‘Abhorsen’ by Garth Nix

Overall Rating: Recommended (How I Rate Books)

Personal Rating: On old favorite



Genres: Fantasy, YA, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy Old Kingdom, Abhorsen

Similar books:

  • None?

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

This is a re-read for me. This series is one of my favorites, so bear that in mind as you read this review. I suggest you read this series, starting with ‘Sabriel’ and ‘Lirael.’ Don’t start here, because this book doesn’t stand on it’s own.

Spoilers below. You’re warned!

This book holds up well to re-reads. The author’s voice was beautiful. The plot and stakes are fairly good. The characters have okay, not great character arcs. And the audiobook is FANTASTIC.

The problem is that this book doesn’t stand on it’s own, at all. To my knowledge ‘Lirael’ and ‘Abhorsen’ were written as one book, but as that book was too long it was cut in two and published as two books instead. This is the source of the problem: it was cut in half in the wrong place.

While the plot of ‘Abhorsen’ stands on it’s own, the characterization and pacing of this book is wildly different in quality from the other books in the series. This isn’t to say this book’s characters and pacing are bad: far from it. The characters are all unique and hold true to how they were depicted in prior books. They just didn’t emotionally grow in this book, besides a tiny amount for Lirael and Nick. And the pacing in this book was quite good, if a touch fast-paced, making this feel as rushed as a thriller novel.

My qualm is that I like the slower, more nuanced characters and pacing from earlier books even more. In book 1 we have long scenes of Sabriel and Touchstone solving puzzles, talking with one another and just living life. In book 2 Sam, Mogget, Lirael and the Disreputable Dog solve puzzles, talk and live life in between action sequences. In book 3 Lirael, Sam, the Dog and Mogget don’t really have any slow/talky segments to allow their characters to become fleshed out and grow. They don’t go through any try-fail cycles. They just succeed in a mad scramble to save the world. This isn’t to slight the book; it just could be better.

As an reviewer, I think the book was cut in half in the wrong place. I think this would have been better if the story was cut in half earlier on- namely just after Lirael binds the Stilken and Sam finishes his time in Belisaire. In ‘Lirael,’ the first half of the book focuses on Lirael’s time in the Clayr’s Glacier. That segment feels a bit like an addendum tacked on to the rest of the series. Same goes for Sam’s time in Ancelstierre and Belisaire. I wish book 2 focused more on those portions together, and left the entire Orannis/Hedge arc for book 3. As is, Lirael’s time in the Glacier and Sam in Belisaire seem oddly out of sync with the rest of book 2, and book 3 feels rushed.

Overall, excellent book. I’ve read the audiobook a half dozen times over the years, because the narrator Tim Curry took an already excellent book and knocked it out of the park. I gave it a ‘Recommended’ rating instead of ‘Highly Recommended’ because of the too-fast pacing of this and because it doesn’t stand on it’s own, compared to books 1 and 2 in the series. If you want to get into it, I HIGHLY Recommend you read ‘Sabriel.’ It’s one of the best standalone fantasy novels I’ve ever read, and it was followed up by an even better book 2 plus a book 3 which does a great job of wrapping up the series.

I plan on reading Nix’s ‘Angel Mage’ in the weeks to come, as well as finishing up the ‘Abhorsen’ series soon as well.

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