Parents' Guide to

Sabriel: The Abhorsen Trilogy, Book 1

By Matt Berman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Necromancer's teen daughter fights the dead.

Book Garth Nix Fantasy 2005
Sabriel: The Abhorsen Trilogy, Book 1 Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 4 parent reviews

age 11+


We've all read stories starring the tough girl, out to kick the world head over tail kind of character. Sadly, these characters all too often have nothing better to do with their time than to wander around playing hero. Don't get me wrong- I love books with female heroines. But sometimes you get that feeling that they lack- well- heart. All too often the tough girl stance gets taken a little too far. Which is why I love this book. Sabriel is entirely human- a young woman who has her own goals, her own life, and who manages to uphold her values without ever giving in. Yet staunchness does not make the character; Sabriel's basic humanity is what lets her reach out and touch you from within her paper world. She gets angry, she gets even. She loves Touchstone, hates the evil that has invaded the Kingdom, treasures her father, respects Mogget. . . . It is almost a relief to 'meet' a character with such basic reasons. Don't get me wrong; there's nothing elemental about Sabriel. She has her reasons for doing what she does, and Gareth Nix does an exceptional job of writing within the female Psyche. I have, on occassion, run into those few and far between writers whose opposite sex characters behave nothing like real people, and have always regretted the experience. Okay- anyway, I found Nix's characters to be richly portrayed, human, rational, and logical. Better still was his world- on one side, a person might have a life much like ours. On the other you have a place where magic still thrives, and the great charters rule the land. The tension is nicely played out, the book climaxes nicely, and the end is resolved fairly satisfactorially. I certainly would not quibble with the concept of a sequel- In fact, for a book this good, I can only hope that at some point Nix returns and writes a sequel- either about Sabriel or about one of the Abhorsens before her; maybe the story of her father or the woman who built the paperwings. One can only hope. For more comments and reviews..[Mass-Market-Paperb…
age 13+

Incredible Dark Fantasy with Real Female Role Model

Read this book when I was a middle schooler (learned lots of new vocabulary words seldom used elsewhere). An excellent read; I revisit fairly often. A complete, imaginary realm. It is dark fantasy, dealing with death, dead things that won't stay dead, coming of age, responsibility, loss, and blossoming sexuality (very light). Sabriel is an excellent role model, someone who does what is right, not what is easy. The staff reviewer seems to take issue with the sexuality in the book (which is minimal: it discusses (in passing) menarche and misinformation, the existence of contraception, the existence of male genetalia on a naked, unconscious man, ambivalence about romantic relationships, a kiss or two, and the scene in which Sabriel hears others having sex and gets the wrong idea is one of my most favorite moments in the book-- it gives us inight into her feelings for someone and a good laugh during a heavy part of the book). Our heroine is, after all, 17 or 18 years old at the outset of the book. Most younger readers will have had some sex ed, but obviously lack an appreciation for the stickiness of growing up, beginning relationships, etc. Our heroine makes smart choices for herself, and author Garth Nix presents sexuality in a practical, uncharged way. Well done! Also, Lirael and Abhorsen are worthy sequels, although you definitely need both of those back to back. Also, side note: my little brother tried reading this as a fourth or fifth grader and was overwhelmed by the dark imagery, so even purged of all things vaguely sexual, the book is best left for a slightly more mature reader no matter their reading ability.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (4):
Kids say (19):

Garth Nix's first book for young adults, and the beginning of a trilogy, is not your typical modern fantasy. It's similar to the Earthsea books in that the action and suspense are built up slowly as the parameters of a world radically different from our own are set in place. For patient and experienced readers it is a treasure, but the first half may seem slow to those used to the slam-bang pacing of much modern fantasy.

All the characters are appealing, and there's a dry, understated wit. Rich and complex, the world Nix creates is at once vividly imagined and riddled with ambiguities -- even the characters don't understand everything about it, which leaves lots of room for more exploration in the sequels. In the meantime it's an engrossing, at times thrilling, and intellectually stimulating ride.

Book Details

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