Sunday, 27 July 2014

Series Review || Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix

Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix ★★★☆☆
Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companion in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.

This marks the third time I've marathoned a series, and I have to admit it was harder than the other times.

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this series overall, but I found it sort of lacking at times.

The writing is good, if simplistic at times, and the magic system and worldbuilding is very intriguing. But the pacing sometimes felt off--sometimes the action was nonstop and others it was slow going. However, despite the epic set up, things tend to be resolved a little too conveniently at the end. Some of the defeats of the big bads throughout the series were disappointing.

I kept a record of my thoughts on each of the three books, so I'm going to break it down from there.

This was my favourite of the three, and my rating reflects that being higher than the rest at 3.5 stars. The mystery and worldbuilding here were well done. You're discovering, along with Sabriel, exactly how dangerous the Old Kingdom is. The book was fun, engaging and the magic system really shines throughout.

However, the romance between Sabriel and Touchstone (and god, don't even get me started on this name because ugh) was so out of left field for me. There was this great dynamic going on throughout the book and then suddenly there were love confessions? It just seemed like there was no build up or transition. Sure, Sabriel had mentioned she found him attractive, but that's very different from "I love you."

Regardless, an enjoyable read. I really liked Sabriel as a character as well. She hit all the right notes for me as a character and I was excited to see where her journey would go.

But, as you'll know if you've read this series, I was about to be disappointed. Lirael jumps ahead 14 years at the start of the book from the ending of Sabriel.

Which, okay, there's a different story to tell here. Fine. I get it. And I did really come to like Lirael as a character as well. The book itself starts off strong and is very provocative. I was interested to see where this was all going.

But in truth, I hadn't expected the series to go down this way. I was thinking the trilogy would be about Sabriel and Touchstone coming into their own. Sabriel struggling with the Abhorsen mantle and Touchstone struggling to regain his kingdom. I wanted to see their trials, their romance, their awkward young adulthood trying to rule. Instead, we skip ahead and these characters become secondary to their children and the other players.

(I was also hoping Touchstone would take on a name that didn't drive me crazy, but alas.)

As the book progressed, I found myself enjoying it more, though. And to be fair to the book, the week in which I was reading it was terrible for me on a personal level, so I have no doubt that contributed to my lacklustre opinion of it.

It also was sort of tainted for me because I really did not care about Sameth at all for a really long time. It was really only towards the end of this book (and into book 3) that I really had any investment in him as a character at all.

As things came together at the ending, though, I was eager for the conclusion.

If Lirael was the slower set up, Abhorsen is the sprint to the finish. This book takes off from page 1 and doesn't stop. The plot, as it developed, was compelling and pulled a lot of threads together in a satisfying way.

Though, if I thought the climax of Sabriel was fast and convenient, it pales in comparison to the conclusion here. Yes, the stakes were high. And yes, I was a little concerned about the body count. But I was never really that worried our heroes would fail. And the defeat of our great evil was not that difficult.

Yes, there were sacrifices made, but in the end it all fell into place. You could maybe argue for a little deus ex machina here as well. It was fine, but it was definitely convenient.

Still, overall, a worthwhile series. One I'm glad to have read, even if it did fall short of my expectations.