways of the underworld in Greek mythology.

Using a moderate amount of moralistic qualities, the book is an adventure with a strong heroine and a fun setting that is highly entertaining. I believe every book should teach the reader, even to a small degree, how to be a better person and how to better confront the obstacle course that is life. In my opinion, this book does just that and in a natural way that isn’t didactic or cliché. It is a coming of age story about facing life and enduring challenges. It’s a book that teaches teens how to embrace life.

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