Thursday, July 30, 2009


Book: Sabriel
Author: Garth Nix
Like/Don't Like: I managed to like it, even without a glossary.

I'm going to admit that I'm not that big of a fantasy fan and I generally stay away from it. But there were several circumstances that led me to this book: 1.) a lot of reliable people have recommended it, 2.) in the last month I have started and stopped 4 books because either the writing was bad, the story was not to my taste, excess smuttiness, or combinations of the three, 3.) it was at the library and I was desperate.

But even desperation cannot take away my initial problem with fantasy, which is this: Fantasy fiction doesn't do such a hot job of explaining itself. It just dumps you in the middle of a made-up world without any kind of context and you have to do all this work to figure it out. I personally find this distracting. I lose all interest in the story because I can't get passed not understanding the details of the world the story is set in. I spend a large chunk of the book with the feeling that I missed a page, or I didn't read closely enough because half the time I have no idea what the characters are talking about.

I suppose if I had read a lot of fantasy when I was a kid I wouldn't have such a problem with it now. But I never did. I didn't read the Narnia books until I was in college. Lord of the Rings - not until after college. Same with A Wrinkle in Time. All those classics you probably read as kids weren't even on my radar.

I'm not sad about this at all. I had a great time reading as a kid. I'm just saying that reading fantasy now as an adult is like trying to learn Finnish as an adult.

And I'm also just saying that this book could have used a glossary. Or a 2 page appendix giving me a little hint as to what free magic was, and how there came to be two worlds, and who are the Clayr, and what's the difference between a necromancer and an Abhorsen, and who was Sabriel's mom, and what's with all the dead, and not just all the dead but all the different levels of dead including, but not limited to, Sendings, Hands, and Shadow Hands, and how does one become a Charter Mage and why are some of them outside of the Old Kingdom.

You probably read that last paragraph and thought, "I don't even know what you're talking about!" Which is exactly how I felt through most of this book.

The only thing that kept me going was that it was a pretty interesting story about this young girl named Sabriel who has to travel into the Old Kingdom to find her dead father. Only he's just mostly dead. (Thinking of Miracle Max in the Princess Bride also helped.) And about halfway through I started to get my bearings and decided to just ignore all references to magic or dead things or charter-whatevers that I didn't get and enjoy the story. Which I did.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I won't hide my glee at the fact that you liked this book. I revel in the glee, in fact.

I never thought that people who don't like fantasy could be that way because of lack of exposure in their childhood. I just figured everyone's brain was wired one way or another. Of course, us enlightened folk are open to all genres.