Abhorsen by Garth Nix
I think some of the saddest books out there come from a source you wouldn’t expect – somewhere, in all instances, you wouldn’t expect to find absolute emotional torture and a feeling of emotional exhaustion. You wouldn’t expect to find all this in a children’s book.
When I first read the series where this chapter’s book comes from I didn’t shed a tear. Whether that’s a reflection of my heartlessness or because I can’t remember, I don’t know. All I know is that this time round, I bawled my eyes out until I was floating as helplessly as Alice in her own tears.
Why is it only kid’s books? Okay, okay, I admit, the majority of the books on the shelf have more childhood sentimental value than my toys ever did. But kid’s books seriously make me hysteric. (I can’t cry quietly, a terrible fact I discovered while watching Titanic in 3D at the cinema). This makes anything involving brilliant characters and enchanting story lines a risky book – subject to water damage.
There are two contenders for this – erh – prestigious title. They end in different flavours of sadness but have all the elements of a brilliant children’s book – subject matter which suggests the author believes children should be treated more seriously – fantastic (in the old sense), descriptive, step-through-the-wardrobe writing and characters whose stories are just as important as their personalities.
~ Beware, here be spoilers ~
|London Looms by LeightonJohns|
Oh, Philip Reeve. You are a master of fiction, creating post-apocalyptic worlds with cogs and clockwork sensibility. Your characters aren’t perfect, and it’s the flaws that make your readers love them. You take both through a world that doesn’t seem too impossible, subtly pointing out our present-day troubles and how they’re going to bite us on the bottom thousands of years in the future. Your writing has a hint of old-fashioned, revelling in old words like ‘goyle’ and ‘bumptious’. The reader is transported to a world where there are characters they can relate to in a tumultuous, on-the-edge-of-your-seat story.
And then you go and kill them all off.
I won’t go into the horrid details but it’s a pretty vicious blow that Mr Reeve deals. Especially after four books of story-telling magic. Oh, Philip Reeve, the day I finished A Darkling Plain I could have quenched a forest fire. The conclusion of A Darkling Plain is like attending fifty funerals at once.
But my Chapter 6 -A book that makes you sad – goes to Garth Nix’s Abhorsen, simply because I have read it more recently than Reeve.
The Old Kingdom series follows two heroines over the course of three books on a journey between a Narnia like world – The Old Kingdom – and a world more similar to ours. Magic exists within The Old Kingdom but in an entirely different sense – magic is entwined with music. In the first book, Sabriel, the titular character is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, a ‘good’ type of necromancer. She wields bells to quell the dead, and the main and titular of the second books, Lireal, becomes the next Abhorsen-in-Waiting as the series progresses. I especially love that Lireal is a librarian in the strange Old Kingdom. I felt I could really relate to her. She summons a magical companion, The Disputable Dog.
|The Abhorsen by Rose Muse|
What follows is a tense adventure and race against time. Twists and turns – for example, finding out that Mogget , the Abhorsen’s servant in the form of a talking cat was involved in the creation of ‘The Wall’ dividing the Old Kingdom and the New – just makes your love and appreciation for the characters stronger.
The Disputable Dog isn’t a perfect dog. She often inadvertently hurt’s Lireal’s feelings and craves attention, and is also annoyingly vague. A relationship between dog and master builds as it does between characters and reader, and the Dog is there throughout the journey. The very idea of the Dog made me want such a companion. Here was a dog full of knowledge and intrigue it seems the perfect companion, if a little infuriating sometimes.
You’ve probably guessed what’s going to happen next. It is revealed that The Disputable Dog also had a part in the creation of The Wall with Mogget and she sacrifices herself to save her master. So many tears! Compared to this devastation Philip Reeve’s send off was reasonably sweet and lingering, even telling the reader how the world continues without it’s saviours. Nix’s ending is heart-achingly horrid, too sudden but perhaps inevitable, adn then that’s it: it feels like that world can no longer exist with the death of the Dog. You feel so drained I wouldn’t blame you if you tore the book apart in a search for more words, words that would perhaps ease the pain even a little.
And this is why, ladies and gentlemen, Abhorsen by Garth Nix is the book the made me sad.
Now excuse me, I need to go and weep at the sheer memory of reading it.