Monday, July 30, 2012

Sabriel: Not QUITE as good as the first what I would say if I remembered the first time.

When I saw this book cover, it triggered instant nostalgia. I vaguely recollected loving it when I was a teenager, so I bought it to see if I would still love it now that I'm a stuffy old grownup. I was expecting some moment of recognition as I read . . . but it never came. I remembered NOTHING about this book except, apparently, that I liked it? At some point? Curse my unreliable memory!

Anyway, Sabriel is the daughter of a powerful necromancer, Abhorsen. But instead of bringing the dead back to life like some OTHER necromancers are wont to do (naughty necromancers), Abhorsen travels around the kingdom putting the dead to rest. So whenever something slips through the gate between life and death and sets about terrorizing the living (which happens quite frequently, it seems), Abhorsen sweeps in dramatically and jangles one of his special bells to send the dead thing back to death for good.

He also sometimes pokes the dead thing with his magical sword.

The Old Kingdom is where magic still runs rampant, and Ancelstierre, on the other side of a fortified wall, is where magic DOESN'T happen . . . and Abhorsen has sent Sabriel to school in nonmagical Ancelstierre, for some reason. BUT he's still trained her in the art of necromancy, and she's still taken magic classes at school. And this is good, because something goes awry with her father and she has to travel over the wall into the Old Kingdom to save him. And then she has an adventure . . . with MAGIC.

Sabriel is a strong female character, but she does have a lot of I-can't-believe-how-little-I-know-about-anything moments, which I suppose is a pretty common setup: girl who is being groomed for greatness is called upon to use her skills before she's fully ready and has to learn as she goes. Fair enough. No complaints there, really.

The romance is a little . . . odd. It's not instalove, thank GOODNESS, but it feels a little contrived, nonetheless. He's like, "Oh, hey . . . I've just realized that this person I've been traveling and fighting with for several weeks is a pretty girl, and I'm in love with her. I just decided that just now." And she's like, "This boy is very cute, but I don't have time for boys right now. I have to save the world. Just kidding. I love him." Actually . . . that's exactly what it is. I basically just quoted the book there.

I think this is the first YA novel I've read that uses words I've never seen before. I don't know how I feel about this. Well, no . . . I definitely don't like it. What the hell is a revetment? And bitumen? And a revenant? *consults dictionary* For the LOVE, Garth Nix! Why couldn't you just say wall, asphalt, and ghost? Someone should confiscate your thesaurus.

The little details are what make the book, I think. The seven bells with very specific purposes in dealing with the dead. The way the necromancers' physical bodies ice over when their spirits travel into death on an errand. The way objects are imbued with magic in the form of Charter marks coursing through and over them like living things made of light. But my faaaavorite favorite part about this book is a character called Mogget. He's a crazy-powerful Free Magic being that has served Sabriel's family for thousands of years. Normally, he's evil and all made of crackly light, but he's been enslaved in the form of a fluffy white kitty. He's clever and sarcastic and old and does cat things even though he's quite above all that, thank you.

"Where's the section on defeating members of the Greater Dead?"

Now watch as I wantonly compare this book to other things. All I've really got as far as a comparison is the fact that Mogget's snarky attitude and confining physical form remind me a LOT of Calcifer from Howl's Moving Castle.

Calcifer: fearsome fire demon
Calcifer: Sassy hearth fire



    Also "The Old Kingdom is where magic still runs rampant, and Ancelstierre, on the other side of a fortified wall, is where magic DOESN'T happen " is pretty much the beginning of Legend of the Seeker. Except Legend of the Seeker is WAY AWESOME and have I talked about this before it's possible I haven't LEGEND OF THE SEEKER POST TO COME.

    So I missed this one somehow growing up. But by 'somehow' I probably mean 'because I didn't read a lot of fantasy, because that was for the weird kids and I was busy reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School.'

    Also a revenant is PRETTY MUCH a zombie. Just sayin'. I know some things say ghosts, but still. Walking dead.

  2. Legend of the the TV series? THAT Legend of the Seeker? I don't think I've heard you talk about that ever, but I would like to very much.

    SO WHY DIDN'T HE JUST CALL IT A ZOMBIE? If I'm reading YA, it means I'm feeling lazy...and the dictionary is so very heavy and so very far away on the other side of the room.

  3. I was gonna link you to one of my lj entries on it, but I think INSTEAD I am just going to be terrible (meaning AWESOME) and reuse a three year old post. Yes. I have done this before AND SHALL DO IT AGAIN.

  4. I approve of this as long as 3-years-ago you is every bit as hilarious and informative as NOW you.

  5. Ah, revisiting teenage favourites! So awesome yet so often fraught with disappointment. Also, I need to watch Howl's Moving Castle STAT.

  6. It's definitely a gamble. I was planning to reread A Wrinkle in Time soon, but now I'm scared.

    HOWL IS SO GOOD. Let's watch it right now. *starts DVD*

  7. I'd like to start referring to asphalt as bitumen. It will make reports about motorcycle accidents sound classy. Also when I Googled "bitumen" Wikipedia was like "did you mean asphalt, you pretentious shit?". It was implied, but still, I think it's what they meant.

    I think I'm doing this wrong but when you mentioned Mogget I pictured Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch tv show. So yeah, that's the fantasy I know from my teen years

  8. Hahaha! Wikipedia can be kind of a douche (but listen to Wikipedia).

    I totally forgot about Salem! Yes, very similar. You know, I wasn't allowed to watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch when I was a kid. So of course I watched it every chance I got even though I didn't really like it that much. That and Saved by the Bell. Take THAT, parents.

  9. Awesome gifs! I curse my friends with burnt bacon all the time - it'll throw off your entire day :P
    And yes, burn the thesaurus! I hate it when authors write dialogue with pretentious wording because NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT, ever.

  10. At LEAST the overly fancy words weren't in the least.

    I've seriously been jonesing for some Howl's Moving Castle ever since I wrote this post. I gave MYSELF a movie craving.

  11. "Also when I Googled 'bitumen' Wikipedia was like 'did you mean asphalt, you pretentious shit?'."

    I love everyone on this TARDIS.


    LOOK AT LEGEND OF THE SEEKER PICSPAMS AND THEN WATCH THE SHOW (or do whatevs. y'know, your choice)