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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

A Richly Conceived World Peopled By Authentic Characters

Sabriel  - Garth Nix

Ancelstierre is a country very like England in the first part of the twentieth century, a place where technology is just beginning to create the modern world we are all familiar with today. Across the border, however, lies the Old Kingdom, where magic still holds sway: the magic of the Great Charter, a controlled and benevolent power; but also Free Magic that admits no loyalties.

For a long time the Great Charter has been under attack and in places it has been overthrown completely. As a result, a terrible chaos has descended upon the Old Kingdom and now it is beginning to leak across the border into Ancelstierre where the line between life and death is becoming blurred. Soldiers patrolling the border are killed one day and are discovered reporting for duty the next.

When a denizen from the world of death enters the dormitory of Wyverley College for Young Ladies of Quality in Ancelstierre near the Wall that marks the border between the two countries, Sabriel, a sixth form student at the college, discovers that she can no longer hide from her destiny as the Abhorsen, whose job it is to ensure that the dead remain in death. So begins a terrifying adventure that grips the reader as convincingly as if it were all happening outside his own front door.

This must be at least the fourth time I've read this book and it never ceases to delight me. This is what fantasy should be like: utterly convincing, a fully thought-out and richly conceived world peopled by authentic characters fighting against almost insuperable odds and finally overcoming evil, but only at a terrible price.