A version of this post originally appeared on March 18, 2023.
I've been in a rut, unable to get enthused about speculative fiction without falling back on re-reads. I went hunting for something to scratch that good-vs-evil itch and came up with Sabriel, by Garth Nix, the first in the Abhorsen series.
The prologue was so promising. Dark moody setting, mysterious stranger, nefarious creature from the underworld, an infant snatched back from death. I was all set to love the story.
Instead I liked it well enough. Sorry to beat this dead Abhorsen, but deviating from "he said" and "she said" in dialogue tags is a turnoff. So much mumbling, so much muttering--and in this book, so much "he continued" and "she replied," which are not usually as distracting, but use them enough times and they become a hangnail for the ear, albeit a Tim Curry hangnail. He's a delightful voice actor.
The mysterious stranger from the prologue is single-handedly keeping dead things from overwhelming the kingdom. This is a very important job, and you would think he might consider a backup plan, such as writing down his knowledge and/or communicating lessons to his daughter, who will inherit the job upon his death. He does no such thing, which opens the door for the plot but leaves me irritated. Anyway the daughter, Sabriel, drops out of school to save the kingdom after her necromancer father sorta-dies.
I hadn't realized this was young adult, and that's likely another reason I didn't fully dig the story. I don't read much YA. But if you do--and if you are less salty about fancy dialogue tags--this is the first in a series for you to enjoy.
When Covid first hit, I started doing book talks on social media as a way to keep in touch with people. I never got out of the habit. I don't discuss books by my clients, and if I don't like a book, I won't discuss it at all. While I will sometimes focus on craft or offer gentle critical perspectives, as a matter of professional courtesy, I don't trash writers. Unless they're dead. Then the gloves come off.