Abhorsen – Garth Nix

abhorsenReading level: 7.1
Series: Book 3 of the Old Kingdom series (UK) / Abhorsen series (US)
Genre: Fantasy, adventure
ELL-Friendly: No
Library recommendation: Middle or high school

I am convinced that this series is your library’s best kept secret. I may never have stumbled up on these incredible books if I hadn’t purchased them on a whim for $0.25 at a book sale. I had never heard of them before despite them having potential to be quite popular with fans of fantasy.

That being said, I think Abhorsen was my least favorite in the series, Lirael being my favorite. It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly I loved or didn’t love quite as much. I loved Lirael because it was everything Sabriel was plus better character development. I came to know and love Lirael and Sameth (the characters) even more through Abhorsen, but I thought that some parts went on for too long – such as the journey to stop Hedge. I admit to getting a little bored at parts, especially towards the end.

My favorite part was watching Lirael develop from a meek, depressed girl into a crazy-awesome, confident, smart, and brave woman. Sometimes I laugh at myself for being scared to move away from my college-town while Lirael goes off and does ALL THESE THINGS (I won’t spoil too much) that are 10954379 times braver than what I’m about to do. Yes, I know she’s “just a character,” but whatever.

Sameth developed beautifully too, perhaps just as much as Lirael. I don’t know about you, but if I thought my parents were dead, I wouldn’t be able to continue hunting for necromancers.

I sort of want to name my next cat after Mogget – that is, if Mogget weren’t such an ugly name. That little cat/evil thing really came through in ways I didn’t expect. Nice job, little kitty-demon. Part of me always thought that there was some good in Mogget in his unbound form, just liked I continued to hope for the good to come out of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings series.

I would name a dog after The Disreputable Dog if that also weren’t a terrible name. What a good girl.

There’s nothing I can think of (except magic – for all those parents who don’t like their kids reading about that) that would prevent me from putting the book on classroom shelves. It’s probably better suited to middle school, but high schoolers could also really like it too.

Like with Sabriel and Lirael, Abhorsen isn’t very ELL-friendly with the made-up names of the bells, places, and certain ideas and terms such as “hemispheres” and “charter magic.” I wouldn’t suggest that ELLs not read this series, though.

Anywho, I’m sad that this series is over. My mission: make sure the world knows about these wonderful books!

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.