As previously discussed, I will be posting my thoughts on Sabriel every Saturday in March. This is not the first time I have read Sabriel, nor is it the second. In fact I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book, and it’s been one of my favourite series for over a decade (same as Paola, which makes both of us feel old). I’ve been meaning to re-read it for a while, so when Paola shared her idea I knew I had to join in. It will certainly be interesting re-reading an old favourite and trying to pick it to pieces!
This post will contain details and possibly spoilers about the events in Sabriel.
My idea was to start off by listing the events I remembered. For all my re-reading, I only really remember the first half of the book, and apparently it’s not all that clear…
Touchstone is NOT a ship, I repeat, Touchstone is NOT a ship. My bad. Regardless, he has now been forever reimagined in my mind.
But I digress! Here is what I remembered from the book:
- The story starts in a boarding school in Ancelstierre, where Sabriel is a prefect. We’re introduced to her necromancy skills when she resurrects the pet rabbit of one of the younger students.
- A sendling (summoned spirit) appears at her school, sent by her father (the Abhorsen) because he is in trouble.
- Sabriel journeys north, over the Wall and into the Old Kingdom, where she travels to the Abhorsen’s house.
- There she meets Mogget, at first appearance a cat – who can talk. He is actually a powerful spirit bound to serve the Abhorsen, kept in control by the bell on his collar, which is a mini version of one of the bells the Abhorsen uses to bind the dead.
- Sabriel must leave to go and find her father, so she takes a Paperwing (which is basically a giant paper aeroplane), but it crashes into some underground cavern, where she finds a ship. The figurehead (THANK YOU PAOLA) of the ship, in the shape of a man, turns out to be a real person – a man by the name of Touchstone. Not an actual ship.
And that is pretty much where my recollection of the story ends.
So, what did I make of the book this time round?
- The reader is introduced to necromancy from the very beginning. The Abhorsen saves Sabriel from passing through the gates of death when she is only a baby. I thought this was a great way to open the story – we get to see the extent of the Abhorsen’s power as well as the origins of Sabriel.
- I would totally rather live in the Old Kingdom than Ancelstierre. It may be full of scary creatures who want to eat your soul, but there’s MAGIC and HISTORY. I would prepare myself for a big adventure and PROBABLY STILL DIE BECAUSE I DON’T REMEMBER THE NAMES OF THE BELLS OFF BY HEART. But I mean, you’ve got to take risks, right?
- The Old Kingdom has elements of the early to mid twentieth century. It sort of feels like war-time Britain to me. Sabriel attends a boarding school where ladies are taught etiquette and how to behave in a ladylike fashion. There is a threat to the country and the reinforcements seemed reminiscent of World War I and II: pillboxes, trenches and walls with barbed wire, patrols, bayonets.
- In fact, the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre feel like an alternate Scotland and England to me, complete with Hadrian’s Wall dividing them. The shape even looks similar on the map. Plus Ancelstierre, Angleterre.
I don’t know if this is canonNever mind, I looked it up and it IS an alternate history. You learn something new every day!
- Sabriel may be smart, but she doesn’t always make good choices. This was my reaction to her going up to Cloven Crest:
- Mogget, despite being something dark and possibly soul-eating, is still an adorable little kitty. And suitably smug. I just want to wait until he’s being all serious and explaining things, and then distract him with a ball of string.
- When I become Abhorsen (when, not if), I do not want any creepy, faceless sendlings helping me out, thank you very much. Nope. Just nope.
- Chapter Ten ended with Sabriel and Mogget preparing to leave the Abhorsen’s house. The Mordicant was trying to break in by using slaves and Shadow Hands to get over the river, and our heroine was about to have her first Paperwing ride. Paperwing ALWAYS reminds me of this song by Rise Against, which is not really one I’d consider fitting for the book. But oh well.