Thursday, August 09, 2018

Sabriel (cont.): The Platypus Reads Part CCCXXV

It's the GRE for me this week, so things on the blog front have slowed down. Still, that's why we take notes when doing this sort of thing, so they're there when we have time.

Tonight's post will be the eighth in a series devoted to Garth Nix's break-out novel, Sabriel. If you are averse to learning the secrets of a 23-year-old novel (so what if it secretly wears My Little Pony socks to work -they're cute!) then don't keep reading.

Ok, you've been warned!

Here we go. When last we left our heroes, Sabriel had entered Death (a.k.a. Dragon Age's "The Fade") to find her father's spirit while Touchstone (Alistair anyone?) and Mogget remained in the diamond of protection to face Kerrigor and his undead minions of undeath (as pictured to the left on a scrap of boarding pass).

Chapter 22 features the best descriptions of the Nine Gates of Death that we have anywhere in the book. They are simple, hazy, and yet still wonderfully dantean. Nix keeps up the tension in this section by cutting back and forth between Sabriel in Death and the others back in the reservoir. The meeting between Sabriel and her father adds a burst of energy. There is just the right mix between humor and pathos. I get the feeling that Hugh Jackman would make an excellent Abhorsen in a film version. He would play the balance right. The reunion also gives Nix a chance to reward the faithful reader with answers to a few questions. By now, we know that Kerrigor is the heir to the throne but two-hundred years ago he was banished into death for killing his family in a necromantic ritual to gain eternal life. Like most things of that sort, it kinda, sorta worked. Kerrigor's spirit cannot die so long as his mystically entombed body survives. As always, Nix is careful to take away with one hand when he gives with the other. Sabriel has to end the chapter by saying goodbye to her father. The final reveal is that Abhorsen has been too long in Death and has just enough time left in his body to banish Kerrigor long enough for Sabriel to find his body.

Back in Life, Kerrigor's entrance is suitably dramatic, but his villain monologue is mercifully cut short by the reappearance of Sabriel and her father. We don't see Abhorsen's final battle, but his wonderfully narrated (and blatantly christological) heroism shines against Kerrigor's pathetic mock-body and theatrics. To balance this great downer, we do get the first kiss between our heroine and hero. The fact that she bites his lip open in an attempt to draw him away from death has just the right dark-sleeping-beauty-gender-reversal twist to fit the tone of Nix's novel. Chapter 23 ends on an interesting twist: Sabriel accepts her role as Abhorsen not by taking up her father's sword but by running from his death. That is unusual, and a departure from the strict Hero's Journey model Nix has been following. The death of Obi Wan Kenobi in Episode IV provides a parallel, however.

GRE's a comin' so I'll stop there for tonight. Next time, we'll pick up with Chapter 24 and some new characters.

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