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Abhorsen    by Garth Nix order for
by Garth Nix
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Abhorsen follows the story that began in Sabriel and continued in Lirael, a tale in which an old evil erupts in adjoining lands of old magic and modern technology. As this episode opens, Touchstone and Sabriel, King and Queen of the Old Kingdom, are ambushed in Ancelstierre. They have been working against time to find a diplomatic solution to stop those in power from sending Southerling refugees across the Wall to death and the worse fate of forced undead servitude under the necromancer Hedge.

In the meantime, on the other side of the border, an uncanny fog and a host of the Dead encroach on Abhorsen House, besieging there Prince Sameth, his young aunt, Second Assistant Librarian Lirael (revealed to be the Abhorsen-in-Waiting), the dangerous talking feline Mogget and the mysterious but clearly loyal and vocal Disreputable Dog. Sam's Ancelstierran friend Nicholas continues to serve Hedge's foul objective of digging up something very dangerous indeed. Nick is controlled by a very old evil through a shard lodged inside his chest.

These four (well, three of them anyway) seek to foil Hedge and break the siege. They take a perilous route down a well and travel underground. Sam found his courage in the previous volume and a new role as an inheritor of the power of the Wallmakers; he's content to make things, to do his best, and to not have to 'try to be someone else, someone I could never be.' He was relieved to pass on the bell-bandolier of the Abhorsen-in-Waiting to Lirael, who is comfortable, but not yet confident, in her new role.

Arguments between the talking cat and dog add tension and humor to the tale, as when Mogget comments 'Wake me when whatever terrible thing is about to happen happens, or if it appears I might get wet.' Terrible things do indeed happen, involving necromancers, armies of the dead, and a variety of magical creatures, both good and evil. Sam faces his worst fears, and the good face almost unsurmountable odds. It will be the end of all life, if Hedge (with Nicholas' unknowing help) manages to raise and bring together two spheres and empower them with lightning.

There is a riveting climax, with simultaneous battles in Ancelstierre and the land of the Dead. This series has matured and grown on me through its three volumes, so that I found this last one as exciting and fantastic as anything in Philip Pullman's marvelous trilogy His Dark Materials. Though Abhorsen is mostly Lirael's story, my favorite character was definitely her beloved Disreputable Dog, and I enjoyed the fact that the outcome hinged on Sam's kindness and a few cans of sardines. Don't miss this one!

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