Sabriel by Garth Nix
Digital Audiobook narrated by Tim Curry
Published by Harper Collins on September 30, 1996
Series: Abhorsen #1
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Magic, Young Adult
Length: 491 pages or 10 hours, 43 minutes
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Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him.
With Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen series, Garth Nix exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rising star, in a novel that takes readers to a world where the line between the living and the dead isn't always clear—and sometimes disappears altogether.
Hmm. So, I read Sabriel for the first time early in high school. I liked it. I remember liking it and liking the world it was in. I loved Clariel when I read it last year, so I already know I like this world with its monsters and charter magic.
And yet, I feel like listening to Sabriel glazed across the surface for me. I only absorbed once word in every ten, and many of those seemed to be Mogget’s. I think it’s because of the narrator.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Tim Curry. I like his reading of A Christmas Carol. But for whatever reason, he didn’t do it for me in Sabriel. I find myself trying to piece together what I remember of the plot – the breaking of the charter stones and Touchstone’s release and Sabriel slowly learning what it is to be Abhorsen. Since I read Clariel so recently Gath Nix’s world is still fresh, so this didn’t affect the world building aspect for me.
I actually think this is a good lesson in narrator compatibility. Every once in a while there’s a book with a perfectly good narrator, but they don’t draw you in. That’s how I feel here. But I also remember that as far as the fundamentals go, Sabriel was my least favorite of the series. I’ve never loved her as a character. There’s a lot of time spent traveling in this book. The worldbuilding feels more like explanations – like when the bells are described. It’s a rocky start to an intriguingly dark and interesting world. I find Sabriel’s cluelessness about her job exasperating, and Mogget’s constant snipery a bit exhausting. The characters are not at their best, and the world is not so interesting as it becomes.
I did, however, enjoy Touchstone.
Another trick of my memory – I don’t remember Touchstone from my previous reading. It really has been years, so perhaps this isn’t that surprising. Touchstone was my favorite part of this book. I felt that he had the best transformative cycle, adapting well but not too quickly to living in the modern world. I think I would actually like to revisit this in print form, because I think I would pick up more that way. And Lireal was always my favorite anyway, so I have no qualms going forward.
That said, I think that if listening to this audiobook had been my first foray into the Old Kingdom, I wouldn’t have stuck around.