Monday, September 30, 2013

Dawn of the Arcana review

Dawn of the Arcana, Vol. 01 (Dawn of the Arcana, #1)Dawn of the Arcana, Vol. 02 (Dawn of the Arcana, #2)Dawn of the Arcana, Vol. 03 (Dawn of the Arcana, #3)

Book talk:  One island, two kingdoms engaged in a long and bloody war.  Princess Nakaba is from Senan in the North while Prince Caesar is from Belquat in the South.  Their marriage finally brings peace to the land, but Princess Nakaba knows better than to think it will last.  Now she's a hostage in enemy territory with only her faithful Ajin servant beside her.  She expects to wake up with a dagger at her throat every day, and she is prepared to fight to save herself and her kingdom.  But she isn't prepared for the kindness Caesar shows her, and the feelings she starts to develop.  Or for the mystical powers she develops that she cannot control.  Now her heart is being torn in two.  How can she do what is right when everything is so wrong? Will she remain true to herself--even if it means betraying others?

Rocks my socks:  There's a lot of great themes in this series that take it beyond the usual shojo fare.  Princess Nakaba is a fierce and unique protagonist.  She shows her regal authority as she takes control of difficult situations, even as others try to disempower her.  She isn't afraid to risk herself and head into a fight to stand up for her friends and what she believes in.  There's an overarching theme of discrimination and prejudice with a race called the Ajin: part human and part animal that are treated as servants and feared and hated by many. Princess Nakaba herself is hidden away by her family for her red hair because black hair is a mark of royalty in the land.  Her two closest friends are both Ajin and she tries to aid their cause.  One of these, Loki, is also a main love interest in the story, and his loyalty to her is impressive as is his revolutionary zeal as her comforts her by saying "The trouble, princess lies not with you.  It's the world that's not right.  That's why I'm going to change it."  The prince, while problematic at times also has great moments where he recognizes Nakaba for the strong woman she is and loves her for it, defending her from an assassination accusation by saying "My wife would never plot to murder me...and if she did she wouldn't waste her time with venom and vipers.  She would face me head on with a sword in her hands.  That's the sort of woman she is."  The world-building grows more complex and interesting with each installment and the political intrigue and overarching themes keep the plot moving just as much as the romance and even eclipse it at times.  The drawing is exquisite with wonderfully expressive faces and gorgeous costumes.

Rocks in my socks:  While Caesar and Ajin both have great moments, they have troubling aspects as well.  Nakaba's romance with Caesar is a classic Beauty and the Beast scenario and while I enjoy seeing the tough exterior thawed by a caring and intelligent woman, it also sets some troubling precedents.  In real life jerks mostly stay jerks and far too many women think they can change them after being raised on stories like these.  He has a creepy Jareth moment where he says "When I'm king, I will make you happy.  I ask only one thing in return.  Surrender yourself to me." I wanted Nakaba to scream "You have no power over me!"  Far too many of their kissing scenes start as fights where he eventually forces himself on her.  Still, when she does tell him to stop he respects that, so I have to give him credit for that.  The facts that Loki was a father figure to her and is currently her servant both make me a bit uneasy about that romance.  As for Princess Nakaba, while she is feisty she still faints regularly and blood sets off her powers so that the men try to hide it from her and mostly when she tries to help in a fight she only ends up hindering.  Even when she does defend herself, it's only a temporary measure until one of her love interests comes along to save her.  Still there's enough that the comic gets right, especially considering the conventions of the shojo genre, that I was still able to enjoy the series immensely.  I do hope that Princess Nakaba will grow stronger as the series progress though.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to anyone looking for a fantasy comic that is character and relationship driven.  The romances have yet to heat up that much, so I'd say it's fine for 5th grade and up.


There is an official page for Dawn of the Arcana on Viz Media 

Source: school library

Dawn of the Arcana by Rei Toma: buy it or check it out today!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ariol #1 Review

Ariol #1: Just a Donkey Like You and Me

Book talk:  The days are shorter than recess and Ariol would like nothing better than to migrate South like a bird.  But instead he has to leave his warm, comfy bed to go to school every morning.  School's not all bad, there's his best friend Ramono who always comes up with cool games to play and pranks to pull.  And Petula, who is the prettiest cow Ariol has ever seen.  On the other hand there's also Mr. Ribera, the gym teacher who, in fact, has no sense of humor and Bizzbilla who won't leave him alone. If Ariol was Thunder Horse he'd show them all. He'd be the best in gym and always know what to say and no one would be able to tell him what to do.  But he's not Thunder Horse, he's just a regular guy like you and me.

Rocks my socks:  This comic is hilarious!  It captures so many moments of childhood perfectly from when Ariol plays a game by himself while providing his own running sports commentary to his reluctance to leave his warm, cozy, bed in the morning.  Any teacher will be able to recognize the truth and humor in the story where Mr. Blunt tries to come up with a clever story to teach his students prepositions.  Ariol leaves class remembering the funny parts of the story without remembering anything about prepositions at all.  There's plenty that made me recall my own childhood as well.  Like Ariol, I used to stare out my mother's car window and pretend there were bad guys following us that we had to shake.  In the midst of all the humor there's some real heart too.  The story "As Dumb as a Donkey" deals with prejudice and stereotypes in a sweet way while maintaining the humorous tone of the collection.  The drawings are simple, colorful, charming, and expressive.  While they satirize childhood, the characters are still drawn with plenty of warmth and love.  They made me laugh in recognition of myself and others because they really are just like you and me.

Rocks in my socks: zip

Every book its reader: This comic reminded me a lot of another French school comic, Le Petit Nicolas.  I'd give it to anyone looking for a humorous comic set in a school.  There is one instance of the word 'dumbass' but it is referring to donkeys and it's used in the context of the story about stereotypes so it's discussed and dealt with well.  I'd say it's fine for second grade and up.


You can find an interview with the author here

Ariol has an official site with lots of goodies, but it's in French and it seems like you need to log in to access any of them.

There's a Ariol cartoon translated into English on YouTube:

Source: school library

Ariol: Just a Donkey Like You and Me by Emmanuel Guibert and Marc Boutavant: buy it or check it out today!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Will & Whit Review

Will & Whit

Book talk:  Do you like to get your clothes new from the mall?  Or would you rather find something vintage in a thrift shop?  It's an easy choice for Will.  She prefers things with a bit of history to them, and it makes sense.  She lives in an antique shop with her aunt and a dog passed down from her grandfather when he died.  Even her name is second-hand, from her great-great-grandmother Wilhelmina.  But Will doesn't mind.  The antiques give her plenty of opportunity to indulge in her hobby of making lamps from objects ranging from teacups to parasols.  She's had a lot of free time this summer and she likes to stay busy, so she's been making a lot.  Summer is almost over and she's determined to make the last few weeks count.  But when a storm comes that knocks out power to the town, everything changes.

Rocks my socks:  The best thing about this comic are the characters.  I want to bring them out of the book so that they can be my friends in real life.  Will has a wonderful old soul and I want her to make me that lamp out of tea bags!  Autumn and I would make great puppet show partners and Noel could test his cookie recipes out on me anytime!  Each of the characters have their own quirks and even the ones that are standoffish at first are nice by the end.  I wish everyone got along this well in real life! Even her aunt sounds fun to hang out with and is supportive while allowing Will her space--which is refreshing to see considering the treatment adults usually get in YA books.  On top of that the details are wonderful from the little references to Doctor Who she slips in to the fact that the gutters and edges of the pages that take place during the black out are entirely black so you can see the effect of the storm even on the closed book.  Gulledge even adds extras to the back--a page of her inspiration for the novel, the cookie recipe from the book, an 'artistic license' and more.  I can get behind the ethos of the book from the DIY mentality to the arts carnival the teens put on to the way everyone's quirks are accepted by everyone else.  This book gave me the warm fuzzies.

Rocks in my socks:  The end was a bit pat for my tastes.  Everyone was paired off and happy and all of the difficulties were completely resolved.  Especially considering how short the comic is and how brief the timeline of the narrative it seemed a bit too easy and everyone was a bit too nice and quick to understand and forgive.  It wasn't realistic.  It didn't bother me too much though--I loved the characters so I was glad to see them happy.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to anyone looking for a realistic, character-driven comic.  Fans of Gulledge's other comic or the comics of Raina Telgemeier will be sure to enjoy this one. There's no more romance than a bit of kissing and no violence so while it would be best appreciated by an audience of at least 5th grade and up if a younger kid was curious and wanted to read a comic about high schoolers I'd feel comfortable giving this to them.


Laura Lee Gulledge has a blog where you can find plenty of pictures of her handsome cat, follow the adventures of Mr. Duck, and you know, find out information about her books and creative process etc  (the cat and duck are adorable though, be sure to check them out!)

She also has a flickr account where you can see photos of preliminary sketches and ideas for the characters

There is a page for the book that includes information about an intriguing musical based on the book complete with videos of songs and a hurricane experience.

I love the song in this book trailer (bonus points if you find the hidden dalek!)

Source: school library

Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Scarlet Review

Scarlet (Scarlet #1)

Book talk:  What with King John demanding higher and higher taxes every day and the Sheriff finding more and more awful ways of gettin' people to pay 'em, times haven't been good.  Families are starvin' and innocent people are gettin' themselves thrown in jail or worse.  That's where we come in.  I reckon there's not a soul in Nottingham whose heart doesn't give a little flutter of hope when it hears the name Robin, excepting the Sheriff's men of course.  Everyone 'round here knows about Robin, Little John, Much, and me--Will Scarlet.  What they don't know is that I aint really a Will at all.  I'm a woman.   If they knew the one fightin' with guards and stealin' food and wearing trousers was a woman I doubt they'd be so fond of me.  But in dark times like these we all do what we got to do and we all have secrets to hide.  Things are changing though.  The Sheriff has ordered a special thief-taker in from London, Sir Guy of Gisborne, and if he finds out about me, I'll be done for.  I should really run, but how can I turn my back on people who need me so badly?  How can I turn my back on Robin?  I can feel it in my bones: these are dark times--and they're about to get even darker.

Rocks my socks:  Robin Hood has always been one of my favorite legends and girls cross dressing as boys to have adventures is one of my favorite tropes.  So it would be hard for me not to love this novel.  Scarlet is a wonderful, strong protagonist taking her lumps alongside the boys and proving that she's just as tough as they are.  I know it will annoy some people, but I enjoyed her colloquial, sassy first person narration.  The romantic plot was terribly cliche with its love triangle and protagonist attitude of "no one could ever love me so I will pine hopelessly" which naturally turns into "my bad: every guy in the story apparently wants me." Yet even though I knew it was cliche and I shouldn't like it I just couldn't help myself from squeeing over every innuendo and longing gaze.  The basic archetypes from the legends are re-imagined and fleshed out wonderfully by Gaughen with new, gritty back stories that add substance to the tale.  There's plenty of white-knuckle encounters and adventuring and outwitting of sheriffs to keep the reader turning pages.

Rocks in my socks:  About halfway through I reached a point where every time I read another simile involving Robin's eyes and the ocean I wanted to throw the book at a wall.  There were 6 similes or metaphors involving Robin's eyes and the sea or ocean and as the book went on they became longer and more detailed until it was a whole paragraph describing a stormy sea then likening it to Robin's eyes.  We get the point--if you don't have anything new to say, then don't say anything at all!  On top of this, as much as I love Robin and Scarlet they both have guilt complexes that got on my nerves.  They were both forced by circumstance to do things they regret so despite all the good they've done they both keep banging on about how they're really awful people and don't deserve to be praised or called a hero etc.  I suppose it provides motivation for why they go to such lengths risking themselves for others, but when it got to a "I'm the worst person" "No, I'm the worst person!" battle between them I had had enough.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to anyone looking for a dark adventure story or fans of fairy tales and other classic stories retold.  Naturally fans of Robin Hood and women cross-dressing for adventure stories like myself will enjoy this as well.  It is rather dark and violent so I'd save it for 7th grade and up.


A. C. Gaughen has her own website with the usual blog, bio, etc

There are not one but two official trailers for the book.  One's a half a minute and the other a minute and a half so you can choose the length more convenient for your purposes:

Source:  ebook from public library

Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Splendors and Glooms Review

Splendors and Glooms

Book talk:  Have you ever seen a puppet show so convincing that the puppets seemed alive?  What if they were?  Gaspare Grisini is a master puppeteer with a dark secret.  Everywhere he goes children love his shows, and every once in a while a child disappears.  Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are his orphan apprentices, and they have learned that disobeying the puppet master can have terrible consequences.  But when Clara goes missing after one of their performances, they risk everything to uncover the truth behind their master's success.

Rocks my socks:  Splendors and Glooms has an appealing Dickensian theme with resourceful but unlucky orphans using their wits to defy the evil master they work for.  The idea of an evil puppeteer turning children into puppets has a great, classic fairy tale feel to it that I enjoyed.  The three main child characters were well drawn and nuanced with complicated pasts that were slowly revealed and informed their actions and attitudes.  The combination of Victorian setting, magical elements, and dark comedy isn't one commonly seen in modern juvenile fiction, so I can see why this book has received so much attention and acclaim.  It's a refreshing change from the usual fare.

Rocks in my socks:  Schiltz didn't play up the most appealing elements as much as I had hoped.  The idea of turning children into puppets is delightfully imaginative and creepy and could have been the main idea for a book, but alas it was not the main idea of this one.  It takes a long time to even reach the point where this happens, and then there's so much else going on that it's easy to forget at times.  One of the things drawing attention from this plot is the puppeteer's rival, a witch on her deathbed looking to rid herself of a curse.  There is a lot of time spent on this character and she's not particularly sympathetic or interesting and I doubt the intended audience for the novel will be able to relate to a mean old witch who is in constant pain and about to die but first looks to foist her curse off on some innocent children.  She's a perfectly fine villain, but so much time was spent on her story, including chapters from her perspective, and I think that time could have been better spent.  I generally have a fondness for witch characters and even I got sick of hearing her moan about a curse that was her own darn fault.  The pacing was uneven in general and could have benefitted from cutting out some of the side plots and being shorter.

Every book its reader:  Fans of fairy tales and historical settings looking for a dark story will be likely to enjoy this.  It's harder to pin down a grade recommendation though.  The School Library Journal puts it as low as 4th grade and with its young protagonists and lack of romantic subplot I can see why.  But I'm not sure I'd be comfortable giving it to someone so young.  The book is dark, disturbing, and violent.  The pain of the witch is graphically described, the puppeteer is brutally tortured, the orphans are physically abused by their master and Lizzie Rose is molested by her landlord's son to name a few of the darker elements.  I'd save it for 6th grade at least.


Candlewick Press has a page for the book with reviews, an excerpt, and a Q&A with the author

Splendors and Glooms was a competitor in the 2013 Battle of the Kids Books, so you can find some fun reviews and graphics for it there.

This video of traditional Victorian marionettes is absolutely delightful:

Source: ebook from public library

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Brief Reviews: Summer 2013 Part 1

Sapphique (Incarceron, #2)(If you haven't read the first book yet, see my review of Inarceron here and then go read it!) I turned to Sapphique when I needed some dependable escapism.  Both the world of the realm with its false period protocol and the realm of the sentient prison are unique and complex.  This time we got more of a look at court politics as Finn tries to convince everyone (including himself) that he is the true prince.  Our friends in the prison aren't abandoned though and we follow them as they encounter new, gruesome dangers and struggle to escape.  Each character is well drawn with layers of motivations and filled in with shades of moral grey as the characters are forced to make tough decisions and betray each other to survive.  Sapphique by Catherine Fisher: Buy it or check it out today!

Path of Beasts (The Keepers, #3)(If you haven't read the first two books in the series yet read my reviews of Museum of Thieves and City of LiesFamiliar series are my version of comfort food so I turned to the last book in the Keepers trilogy to cheer me up.  This installment ties together all the characters from the first two books and finishes the story off nicely.  I enjoyed the second book a little bit more, partly because I really enjoyed the Mardi Gras feel of Spoke and partly because I tend to prefer second novels (with the pesky exposition and the climax taken care of by the other novels the middle one allows the author more of a chance to experiment and explore other aspects of the world, like Ents!)  Still this was a solid conclusion to a series that I throughly enjoyed and I enjoyed seeing all the characters working together in one novel.  Path of Beasts by Lian Tanner: Buy it or check it out today!

Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian RestaurantThis memoir/comic/cookbook is entirely wonderful and unlike anything else I've ever read.  There's some great general tips on how to cook properly as well as delicious-looking recipes.  Reading about the process of opening and running a restaurant and prepping for Iron Chef was fascinating and throughout the narrative there's humorous asides that are supported by drawings of everything from drunk tomatoes to synchronized swimming butter.  Cohen also goes into the history of food and why we view vegetables and meats in our society the way we do today.  It's a lot to fit in one book but Cohen and Dunlavey pull it off.  It's intended for adults but it would be fine for teens interested in cooking as well. Dirty Candy by Amanda Cohen & Ryan Dunlavey: buy it or check it out today!

Drood I enjoyed a lot of aspects of this novel and I'm glad I read it, but goodness gracious was it a slog to get through! Simmons revels in revealing the dark, dank, and dangerous secrets of Dickens's London.  I've read plenty of books set in Victorian London, but most authors have been too polite to mention the horrible stench and the difficulty in finding places to put corpses and other waste.  Several passages in the novel made me resolved that if the Doctor ever picks me up in his TARDIS I will definitely choose a trip to the future instead of the past.  The details about Dickens's life were fascinating as well from the Staplehurst incident where Dickens nearly died in a train accident (I thought it too thrilling to be true, but I've looked it up--it really happened) to the details of his painful illnesses towards the end of his life and his great exertions on his reading tours.  But much like a Dickens novel this one was long and wordy and I often had to put it down and read other books in their entirety before feeling able to pick Drood up again.  It doesn't help that it's narrated by Wilkie Collins who, to judge by this book, was a terrible person.  He's not intended to be a sympathetic lead, but still every time I thought his worst side was revealed he would sink to new depths.  Yet he wasn't a love-to-hate-him type of villain either, he was just pathetic.  On top of all this Collins's drug habits meant that he was an unreliable narrator which led to a sense of vertigo as I tried to work out of who to believe and what was a drug-induced vision.  Each new twist made me more eager to learn what was really going on and is what kept me reading until the end.  Between the violence and the affairs this is definitely a work for adults.  Drood by Dan Simmons: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland... Review

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)

Book talk:  What would you do if the Green Wind appeared at your house one day on the back of his flying leopard and offered to take you away to Fairyland?  Would you stay safe at home with your amiable dog and your chores?  Or would you fly off to adventure, despite knowing that with you cannot have one without grief?  For September, the choice is easy.  She lives in Omaha, which is no place for anybody, and she has read plenty of stories about Fairyland so she knows how these things work.  But despite these preparations she soon discovers that she has no idea how to behave or where to go.  She happens upon a crossroads with signs leading in four directions: to lose your way, to lose your life, to lose your mind, and to lose your heart.  If only she knew what kind of story she was in!  If she was in a merry tale she could dash off and have her adventures, but if she were in a serious tale she would have to do something important.  But she doesn't know, so she tries her best and decides to head down the path marked 'to lose your heart.'  Was it the right choice?  Which way would you go?

Rocks my socks:  There are so many things I love about this book that I can't come anywhere near listing them all.  Let's start with the most obvious selling point: one of the main characters is a wyvern (a variety of dragon) whose father is a library.  He grew up memorizing the encyclopedia and can tell you about anything so long as it begins with the letters A-L.  The novel is chock-full of fanciful and surreal details from this to the capital city, Pandemonium which the queen made out of cloth ("Fierce was her needle, and she wore it like a sword!")  The whole tale is told with an eminently witty and quotable style in the very best tradition of fairy tales.  As is the case with most fairy tales these fantastical and absurd elements are thinly veiled metaphors for profound lessons and truths, such as when September is informed that courage attracts gunk over time and therefore has hers literally cleaned up before heading full-tilt into her adventure.  I absolutely adored this novel for its abundant heart, wit, and imagination.  

Rocks in my socks:  nothing!

Every book its reader:  As much as I adored this novel, it is hard to describe the right audience for it (other than of course people like myself!)  It is a fairy tale with a young protagonist, but with its droll humour, advanced vocabulary, and the way it describes childhood from the perspective of an adult looking back rather than as experience by an actual child it read more like a novel written for nostalgic adults than one written for children.  It reminds me of Peter Pan.  I'm sure there are precocious children who will love it, and I think it would make an excellent book for a parent and child to read together, but I'm not sure the average child would be able to read and enjoy this on his own.  Of course there isn't that much violence or sensuality in it, so if a young child wishes to try I wouldn't stop her.


Catherynne M. Valente has her own website with many free short stories in addition to the usual FAQ etc

Macmillan has a page for the book with excerpts, reviews, and the delightful yet subtly creepy book trailer below:

Yep, that song is definitely going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Source: school library

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente: buy it or check it out today!

Bonus Quotes!

“It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.”

“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.”

“When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. That does not mean it IS brighter and lovelier; it just means that sweet, kindly home suffers in comparison to tarted-up foreign places with all their jewels on.”

“...September read often, and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying.”

“Hats have power. Hats can change you into someone else.”

“Splendid things are often frightening. Sometimes, it's the fright that makes them splendid at all.”

"Theatrical folk are nothing but a bundle of monologues and anxiety headaches.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dumpling Days Review

Dumpling Days

Book talk:  Have you ever been forced to go on a family trip?  Sometimes they can be fun, like a trip to Disneyland, but sometimes you'd rather just stay home.  That's how Pacy feels about her family's trip to Taiwan.  To her mom and dad it's a trip to their homeland, but Pacy's home is back in America.  And the worst part is that they have to stay the whole summer.  A whole summer away from her friends in a country where she can't even understand what people are saying or read the signs if she gets lost.  As if that wasn't bad enough she finds out that her parents have signed her up for classes at the cultural center--classes during summer vacation! But when she gets there Taiwan isn't anything like what she expected.  Her relatives are pretty nice, the food is delicious, and she is determined to win the top prize in her painting class.  Maybe the summer will be great, or maybe it will be a disaster after all.  One thing is for sure though--she'll never forget it!

Rocks my socks:  I am a big fan of Grace Lin and this title did not disappoint.  Pacy was charming and I loved her narrative voice ("Dad always spouted in dramatic ways about things, sometimes to be funny but other times because he really meant it.  When he meant it, we usually ignored him.")  The information about Taiwan was fascinating and left me wanting to learn more (and of course go and eat some dumplings!)  Like with her other books, Lin weaves brief stories throughout the main narration about Chinese legends or Pacy's family history.  I always looked forward to these.  With everything else going on Lin manages to work in some great life lessons about embracing new experiences, focusing on enjoying each moment, and the importance of family.  As if her skills as an author aren't enough Lin is an excellent illustrator as well and she skillfully fits her drawings into the story as if Pacy is doodling in the margins of her diary.  These add extra character and humor to the novel as well as helping the reader visualize the new concepts introduced.

Rocks in my socks: nothing

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to fans of the Amelia's Notebook series and other novels that are written in the style of a kid's diary with doodles.  Fans of her other novels will naturally enjoy this one.  It would make an excellent class read for an elementary classroom because despite its light and humorous style there's plenty of themes that would make for good class discussions.  I'd say it's good for third to fifth grade.


Grace Lin has a website that is loaded with extras from lessons to coloring pages to recipes

From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors has an interview with Grace Lin about the book

There's a great trailer for the book:

Source: Copy provided as part of faculty/staff book club

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sabriel review

Book talk:  Sabriel was dead when she was baptized.  But there are benefits to being the Abhorsen's daughter.  Her father followed her into the land of the dead and brought her back with him.  Soon she was a living, screaming baby in his arms.  Sabriel attended a private boarding school near the border, where the magic runs stronger.  In addition to the classes all the other young ladies were expected to take she had private lessons from her father about how to deal with the dead who refuse to stay that way.  While other children shied away from death, Sabriel kept death close around her like a cloak.  Sabriel does not frighten easily, but when her father disappears she knows enough to be very, very afraid.

Rocks my socks:  I absolutely loved the world-building of the novel.  From the very beginning there's a sense of a complex history that is slowly revealed and informs every aspect of the novel from the way the soldiers act to the clothes that people wear.  Everything is well thought out and strikingly original.  The book is naturally rather dark, but there's a lot of hope to be found in it as well.  Sabriel is relatable as she tries to cope with a difficult situation the best that she can and her relationship with Touchstone is completely charming.  Plus there's a sassy talking cat character!  You know I can't resist sassy talking cats!

Rocks in my socks:  zip

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to teens looking for a dark fantasy novel.  Sabriel is more or less a zombie hunter so it would appeal to that set as well.  For what it is, it isn't terribly violent.  Sabriel mostly fights the zombies off using magical bells.  I'd say it's fine for 6th grade and up.


Garth Nix has a website with a page on his writing process, a solo fantasy adventure, and a long, alphabetical list of book recommendations for those wondering what to read next.

The Old Kingdom Chronicles have their own site with information on the book as well as helpful information about the world: the seven bells, the nine gates of Death, and maps of the lands of the living.

If you need any further information about the novel the Old Kingdom wiki is a good place to turn.

Source: school library

Sabriel by Garth Nix: Buy it or check it out today!