Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Magical realms (Books - Sabriel by Garth Nix)
I'm enjoying Garth Nix's Sabriel. I have read many of his The Keys to the Kingdom books for somewhat younger readers and enjoyed them very much. It's that typical YA story: youngster who is a little downtrodden, less than popular, or less than capable, discovers or is thrust into some imaginary universe where he or she becomes a hero. Nix's fantasy realm is the work of a prodigious imagination, and they are lightening-quick reads.
Sabriel is for a slightly older reader. In it, the daughter of a famous necromancer - a person possessed of powers and or talents that allow them to walk between the realms of the living and the dead - finds upon her graduation from boarding school that her father has been taken by a dark force to the death realm and she decides to pursue him. Two things I'm liking about it are - that it deals with death, not in gory detail, but as a concept. It really spends some time pondering it as any inquiring mind does, and that includes teenage minds. Our culture really shies away from death and often wants to protect children from contemplating that it even exists. But teenagers certainly have figured that out, even though many of them imagine they will live forever. We traffic with what life means in part by creating some sort of relationship to death. So an imaginary work that walks around in that territory is, I think, a useful one and not just for a teenage reader. Secondly, the magical rituals and implements of the necromancer, and the design of the "other" world are imagined in rich detail. There is a combination of classic mythic elements - a river runs through the death realm, gates mark off successive levels - but they have a fresh rather than a cliched feel in the way Nix writes about them. The necromancer studies a particular text and makes use of a meditation-like state, symbols that are both drawn and focused upon while in meditation, swords, and a series of bells each with a different power.
I always need fantasy around the final weeks of the semester. I suppose one about walking among the threatening shadows with magical powers to protect one from evil is something out of which Dr. Freud could get a lot of mileage.