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Old Kingdom / Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix 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?”

December 09, 2010, 10:54:00 AM
Re: Bridgeburner at 500... sign of OCD?

I'm pretty sure that well over 2/3rds of the time, when I load up the forum there have been no new posts since I last checked.  ???
I have to post more often?  ::)
Er, maybe not  :-X ;D
Yes. Yes you do.  ???

Go write.

March 16, 2015, 01:27:17 PM
Re: Bridgeburner at 500... sign of OCD? Congratulations @Jmacyk!!!

Although I hate you (and some others) when I see how many new posts there are, by the time I (FINALLY) finish reading them I can't help but wonder how informative/funny/thought-provoking/[insert positive adjective] they are. Keep up the good work!  :)

I would give you karma, but sadly... nevermore.  :(

March 16, 2015, 02:06:08 PM
Re: Bridgeburner at 500... sign of OCD? 500 posts already? They grow up so fast.

And yet I don't see my name on there anywhere.

Nah, this is an amazing feat J-mack. (Obviously your rapper name, dawg.) You've been a great joy in this community as of late, and I completely understand the addiction that "unread threads" button is. All you have to do is keep on posting for us too lazy to follow through on our ideas.

Just think, when you get to my point, half of your posts won't be gibberish like mine! Keep up the good work Bridgeburner. Hope to see you around and stay a regular.

March 16, 2015, 04:03:36 PM
Re: Bridgeburner at 500... sign of OCD?
Have goggled at the strange and brilliant mind that is @Yora. (Yes, that's goggled, not googled.)
Thanks. That's a nice thing to say.  ;D

March 16, 2015, 04:27:41 PM
Re: Bridgeburner at 500... sign of OCD?
500 posts already? They grow up so fast.

And yet I don't see my name on there anywhere.

Nah, this is an amazing feat J-mack. (Obviously your rapper name, dawg.) You've been a great joy in this community as of late, and I completely understand the addiction that "unread threads" button is. All you have to do is keep on posting for us too lazy to follow through on our ideas.

Just think, when you get to my point, half of your posts won't be gibberish like mine! Keep up the good work Bridgeburner. Hope to see you around and stay a regular.
I might start my own thread so people can post in it and say nice things about me.

I shall call it "The Raptori Appreciation Thread".  8)

March 16, 2015, 05:05:19 PM
Re: Good freelance editors? Great discussion going in this topic so far!

I'm an editor with indie presses REUTS Publications and Curiosity Quills Press, both of whom are SFF-oriented, and I'm also a literary agent assistant at Corvisiero Agency. In addition to that, I co-own a freelance editing company called Bear and Black Dog Editing.

Courtney has given great advice, and I just want to second a lot of what she's said. For a novel of average length, expect to pay somewhere between $1200-$1800 for a full manuscript edit. (asabo, your 80k example would be about $1000-$1300 by my company's prices, depending on what the page count ended up being--we charge a flat fee of $6/page.)

A reputable editor will always provide references and do a free sample--we do a three-page sample for full MS edits. It's really important to find an editor who is not only skilled, but who gets your writing style and your genre.

Many editors these days offer less expensive packages. At Bear and Black Dog, we've got a very popular reader report package that's only $1/page. We don't make actual edits to the manuscript, but we read it and give you an editorial letter detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript, which our clients have found very helpful for guiding their own revisions. Reader reports are what many lit agencies and publishers use to assess a manuscript they're considering signing or buying. And we've just started a new revision planning consultation service, where we IM/skype with clients and walk them through outlining each step of their revisions.

As others have said, some editors will do whatever is needed, others keep clear boundaries between kinds of editing. My company offers edits targeted at either structural or line/copy, but they're priced the same way so if I find that the manuscript actually needs more of one or the other, I go ahead and do it. My company is also able to offer what we call a "twice tried" or publishing house edit. We have two editors, so the pub house edit gets you two passes, in other words, structural AND line editing, for only $8/page--which is nice, because then you don't have to do two separate editing jobs at the $6/page price, which saves our clients money.

TL:DR, a good editor will work with you however they can, because they love the written word as much as you do.  :D

March 16, 2015, 06:26:41 PM
Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread Alright, I tried, and pulled this out of my skull today, it's set up in the same world as my main story, except this happens in Europe.

1498 words without a title.

The name of a God

Spoiler for Hiden:
Hades didn't know how he felt about the sight in front of him.
His life had led him to some of the most desolate places on the continent, and he had learnt to appreciate dreariness in a landscape. If you kept morals out, anything could become beautiful.
But the ruin of a city's Plant was something else. The vitreous building, still majestic despite its downfall, was marked by soot. Massive metal beams and towering shards of molten materials stabbed the ground around its broken frame. Fire had killed that Plant.

Nothing spoke of slow and painful death like the carcass of a Plant. It meant no filtered water, no recycled earth. No uncontaminated food.
Despite his twisted tastes, Hades couldn't find it in him to appreciate the view.
Instead he shouldered his bag and went in search of a lookout, internally seething against his employer. It wasn't an assassin they should have sent out here but a recovery crew. The life of his target most certainly wasn't worth more than the smallest piece that could be salvaged from the Plant.
His employer must be ill informed. The town had been doomed years ago in that fire.

He stayed in his lookout for two days before he spotted his first sign of human life. Gray shadow on grayer background. Proof people were still surviving.
He sat in his concrete lair, charging his gun, screwing his silencer on. Maybe after all his target was alive.
When he saw a second human in the distance, he took to the streets.

For several hours he walked in expanding circles, hugging shadows, progressing through debris.
The kid reached him before Hades could sense him. Instant brownie points earned.
This respect was all that saved the child from getting his head blasted, as Hades stood, gripping his pack, grimly staring at the sheepish youth holding on to the other end of it.
Hades shook the straps violently, jolting the kid off against the pile of trash sheltering them. However the kid stood his ground, cooly assessing the older man.

"Are you a Rogue?" the child asked, eyes suddenly sparkling.
"Why? Are you a Rogue killer?" Hades scowled. The kid only groaned, turning his attention back to the pack.
Hades had seen rogue killers younger than this kid. Considering that the ones who could claim the kill had first dibs on the rogue's belongings, people got motivated. In such ruined cities all thieves or scavengers, even simple shady strangers, would fall under the Rogue denomination.
Of course Hades fell into other categories as well.
Spy, thief, murderer. Gun for hire.
Hopelessly for the locals, he would probably prove too hard a kill even if the entire town set after him.
"You've gotta be one though no?" The kid went on, "Not like people come to visit here no more."
"Your English is dreadful." Hades replied. The kid shrugged, unconcerned.

The sound of upset rubble clicked in the air and in an instant the kid fell forward, arms bent, fingers splayed to smoothly catch his weight. He landed soundlessly next to Hades, who had  spontaneously crouched, palming his gun under his coat. He was impressed by the kid's reflexes.
"Smart brat" he whispered.
"Them dumb ones don't grow old."
Hades waited, scanning the ruined street and staying stone-still, even after a scrawny fox dashed away, offering a possible explanation for the noise that had startled them. One didn't survive by being dismissive.
As they finally relaxed, Hades made up his mind.
"What's your name kid?"
"Aki. What's yours?"
Aki frowned, his little dirty nose creasing in concentration. "Heard it before I think but... never met you"
Hades laughed at that. "You probably heard it in old stories."
"Stories about you?"
"No. A very long time ago, some people believed in a God called Hades. They left many stories about their gods."
The kid gaped, his jaw falling open in complete amazement. "You've got a god's name?! Dust me!" he was so enthusiastic that Hades resolved to keep the nature of his namesake's godly business to himself. No need to dampen the mood.
"Aki, sorry to cut the fun but I've been traveling for days to get here. I've got a message for the town's Master Engineer. I didn't know the Plant had died. Is he still alive?" Aki nodded.
"Could you take me to him?" Hades asked.
The child stood up and dusted his thick gloves on his hips.
"Canna do that if you're a Rogue."
"I'm no Rogue."
The kid shrugged again. Obviously the gesture was some local equivalent for "I don't care what you say".
Hades opened his pack with a sigh and made a show of digging through his belongings under the suddenly burning gaze of the youth. He felt bad. Why bother with this kid? Hades had never had to invent a cover story before. Why talk to the rare people who got in his way when he could simply kill them?
But if the kid led him to the Master Engineer, he'd speed Hades' work by days... And betray his Master.
Anyway he wasn't lying was he? He was a traveler. He had a message to deliver.
Bullet message between the eyes.

"Here, that's from Beiry. A shell, the home of a creature that lives in the sea. That's dried fruit paste. They make it in Sakarof, ten days walk West of here. It's sweet. And that's my old mister, you could plug it on your mask. It vibrates when the levels get too high. You pick. I give you the one you want to bring me to your Master Engineer."
It was an easy bargain. The kid was quick in making decisions and wisely chose the mister over the rest.
Aki might look twelve, but Hades suspected him to be older. The scraggy body poking under the layers of protective clothing spoke of years with too little food.
He glanced down at his own chest, peeking under his combi at jutting ribs. He looked almost as malnourished as the child. That's what you got for spending weeks walking through the zone on stupid contracts.

Aki proved to be intense company. He needed frequent breaks and paced their movements in order to always rest in a shelter he was familiar with. He would then indulge in a stream of breathless chatter.
He explained how the ruins of the town were mapped, took them to the water works, pointed at shelters, led the way to the cemetery field and cross-questioned Hades about the ways of other town-people, and if any around had pretty girls. He told him everything he remembered about the day their own Plant burnt.
He was all around the single most bubbly, optimistic, good humored zone dweller Hades had ever met. It baffled him.
"You're a very trustful brat to tell a stranger all this."
"It's my mom's doin' you know? It's how she saved the town too, when the Plant died on us."
"What do you mean?"
"You know of Master no? She's no leader, weird specialty too. Old tech, she used to study. When the Plant died, everyone was just feeling like it should be someone's fault, so they got after her."
"Your Master Engineer is a woman?" Aki nodded. Hades was surprised, but waved at Aki to continue.
"Like I said, my mom always went 'Aki, there is no trustin' no one these days, so you'll have to make a choice each time, and start trusting. Better live with treason than never trustin' no one'. That's what she went yelling at people who were after the Master, too. And she did good on that. None of us would be living but for the Master." Hades' curiosity was definitely piqued.

Aki had led them towards the edge of the town, walking along the hazy border between concrete and wilderness. He finally went up a slope, creeping to the top and hid behind a boulder, pointing down around it.

For the second time that week, Hades didn't know how to feel about the sight in front of him.
Aki sniggered. Underground buildings poked out of the earth, next to three long, half buried glasshouses, complete with lead sheeting. A century old model. People where going around, caring for plants grown on aeroponic beds.
"Dust me to Hell" Hades muttered, "your Master specialized in 21st century tech?"
Aki nodded vigorously. "We're still twenty-two people, eight years after. She's teaching us good."

The Master, easily identifiable by her combi, appeared by a glasshouse, patiently showing another woman how to coil a water cable.
And here he had come, to this impossible, hidden little village of hope, the god of Death he was, to put a bullet in that woman's head, crop it off and carry it to a ruthless employer.
One bullet, twenty-two deaths.
Hades felt sick. Dust it all! He turned to Aki, yanking him close.
"Kid, in that cemetery, didn't you say you buried someone recently?"

March 17, 2015, 09:56:19 AM
Re: Who do you write like?
I'm not sure at all who I write like, really. Five stories on F-F and some many aborted starts doesn't tell me much. Especially since the story contest encourages, for me, trying on different voices.

I think I'm aiming for CJ Cherryh or Lois McMaster Bujold. Very different writers, but ones I feel I have a shot at emulating. A mix of modern and classic feel, great characterization, exciting action, deep emotion.

At the moment, I ain't even in the ball park.   :P

Try your text on this website : it'll analyze your work and say who you're supposedly writing like.


On my normal main work it told me Douglas Adams (and that's ok)
But I posted the short I just added to the March contest it told me I write like STEPHENIE MEYER and I'll be hanging off a beam, if you're looking for me.

March 17, 2015, 11:04:54 AM
Re: Here there be Monsters Hearing how you love monsters it reminded me of a cool sketch by a French comic artist. It's been translated on his English blog check it out :



March 17, 2015, 11:40:54 AM