Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen – by Garth Nix
Yesterday, I got to meet one of my favourite authors – Garth Nix. I remember my Dad encouraging me to read Sabriel when I was around fifteen, and I think this trilogy was one of the first times I really experienced:
I read the whole series within a week or two, and it’s been one of my favourites ever since, as well as one I’ve re-read many times because I want to visit these characters, this world, again.
And this week, I not only read the trilogy again (in six days, whew) but got to meet, talk to, introduce to a crowd and generally hang out with its creator! I also got a whole lot of things signed – five of the thirteen Garth Nix books I own as well as a hand drawn picture of Mogget that one of my amazingly talented colleagues had used as part of our display – I feel very lucky today!
So, after delving back into the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre, I’d like to tell you a bit about why I adore this series:
The Old Kingdom is a land steeped in magic. In the Beginning, the Seven managed to bind the corrupting Free Magic under the power of the Charter – so magic could be used safely and wisely. But, of course, power calls, and there are always those willing to go to extreme lengths to get a taste of more. Even death is not a sure barrier against these evil individuals – necromancers, who use enslaved spirits of the already Dead to wreak havoc througout the Kingdom. Thus it falls to the descendants of the Seven to protect the realm as best they can.
The title of Abhorsen has been passed down through the generations since the Beginning. The Abhorsen has a crucial task – to oppose the Dead who will not remain in Death, as well as the necromancers who seek to use lesser Dead spirits against the living. The seven bells wielded by the Abhorsen are the surest way to compel the Dead beyond the Ninth Gate, from whence they cannot return.
In Sabriel we meet the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, who has spent her younger years across the Wall that borders the Old Kingdom, in the decidedly un-magical country of Ancelstierre. But when her father, the Abhorsen, is trapped in Death, Sabriel must assume her birthright and venture home, across the Wall, to prevent the fall of the Kingdom.
In Lirael and then Abhorsen, we’re introduced to the Clayr, also descended from the Seven, whose power is to See into the future in order to guard against the dangerous possibilities that lie ahead. All Lirael has ever wanted is to have the Sight awaken in her so she will be just like the rest of her Clayr cousins. But a different path awaits Lirael, as she discovers that her destiny is to join with Sameth, the son of Sabriel, in contesting the most dangerous threat to face the Old Kingdom since the Beginnning itself. It will take all Lirael and Sam’s abilities to even have a hope of overcoming this challenge and saving the Kingdom and the rest of the world beyond the Wall from sure destruction.
I finished the books this time about midnight the day before I was to meet Mr Nix, and again found myself overwhelmed by the strength and courage of these beloved chatacters in the face of unimaginable danger. The magic system Nix uses is authentic and detailed, which I appreciate because it anchors the reader more firmly in his world. But the main reason I can’t get past this story as one of the best I’ve ever read is because I feel as if I know all these characters, and even though I know what happens I am caught in the story each time I revisit their lives.
The Old Kingdom chronicles are one of the main reasons I love fantasy, and the only thing I can say at this point is: If you haven’t read them yet, DO SO IMMEDIATELY. Please.
And if you have, do you love them as much as I do? (If you don’t, maybe don’t tell me – my head’s still in the Old Kingdom and I’m not sure I could handle it!)