Because I was weird and awkward as a child
(definitely am not anymore), I spent most of my summers elementary to middle school at home reading. And if any genre made me into the reader I am today, it is sci-fi and fantasy. What’s not to love about a mythical land where there is magic and true evil and heroes and heroines who are nervous about what they have to do but save the world anyway?
#3: Sabriel by Garth Nix
In the world of Sabriel, a modern land not unlike early 20th century England called Ancelstierre borders with the Old Kingdom, where magic still exists. The main character is a young girl named Sabriel, who has been going to a boarding school in Ancelstierre, while her father works in the Old Kingdom as the Abhorsen, whose job it is to make sure dead things stay dead.
Boy oh boy does the Old Kingdom have a problem with the Dead, or, by another name, zombies. So, one day Sabriel’s father sends her his bell bandolier (the various bells used to control the Dead) and his sword, and she knows some bad shit has gone down. She hops on a bus and crosses the Wall into the Old Kingdom, a place she hasn’t been since she was 5, in search of her father so she can rescue him (he is trapped in Death).
A from there, it gets really good. She is pursued by terrifying creatures from Death in service of Kerrigor- one of the Greater Dead and ex-prince of the Old Kingdom- who pretty much wants to destroy everything (what is it with bad guys and wanting to cloak the world in darkness and despair; don’t they realize it’s not sustainable and eventually they’ll have nothing? Think ahead, guys), and a few surprises from creatures in service of her family. Spoiler: there is an epic showdown at the end.
Nix’s prose is wonderful, the worlds of Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom easily spring to life in the mind’s eye. His descriptions of the monsters are fantastic and, because I am a big sissy with an over-reactive imagination and prone to nightmares, I was glad to have my boyfriend in bed with me the night I read some of the more graphic battles. The dialogue isn’t pretentious or difficult to believe, and the characters are flawed and scared, much as anybody in their situation would be.
The Old Kingdom Trilogy is, in my opinion, an underrated classic enjoyable to all ages. It’s a pretty quick read (I finished it in two days) so it’d be good for a long car trip or plane ride this summer. Check it out!