I know this confession will probably mark me for a nerd, but I love a book that begins with a map.
To me, the map is a sure sign an adventure is about to begin, and Garth Nix’s “Sabriel” is one of those great quests.
The title character, Sabriel, was sent to school in Ancelstierre, a mundane land with little magic as opposed to the Old Kingdom, where she was born, where the dead still walk and Free Magic sends electric currents through the air.
When Sabriel learns her father is in trouble, possibly dead, she leaves the safety of her school and returns to the Old Kingdom.
Both Sabriel and her father are necromancers. Her father carries the title of Abhorsen, and in his absence, the 18-year-old must fill the role, banishing evil spirits and ghouls back to Death.
During Sabriel’s journey through the Old World she is joined by two companions: Mogget, a talking cat who is not really a cat, and Touchstone, a Charter Mage who was trapped for years by dark magic and must now confront his shadowy past.
Nix vividly paints this land of magic. The pages are filled with grim, grisly images of animated corpses and their bloodied victims.
“There were seven of them along the bridge’s length. Unlike the first soldier, it was quite clear what had killed them. They had been hacked apart and, as Sabriel edged closer, she realized they had been beheaded. Worse than that, whoever ... whatever ... had killed them had taken their heads away — almost a guarantee that their spirits would return.”
“Sabriel” is the first in a trilogy. It is a page-turner and Nix is one of the best fantasy writers out there. The other books are “Lirael” and “Abhorsen.”
I can’t wait to see where Nix will take me next.