I first picked up Sabriel and its sequel Lirael at a conference in Victoria, BC at the age of twelve. My mother knew me so well–I ran out of books during my one week trip and I was allowed to buy them at the bookstore on the campus where I was staying. I bought the final book in the series, Abhorsen, when it was released in paperback. My copy of Sabriel is rather worn.
Returning to a beloved childhood book after nearly a decade is an interesting experience. I remember thinking that Sabriel was so grown up and cool–eighteen! Wow! That’s like an adult. Her nervousness and hesitance didn’t seem to make an impact on me at all.
I found myself enthralled by the deep mythology in this world. Free magic, The Charter, and Nix’s interpretation of the afterlife reeled me in. I seem to remember the mythology being explained more deeply in the second book (though I won’t have time to reread that one until after term).
That said, the point was raised in class that the romance seemed to come out of nowhere. I disagree–Garth Nix brought in the attraction from the very instant that Touchstone was introduced, and referred to it regularly. The problem with the romance wasn’t that it wasn’t done at all, it’s that it was clumsily done. The story didn’t profit from the romance at all. Indeed, it might have been stronger without it. I know that I’d love to read some YA adventure stories with female heroines that don’t have a mandatory romance. That story was not this one.
This adventure story is a strong start for writer Garth Nix. As his writing progress it improves greatly. Sabriel was simply the first step in that journey and a worthwhile read.