The book cover for Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • STAR RATING:  Five stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 491 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 30th 1996
  • PUBLISHER: Harper Collins
  • WHAT SERIES? The Old Kingdom Series
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, death of parent, gore, body horror
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald


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.

How do I review a book that I’ve read so many times I’ve actually lost count? For starters — this is a warning that I probably won’t be as objective or unbiased as I could be, because at this point it’s pretty hard for me to be either of those things. The Old Kingdom is one of my absolute favorite series. I first picked up Sabriel in seventh grade. I was a wee pre-teen, and I just fell in love with this story. And I have to say — it’s held up pretty well for being close to thirty years old!

At it’s heart, Sabriel is about a young girl thrust into an awful situation, and how she grows and learns from her experiences. A coming-of-age story, to a T. What I’ve always loved is that Sabriel doesn’t really have YA main-character syndrome. She’s not really described as being better than other girls. She’s not described as beautiful when we first meet her. She’s just a teenager, a young woman about to graduate from her school. She’s shown to be competent, but not overly so, and there are more than a few times where she makes mistakes and owns up to them. Sabriel is an excellent role model for young girls.

I love the world, too, though we don’t get a huge sense of how big it is in this particular book. It gets explored much more in the subsequent sequels, so I won’t mention much of it here, other than to say that Nix does an excellent job of making the world feel old. We see the history in bits and pieces, the way the cities and towns are described, and how the people are living in them.

I’m also incredibly partial to the other characters in Sabriel, though my absolute favorite doesn’t appear until Lirael. Mogget is a pretty close runner-up, though. Talking animal companions are some of my favorites, always, and he is so mysterious and funny that you can’t help but love him. And then when you do find out what he is, oooh. It’s such a good reveal, though you don’t really understand the gravity of it until later books, again. Touchstone is another fascinating character — a berserker with royal blood. He and Sabriel fall in love very quickly, but they do spend the majority of their time together saving each other’s lives over and over.

The villain of this book, Kerrigor, is properly terrifying, with some serious oomph behind his threats. Who and what he is just sends shivers down my spine every time I read this book. And the way they defeat him? GOD, IT’S SO GOOD.

See how it’s hard for me to be unbiased? Anyway — I want to thank those of you that participated in my Sabriel Read-a-Long. It was so, so cool to see so many of you pick up this book for the first time. I loved reading your posts, and I’m so happy that so many of you seemed to really enjoy it! I hope you’ll read along onto the next two books, and that you’ll let me know what you think!

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  1. Okay, I didn’t see the Hex Appeal yet but I saw this! Great review… I am really hoping to finish it soon. I wish I could have joined the read-along more but I know a lot of people really enjoyed it!! Thanks for doing it!<3

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I’m glad that no matter how many times you have read it you still have so many kind words for it! That makes it extra special. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can really tell how much you loved this book and I’m so sad that I wasn’t able to follow through in finishing it up with the read-a-long! 🥺 Darn life, getting in the way of good reads! But I definitely want to get back to this and hopefully, it’ll be soon. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve seen this book for years, but have never found the time to pick it up sadly. I’d love to pick up older fantasy, especially YA to see how it differs to what’s being published now, that’s so interesting to me! What a lovely review!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. While I didn’t love it as much as you do, I absolutely LOVE your LOVE for this series. I totally get the whole nostalgic feel of a long-loved book/series. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading it with y’all. There were definitely some memorable moments in the book for me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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