Thoughts on Rereading the Abhorsen Trilogy

I recently decided to reread the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix.

Even though it’s been fifteen years or so, I remember discovering Sabriel in the basement of my public library around seventh or eighth grade. I had this feeling of discovery, even though I found the book by chance, it felt special. The cover had a woman in a blue overcoat and silver keys and it ignited my imagination. I took the book home, read it, and bought a copy for myself because I loved it so much.

I still felt the special-ness of that memory as I took the book off the shelf. After reading Sabriel as an adult, the story still holds up for me. I found the problems of the Abhorsen (good necromancer) interesting and realistic. Nix does a great job of pacing and holding the tension. I finished Sabriel and then went on to read Lirael right away and I found that I still have a bit of a love-hate relationship because this story isn’t as straightforward as Sabriel’s. Sabriel is on a quest to save her father. Lirael’s story is more about finding herself and making her own place in the world, apart from having the Sight of the Clayr. But I finished it in a couple of days and went on to read Abhorsen, which is faster paced than Lirael, but still has some pacing problems compared to Sabriel.

Overall, I would recommend reading this series if you love YA and love fantasy. Sabriel is probably my favorite of the three, but that doesn’t seem surprising. I can still see the library in my mind when I think of discovering that book, so many good associations and memories. And a great story.

Fantasy of Manners: A Perfect Marriage

I discovered fantasy as a genre when I read the Hobbit as a thirteen year old – the sense of adventure carried me away. But truth be told, if the whole of the novel had taken place in Bilbo’s Hobbit-hole, I would have been just as happy. As much as I loved the fantasy and adventure that Tolkien evoked, I enjoyed the sense of place that he provided.

Before that fateful book, I had been dedicated to classics (for both children and adults) such as Anne of Green Gables, the Scarlet Letter, and Treasure Island. Classics provided me a strong sense of place and characterization. I wanted to be Anne – I longed for red hair – and lamented my own brunette strands. I suppose my longing for her hair is an irony considering how much Anne hated it, but I wanted to be so much like her I didn’t care.

Prince Edward Island is as much of a fairytale place to me as the Shire or Middle Earth.

And as much as I loved the books that transported me to the past, after reading the Hobbit I was inspired to seek out more fantasy and more adventure. I went on to read the Lord of the Rings through the rest of middle school and early high school. Then I moved on to other fantasy authors, such as David Eddings and Mercedes Lackey.

However, I still longed for the novels that transported me to the past like a great classic can. I discovered Jane Austen quite by accident in 2005, when a friend and I went to see the version of Pride & Prejudice where Keira Knightley played Elizabeth Bennet. And no matter how you feel about Keira Knightley as an actress, that movie made me curious about the novel. What I loved about the movie was the way the music swept me into a time and place that I could not otherwise go.

What enticed me to pick the novel up was a review of the movie that described the movie ending as over-romantic and sentimental. I wanted to see how Austen envisioned the ending. So, with the movie in mind, I picked up the novel and fell in love with classics all over again.

More specifically, I fell in love with Jane Austen as a writer. I adored her sense of wit and irony. I loved her subtleties. Finally, I enjoyed what were essentially “happily ever after” endings.

In the interim years, I enjoyed my passions of fantasy and Jane Austen separately until I discovered a sub-genre of fantasy that married my two passions into a single entity. I read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell, The Magician & Mrs. Quent, and A Natural History of Dragons. These books brought my two favorite types of stories together.

However, what cemented my love of the fantasy of manners genre was Shades of Milk & Honey. This world brings together the social constraints of Jane Austen, with incredible world-building and the sort of magic that makes me fall in love with fantasy all over again. Mary Robinette Kowal’s imagining of glamour as a woman’s art constrains what the magic can do and how it is used. However, even with the plotline of a young woman trying to find a man to marry, Kowal brings a sense of adventure. There is a fantastical edge to the world that promises to ask questions beyond the parlor. A perfect marriage of genres, if you ask me.

What is your favorite fantasy of manners novel?

Prompted 2.0

I counted the cash I’d taken from the ATM and turned around. My next door neighbor was standing before me with a gun in his hand.

“Are you ready to go?” Kent said, “We have a tight schedule tonight.”

I bit my lower lip. “Are you sure this is a good idea? Shouldn’t we stay and fight?”

He shook his head. “Too dangerous. Got the cash?”

Nodding, I pocketed my last hundred dollars and walked to the car with my neighbor. It was crazy to run from the best hunters.

Then again, who believed in vampires anymore? No one. Unless you’d seen one. Then you were in real trouble, like me and Kent.

Kent got behind the wheel and passed me the gun. It felt awkward and heavy in my hand. (I’d only shot one in a gun range before.) It would only slow down a vampire, not kill it. But those brief seconds could be the difference between life and death.

He started the car, turned up the radio, and drove us out of our little town. If we could run fast enough, maybe we could live another day.

 

Prompted

Two people are sitting at a table, one of them wants something the other one has.

Hermie sat at the study table in the library with the spellbook propped up in front of her while she studied for her finals. She tried in earnest to concentrate in spite of the fact that Harriet insisted on staring at her with puppy-dog eyes.

She continued to studiously ignore her sister, copying relevant pages into her notes. Professor Flameward was a difficult grader and she could hardly afford to miss a single point on this final. Otherwise, she might get less than a hundred percent in the class, and that would tarnish her streak.

Harriet began to make little whining noises.

Hermie began to move her wrist, in accordance with the diagram in the spellbook. She silently repeated the words of the spell to herself. Then she scribbled another note to herself, in the margins. The angle of the wrist had to be just so.

Harriet pulled the spellbook off of its stand.

Frowning, Hermie, huffed. “What do you want? I am trying to study.” She gave her sister the evil eye.

Harriet grinned. “Can I borrow your potions notes for tomorrow’s finals?”

“No,” Hermie said, snatching back the spellbook and placing it in its holder.

“No fair!” wailed Harriet.

Hermie said, “What isn’t fair is that last time I lent you my notes, they can back eaten through with acid. I need the notes for my own final.”

“I’ll fail without them!”

“You should have thought about that before going outside to fly with your friends instead of studying.”

“Mother will kill me.”

Hermie said, “Still not my problem,” and tried to go back to studying.

Harriet said, “But we’re twins! I thought being twinsies counted for something with you.”

“Fine,” Hermie said, with a sigh and pulled them out of her satchel. “But I want them back in tact, tomorrow.”

Harriet hugged her sister. “You’re the best,” she said, skipping out of the library.