Thursday, September 24, 2015

#CBR7 Review #25: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Let’s be real, I had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it. I wasn’t even aware that it was the beginning of a series! I just noticed the title when I was at the used book store, picking up some mysteries for my mum. And then I took a peek at the cover and thought, “why not!?” It looked like a medieval-ish adventure tale, and that is exactly what I got! And it was slightly confusing at times, perhaps due to the main character being just as out-of-the-loop and trying to figure things out as the reader is, but I still enjoyed the pace it clipped along at, with varying degrees of action and more stand-still or explanatory sections regarding this new fantasy world that the Abhorsen series presents.

Sabriel is a young woman, in the latter half of her teenage years, attending a private school in what I assume is our normal world, yet still being taught a variety of different courses in Charter magic, as she and a number of other students are Charter Mages. Or, more specifically in Sabriel’s case, she is the daughter of the necromancer, Abhorsen, which is a title that is passed down through the bloodline of the necromancer family. Not far from Sabriel’s school is a wall that leads to another, more magic-infused (and seemingly more medieval and less-modern?) world known as the Old Kingdom. This is where Sabriel’s father typically lives and attends to business keeping the dead at bay while Sabriel attends school in her own world, and has short visits with her father from time to time. Yet, the novel soon leads Sabriel on a quest in the Old Kingdom, as her father appears to be in danger. While Sabriel is equipped with some magical skills and is quite powerful for her age, growing up away from the Old Kingdom has left her unknowing of many facets to the kingdom and of Charter magic overall. She must find her father with what skills she has, learning on the way, and with the help of a powerful being held as a servant to the Abhorsen line for thousands of years, that now holds the form of a cat (and a snarky one at that, which goes as no surprise given what cats are generally like). Sabriel comes to learn of an evil in the Kingdom that her father has been chasing for many years, and involves the general downfall of the kingdom and dead rising in many areas. The royal family’s bloodlines and their history also becomes intertwined with Sabriel’s quest, in the form of a man who comes to be known as Touchstone. The two end up working together for a common goal in saving the Kingdom from some great and powerful dead, and while my description has already been quite vague, I won’t go into too much detail.

Overall, Sabriel is an interesting adventure stale of a young necromancer coming into her own. There are great points of action and suspense, despite the plot seeming somewhat cut-and-paste, while still being quite original in my eyes (I do like spooky stories about dead things and necromancy). However for some reason, there was one point of contention that bothered me far more than it should have, though this is likely to do with my general mindset on things these days. The romance between Sabriel and Touchstone (It’s not a spoiler, you see it coming the second Sabriel lays eyes on the guy) just seemed too convenient, yet also forced in how it came to be? Listen, I know how it is when you hang out with someone a bunch then one day it’s like, “Oh NO!” because you suddenly realize you have a thing for them. And that is kind of what happens in this story on Touchstone’s part (with Sabriel being more slow-coming). But I just wonder if it’s really necessary? And why oh why, in so many stories, you have two people fall in love and being all, “I can’t live without you!” after knowing each other for like, two weeks maybe? (How about y’all crazy kids calm down?)

But I say these things about romantic sub-plots in stories (and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good romance, and get all squeaky and giddy at cute things), because a lot of the time they seem to be thrown in there just because. And I am always especially side-eyeing this when it’s a heterosexual romance, not because I am against this, but because I have had so many people in the past complain about stories involving LGBT+ romantic sub-plots of being “too gay,” as in “we get it, you’re gay!” Whenever someone says that to me, I want to say something about how it wasn’t necessary for there to be a romance in Jurassic World, but I got that incredibly forced and pointless romance anyways despite there being more important things to worry about like people being slaughtered by dinosaurs. Or how many reminders I got in The Scorch Trials of just how straight all the characters were (I get it!). I mean seriously, if there is ANY opportunity to put a heterosexual romance into a story, by golly, they will find a way. But no no, I get complaints about things being too gay after there are maybe one or two different characters who may or may not be heterosexual present.

And so, I have become curmudgeonly about any romance in a story that I feel came about inorganically, or was not per-say all that important or moving. Did Touchstone and Sabriel have to become a thing? Nah man. Did it really add all that much to the tale? Not in my opinion. But like I said, that’s just kind of a qualm I have these days.

In any case, I enjoyed Sabriel quite a bit and am maybe interested in continuing the series to find out more about the young Abhorsen and all the things that come with the powers of being a necromancer. But, I maybe want to dive into something else first before I come back to her.

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