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Author Topic: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix  (Read 14256 times)

Offline Overlord

Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« on: December 09, 2010, 10:54:00 AM »
Many of you may not have heard of this series… I picked it up by complete chance about 5/6 years ago when visiting a relative. I forgot the book I was currently reading (Magicians Guild) and was kinda bored over the weekend there. Still having 5 days left on my trip, I walked past a charity shop and sat in the window was a book called ‘Sabriel’. Now, to me it looked ‘fantasy-ish’ so I picked it up…

The book was so amazing that by the end of the holiday I was almost finished on the third in the series (after two emergency trips to Waterstones Book Store!). It in fact went on to go to my sister who to this day swears the second in the series being the best book she ever read (Lirael) and myself having very fond memories of it and wishing, begging, pleading Garth Nix to do a follow up…

The series I am talking about here is ‘The Old Kingdom Trilogy’ by Garth Nix. Also known as the ‘Abhorson Series’ in North America; it consists of three books; Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen. The challenge here is doing a review on three books without giving any spoilers… I’m gonna give it a shot!

The first book, Sabriel follows a young girl who is in a seemingly normal(ish) school. We quickly find out that this school is ‘behind the wall’ and therefore safe from what has happened in ‘the old kingdom’. We find that the old kingdom is full of danger. Sabriel gets a message from her farther who is the Abhorsen – the man charged with following spirits into death and ensuring they get through it. This is a world where evil spirits don’t like to die. And when they do die they fight death.

In the Old Kingdom, when a creature dies it enters into the River of Death. Once there, these once living spirits who have both the inclination and the ability to resist the pull of the River of Death may rise again. Though very few are powerful enough to fight the currents, if summoned by a necromancer it is a relatively quick process for them unless stopped by the Abhorsen.

The fact that the Abhorsen is now missing means that anyone wanting to summon the dead can do so fairly easily. Sabriel knows why her father has given her the message – she needs to return to the Old Kingdom and rescue him even if he is already dead himself. Quickly she finds that to find the Abhorsen she is going to have to fight the dead in both the Old Kingdom and the River of Death…. Something she does not have nearly enough power for.

Her journey is one of magic, betrayal, love, growth and even possessed, talking cats.



Book Two links in with book one but we are no longer following Sabriel (for reasons you will see after book 1). We are now following ‘Lirael’, living at a school for those who have ‘the sight’ – she is an outcast on the verge of suicide. ‘The Sight’ is the ability to see into the future or at least see the possibilities that the future brings and the fact she has not yet developed it is of great shame. Where as most girls develop the ability around 11, Lirael is 14 now and without it. In addition to her lack of the gift, she also differs physically from all the other girls at her school. Where as they are beautiful with blonde hair and striking blue or green eyes, she has a pale complexion, black hair and brown eyes.

Upon her 14th birthday the Clayr (The name of the race that Lirael is a part of) appoint her to work at the library. Although still distressed over the lack of sight it gives her focus and a ‘role’ in the school. Through her work in the Library Lirael is able to access books that are usually ‘out of bounds’ and casts a spell, which inadvertently goes wrong and results in the summoning of the Disreputable Dog.

Through the usage of the library and help of the Disreputable Dog (who can talk!), Lirael begins to unlock the keys to embarking upon an adventure of utmost importance.

At the same time we meet a prince based in Ancelestierre (the good side of the wall) who is left injured by a fight with an evil necromancer (one that helps the dead rise through the River of the Dead). When Sameth is revealed to be in-line to become an Abhorsen one day, he rejects the idea due to his fear of necromancy.

Their stories are interwoven, whilst Sameth must return to the Old Kingdom and learn to help counter the enormous threats that are coming, Lirael must too do her part with help from the Disreputable Dog. Both extremely young and barely able to cast their first, most basic spells – just how is it that they will steer the world away from the coming darkness and mystery that is approaching?



Book Three in the trilogy is Abhorsen. It is the linking of the previous two books and of course the conclusion. The evil powers in The Old Kingdom have been growing in strength and number and it is the job of the remaining characters to work together and overcome the threat they possess to the thriving Kingdom of Ancelestierre. I can’t say much else without spoiling the previous two books, but it is certainly a good bringing together of all the characters and story lines up until this point.

——————————————————

Onto my thoughts on the series… this is a very ‘different’ series. It is not a ‘huge’ or ‘epic’ fantasy. It has been marketed for those aged around 15-17, although is very, very universal. I’d say the reading age would be higher than that of Harry Potter for example so don’t think anyone should label this book as a ‘kids book’ and write it off. The ‘Old Kingdom’ is one of the most realistic worlds I have ever read about in a geographic sense. The contrast of a modern, technologically advanced Ancelestierre living in relative harmony with ‘The Old Kingdom’ being a complete wasteland full of Demonic Creatures, Magic, Death and Evil is told in a way that is so far unmatched.

What really makes the books is the system of death. The fact that when an evil creature dies it is not dead… it is living in the ‘River of Death’ is terrifying and a unique way to do things. There are 9 gates of death, each with stronger and stronger currents. Therefore to ensure that something is ‘really’ dead you need to push them through all 9. Even the Aborsen can only go a certain distance into death, relying on the currents to push them the through the remaining gates. By going too far the Aborsen risks an ambush from any number of dead fighting against the currents, getting trapped against the current or even dragged through the 9th gate them-self.

When we are not in death, we are primarily in either the Old Kingdom or the Clayr’s school. Both are fascinating places that are brought to life through Garth Nix’s writing style. There are various styles of magic; Charter Magic, Necromancy and Free Magic that are all used to keep battles and obstacles enjoyable. Perhaps the interaction between Sabriel and ‘Mogget’ the talking cat as well as Lirael and the ‘Disreputable Dog’ is one of the very best parts in the book. There is always the question there as to whether Mogget is trying to help or to kill Sabriel as he openly tells us when we first meet him/her that her father trapped his evil spirit into the cats form. The book moves at such a breathtaking pace that by the time you have finished you cannot believe how much has really happened. Everything is interesting in this series – there is not a dull moment and there is very little world building or background that doesn’t involve some kind of action.

Perhaps my one problem with this series is that it was a trilogy. That might sound as if I am saying ‘I want more books’, but actually it is more; ‘I want more answers’. There are a few loose-ends to say the least and even a few characters who we are lead to believe will be re-introduced are not. I personally think (could be wrong) that Garth Nix intended to write more of the Old Kingdom books soon after the original trilogies release but simply didn’t have time… He has gone on to write some very popular series since that maybe he wasn’t expecting to do and I can only guess this got put on the back burner. Perhaps supporting this assumption is the fact that Garth Nix has written a number of ‘short stories’, showing he does want to re-enter this world but just doesn’t have time or inclination to commit to a full novel.

According to wiki-pedia (not the most reliable of sources);
“Garth Nix has announced two additions to the series: a prequel and a “sequel of sorts to Abhorsen”. While the sequel is unnamed, the prequel has the working title Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen. The books are stated to appear in 2011…” HOWEVER I looked a few years ago and it said the same thing but with ’2009? on the end so I am waiting to see.

Fantastic series that if you have not done already – you need to check out! Just be aware that it is a book that will draw you so deep into its world and characters that leaving them will be hard and leaving them without a complete resolution is even tougher. I guess the question to ask; “Is leaving a reader begging for more always a good thing?”
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
Author: "Son of…" in 1853 (2013)
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Offline HannahMariska

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2011, 08:35:23 PM »
I absolutely loved this series. I read it many years ago, but it still sticks in my head. In fact I brought Sabriel back from my parent house at christmas, so I can re-read it. The first book Sabriel got me completely hooked but I think I enjoyed the second book, Lirael, even more. I can imagine some people would say this book had a slow start, but I love the character of Lirael and was really drawn in to her feelings of isolation and rejection.

I've read the first few books of another of Nix's other series, Keys to the Kingdom, but I didn't find it as interesting. I think he did an amazing job on The Old Kingdom. Apparently 'Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen' is now due out in 2012...not sure whats going on with that then :-\ We could be waiting forever for it. In response to your question about leaving the reader begging for more, maybe its not a good thing if you waiting for something that will never come.

Offline AlexEatsBooks

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2011, 08:37:02 PM »
I LOVE this series!!!
(Can't say much more than that as you've both covered all the best bits! lol)
Even if it's remembered, a dream is just a dream.
Book Blog: http://www.alexeatsbooks.blogspot.com

Offline Overlord

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2011, 05:02:53 AM »
I absolutely loved this series. I read it many years ago, but it still sticks in my head. In fact I brought Sabriel back from my parent house at christmas, so I can re-read it. The first book Sabriel got me completely hooked but I think I enjoyed the second book, Lirael, even more. I can imagine some people would say this book had a slow start, but I love the character of Lirael and was really drawn in to her feelings of isolation and rejection.

I've read the first few books of another of Nix's other series, Keys to the Kingdom, but I didn't find it as interesting. I think he did an amazing job on The Old Kingdom. Apparently 'Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen' is now due out in 2012...not sure whats going on with that then :-\ We could be waiting forever for it. In response to your question about leaving the reader begging for more, maybe its not a good thing if you waiting for something that will never come.

I completely agree, Lirael was at least twice as good.

Yeah... Garth Nix said on Facebook 2012, but he also said in an interview a few years ago 2009 and then he said 2010 and then 2011... So until I see it I'm going to keep my 'excitement' to an absolute minimum as I may end up disappointed.
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
Author: "Son of…" in 1853 (2013)
Host: Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering

Offline Khaldun

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2011, 02:13:38 AM »
I read the first book in this series and loved it. I barely remembered that it was meant to be a YA novel. It avoided, for the most part, the sorts of melodrama that fill up most novels for teens/children. Definitely will be looking to read the sequels at some later point in time where I actually have time to read  :)

Offline darkshiara

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2011, 06:07:51 AM »
I love this series and Garth Nix's "Shade's Children".  It's funny though.  I remember getting Sabriel when it first came out.... several years later, I stumbled across Lirael which I bought not knowing that it was by Garth Nix and that it was the second in the series.  I bought it because the cover reminded me of Sabriel.  This series is unique and ties together a lot of fantastic cultures (with one of the most fantastic fantasy world's I've ever encountered).
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

Henry David Thoreau

Offline Overlord

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2011, 08:27:33 AM »
I love this series and Garth Nix's "Shade's Children".  It's funny though.  I remember getting Sabriel when it first came out.... several years later, I stumbled across Lirael which I bought not knowing that it was by Garth Nix and that it was the second in the series.  I bought it because the cover reminded me of Sabriel.  This series is unique and ties together a lot of fantastic cultures (with one of the most fantastic fantasy world's I've ever encountered).

I never finished 'Shades Children' I remember starting it and thinking it was a bit weird and I wasn't sure if it was Fantasy or Sci-Fi at the time :P I'm waiting on the sequels coming out next year, I'm pretty excited about them actually :D
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
Author: "Son of…" in 1853 (2013)
Host: Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering

Offline darkshiara

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2011, 08:36:58 PM »
BAAACK UP - sequel to what?
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

Henry David Thoreau

Offline Overlord

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2011, 07:23:48 AM »
BAAACK UP - sequel to what?

The Abhorsen Trilogy - there are two new books coming out in 2012 :D
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
Author: "Son of…" in 1853 (2013)
Host: Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering

Offline darkshiara

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2011, 06:46:01 AM »
OMG OMG OMG OMG
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

Henry David Thoreau

Offline Overlord

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2011, 07:55:11 AM »
OMG OMG OMG OMG

Actually I think it is one prequel (about Chlorr) and a sequel (about an unmet character) :)
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
Author: "Son of…" in 1853 (2013)
Host: Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering

Offline Lyz

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2011, 08:00:57 AM »
BAAACK UP - sequel to what?

The Abhorsen Trilogy - there are two new books coming out in 2012 :D

Uhhhh... I think I just flatlined. That's pretty freaking awesome, and TERRIBLE exciting. I definitely need to get these and re-read them.
Elizabeth Mace Giosia. Call me Lyz. 29. Leo. Fantasy Faction Staff Member, Reviews. Owner of Giosia Photography and Stoneheart Cosplay

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Offline pornokitsch

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2011, 07:07:48 AM »
I absolutely loved this series. I read it many years ago, but it still sticks in my head. In fact I brought Sabriel back from my parent house at christmas, so I can re-read it. The first book Sabriel got me completely hooked but I think I enjoyed the second book, Lirael, even more. I can imagine some people would say this book had a slow start, but I love the character of Lirael and was really drawn in to her feelings of isolation and rejection.

Totally agree!

There's also a one-off: The Creature in the Case, which is a short story that was published individually.

Offline Overlord

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2011, 09:02:25 AM »
I absolutely loved this series. I read it many years ago, but it still sticks in my head. In fact I brought Sabriel back from my parent house at christmas, so I can re-read it. The first book Sabriel got me completely hooked but I think I enjoyed the second book, Lirael, even more. I can imagine some people would say this book had a slow start, but I love the character of Lirael and was really drawn in to her feelings of isolation and rejection.

Totally agree!

There's also a one-off: The Creature in the Case, which is a short story that was published individually.

A huge book of collected stories called; 'Beyond the Wall' too :) (Creature in the Case was put into that too!)
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
Author: "Son of…" in 1853 (2013)
Host: Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering

Offline Shamrock

Re: Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2011, 11:13:57 AM »
I loved this series, and like many of you picked it up by accident. I have the hard cover first editions and they are so precious to me. I can't believe there are another two in the series. I was so sad when I finished Abhorsen and thought Nix had left the world as it is, and me with only three books!
Books are the blessed chloroform of the mind