Lirael – Garth Nix

LiraelReading level: 7.5
Series: Old Kingdom series book 2 (UK) / Abhorsen series book 2 (US)
Genre: Fantasy, adventure
ELL-Friendly: No
Library recommendation: Middle or high school

Okay, so the cover may be a bit weird, but this book was sooooo goooood. I dove into Lirael right after finishing Sabriel, and I was immediately pleased to find that Lirael, the character, was more developed than Sabriel ever was, in my opinion. I really felt bad for Lirael for being the outsider. We’ve all felt that. Maybe she was being too melodramatic, but I didn’t really think so. Poor girl. But man, she really develops into an amazing, strong, and intelligent character. I might recommend this book to someone who feels left out and alone. And, like I said, we’ve all been there.

All of a sudden, just as I was really getting into Lirael’s character and her adventures, the book turned to Sameth and his story. I thought, “No! What are you doing? Get out of this story! Let’s get back to Lirael!” Then I fell in love with his plot line. And oh, hey, Sabriel and Touchstone show up! And they’re married! ❤ Then, just as I was getting pulled into Sam and the adventures of his parents, the story went back to Lirael. I was consistently pulled between the two – in a good way – because I loved each plot line so much.

Sameth did get on my nerves a little bit, being all sulky and whiney. But, like Lirael, he too showed his true awesomeness, although Lirael was not outdone. There were some plot twists that I was NOT expecting, and I had to whip out a family tree that I learned to make through being an anthropology major.

Enough of how much I loved the book and am SO EXCITED to start the next in the series. The made-up words and the world in general was easier for me to understand since I had gotten used to it by reading Sabriel. But still, I wouldn’t recommend the book to ELLs unless they are advanced or are intermediate and are up for a challenge.

There’s a touch of swearing here and there, and Lirael mentions sex once or twice in relation to looking into the past and seeing her parents. Nothing too graphic and nothing that would keep me from putting it on my classroom shelves.

Perhaps the content is more oriented towards middle school (as Harry Potter is), but younger high schoolers may really enjoy it. I mean, I clearly did, in case you haven’t noticed.


Sabriel – Garth Nix

sabrielReading level: 7.9

Series: Old Kingdom series book 1 (UK) / Abhorsen series book 1 (US)

Genre: Fantasy, adventure

ELL-Friendly: No

Library recommendation: Middle or high school

I am in love with this series.

Sabriel (SAB-ree-ehl) is an awesome, strong, and independent main character who kicks zombies’ butts even when scared and filled with grief. And by zombies I mean dead people who are controlled by evil sources after they have died. So they’re not zombies in the traditional sense but still fit that definition. Anyway, moving on.

Like several people on goodreads have noted, the book is a little slow at the beginning, but I would encourage students to keep going anyway. It gets much more exciting. The whole premise of necromancing and going into Death is just plain cool. It’s not a world I would want to live in because, well, dead people/beings/things everywhere. But that’s why the Abhorsen exists – to keep the dead in Death.

Mogget, the “free magic” being in the form of a cat, reminds me of Gollum. Is he a good or bad character? A little of both, definitely. I hope Mogget comes back later in the series because he holds such knowledge and mystery.

The only reservation I have about putting this book in a classroom library (which I will) is due to one scene in which Sabriel was taking a bath and heard a couple in another room, er, doing it. Nothing graphic, just awkward.

The romance between Sabriel and Touchstone was pretty cute. Nothing soppy, fake, annoying, or inappropriate. How it should be. 😉 One of my favorite parts was when Touchstone said something like, “I love you. Is that alright?” And Sabriel replied, “Yes, I think so,” or something of that sort.

When I finished the book, I realized that I didn’t care about Sabriel much. I mean, I didn’t feel that I knew her. This really hit home when I began reading (well, listening to) the second book in the series, Lirael. There is so much character building of our heroine Lirael that, a few chapters into the book, I felt much more connected to her than I ever did to Sabriel. The world-building in Sabriel was amazing, and I think that perhaps the author focused too much on that rather than building his characters.

This isn’t a book for ELLs. Crazy (but awesome) made-up names everywhere. I wouldn’t have known how to pronounce much without having listened to the audiobook, which, I might add, is narrated by THE Tim Curry. He can’t do a female voice to save his life, but all other voices were awesome.