Monday, January 12, 2009

Book Review: The Abhorsen Trilogy

By Garth Nix

Today it's a three-fer review. This trilogy is made up of three really nice books, but the story is so compact and interwoven, I think of it as all one.

This is a classic heroic tale, with many time-honored elements that make such stories almost irresistible to an imaginative reader. In addition to a strong undercurrent of magic, it has several generations of a family, loyal companions, fierce and terrifying enemies, and best of all, multiple young heroes who all have to figure out who they are and what their purpose is. The story is set in an imaginary Old Kingdom that is just over the wall from a land that is familiar enough to seem like England in the 1930's or so, but it's not. I know I've always hoped that there is some magical land just over a wall a few miles away, where technology gives way to magic, but where the fight between good and evil is just as immediate and important. I love it when an author blurs the line between fantasy and reality just enough to keep a reader like me from getting too old and cynical.

The writing is skillful, rich and detailed. Even though the story has so many familiar elements, it is unique and allows the reader to explore many universal themes within the context of a well-crafted plot. It didn't move at a fast pace for me, but that could be because I alternated reading and listening to the excellent audio book narrated by Tim Curry. That doesn't mean it is boring or ponderous though. It bridges the gap nicely between something like Lord of the Rings and an aftermarket Star Wars novel without ever taking itself too seriously or seeming silly.* I like that balance. It's actually taken me a few weeks to get through all three books because it was my non-directed, non-required reading that I saved for moments when I just wanted to relax. In spite of repeated picking up and putting down, I never lost the thread of the plot. There are interesting characters, but not so many that you have to make a list to keep them straight.

Since it is a young adult series, I read it somewhat from the perspective of what my teenaged kids might get out of it. Of all the elements for them to ponder and dream about, I particularly liked that the main characters were female, but the male characters were not idiots. The men and women, boys and girls actually complemented each other and helped each other. They all had their role and when everyone was true to it, rather than wanting to be something else, they were able to do what they needed to do.

*Know that as a reader of after-market Star Wars novels, I don't think they are silly. I was just drawing a comparison...


  1. Ooh ooh, if that audio book isn't Lemony Snicket you must tell me - I LOVE Tim!! This trilogy sounds super interesting - I'm off to put in on my to-read list!:)

  2. Sounds fun! Hey, are you keeping up on Shelfari? I'm wondering if you have a list of all the books you read last year.

  3. I read the first one after seeing it on your reading list and really enoyed it. I started the next one but got bogged down with other stuff and it didn't grab me at the beginning like the first one. But I will try it again. Maybe the audio version would push me along...

  4. Yea!! I have seen this trilogy but never heard anyone say they've read it. It's for sure going on my TBR list. Thanks!

  5. great! i'm adding this to my reading list also....


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