Happy Sabriel Day!

Today is the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Garth Nix’s Sabriel, the first in his best-selling and much loved Old Kingdom series!

Sabriel through the ages
Sabriel through the ages


There’s been lots of wonderful chat online from readers and fellow writers, all sharing their love of the book and the series. Here’s a few of our faves so far:

Sabriel covers

Last year we published Sabriel‘s long awaited prequel, Clariel, and produced a whole new cover design for the series (which you can read about here), and here’s Garth with some of the older covers over the years:


Do you remember the first time? Win Old Kingdom goodies!

To Hold the Bridge
To celebrate #SabrielDay we’re giving away a signed Sabriel poster, along with a signed set of the Old Kingdom books AND forthcoming collection of short stories To Hold The Bridge, which includes a brand new Old Kingdom novella (from which the collection takes its title).

For your chance to win, all you need to do is tell us about your first encounter with Sabriel and share it with us, either in the comments below or on social media (just tag us & #SabrielDay so we don’t miss it). If you’ve not read Sabriel, read the extract below and share with us why you want to read more.

The winner was Omar Eldarwich!

Here’s some of our staff’s recollections:

Jen recreating the Sabriel cover
Jen recreating the Sabriel cover

I don’t remember the first time I read Sabriel. Not because it didn’t blow my cranky teenage mind, but because I’ve read it so many times since then. I love the world of Lirael, which is all rushing rivers, icy caves, premonitions and flying (and dogs!), like the cold sunny days at the beginning of winter. But Sabriel is the dark and the underground, and that serious, strong, clever girl looking for her father in a strange country full of strange beasts.

The Abhorsen books tell you if you’re prepared, and determined, and if you listen to your dad, you’ll discover yourself, and that’s more important than any romance. Also, always carry a knife, and pay attention to the river.



The first time I came across Sabriel was in my school library. I can’t remember if it was pointed out by my librarian or whether I found it by myself amongst the stacks. Either way, I was drawn in by the stark, simple cover. I was hooked by the first chapter, and quickly devoured the rest of the book. I had read lots of fantasy previously, but rarely had I encountered a world so richly detailed or one that felt as real as the Old Kingdom did. It was like discovering another classic. I wanted to be there, to fight alongside Sabriel as she battled the creatures of the dead.

I quickly bought the next two books and took them with me on a trip to New Zealand (where they unfortunately got very water damaged). I raced through those two as well, choosing to finish the last one rather than join in with the New Year’s celebrations – I just couldn’t tear myself away.

The Old Kingdom Trilogy was one of my favourite series growing up, and to me they still remain one of the best fantasy series out there.


Read the opening to Sabriel

If you’ve never read it before, or if you want to remember the joy, you can read the opening to Garth Nix’s Sabriel below:

  • Soraelna

    I first read Sabriel when I was in my first year of middle school, about ten years ago. It was the very first book that I checked out at that library, and I tore through it very quickly. I was nervous about starting school again and I was older than most of my friends, so I was basically starting everything alone. Sabriel became a dear friend to me in that time, and I was utterly entranced by the story and the world inside. I was inspired by Sabriel’s strength and courage and used that to get through my shyness and make a whole new set of friends that year. I owe a lot to this book and the series as a whole, and I try to reread the whole set at least once a year. I’m so glad that I picked Sabriel up all of those years ago.


  • Pixiegirl128

    Username: Pixiegirl128 (won’t let me login to comment)

    I don’t remember how I came across Sabriel, but I know I was immediately engrossed and devoured the book. I read every chance I had. When I realized there were more, I begged for them for Christians and birthdays, but could hardly wait and checked them out from my library.
    I love the book so much that my first copy had the binding worn down and certain pages wanting to open. The copy was later destroyed by mother nature. I lent it to a friend and even a school bag could not protect it from the down pour, but he was kind enough to replace it. I received a gift card for Barnes and noble this year, and immediately knew what I was spending it on when I knew Clariel had been released. Sabriel is by far one of the very best books I’ve ever read.

  • I haven’t read Sabriel yet…which is a big reason I want to try it! I adore epic fantasy and beautiful covers and I love supporting Aussie authors so, UM YES PLEASE, I’d like to try something by Garth Nix!

  • Nobody True

    I came to Sabriel quite late I suppose. it was around 2005 and I was drawn to the strange mystic symbol on the cover.It is not easy for me to invest in a new author, I tend to have a ‘stable’ of favorites I stick too; something about this novel calmed my fear. Maybe it was the artwork. Perhaps the publisher who I know and trusted from my love of Tolkien. The deep breath I took before diving into Sabriel was one of the deepest I have ever taken.

    The water was lovely, warm and inviting. The story flowed effortlessly. before I knew it I was standing with Sabriel on the hill by the broken charter stone. There was no turning back for me.

    later I became aware of ‘The keys to the kingdom’ and fell in love all over again, this time bringing my then seven-year-old son for the ride. He also fell in love with Garth’s writing and we explored the Seventh tower together. We have stuck with Mr. Nix whether on the far side of the galaxy in ‘a confusion on princes’ or right here in the not-too-distant future with ‘shades children’, but of course the old kingdom has a special place in out hearts.

    Garth Nix makes effortless the business of stepping into his imagined worlds. however complex or unreasonable to the senses. you never find yourself having to flick back to an earlier point in order to understand. or wishing for a glossary of names and places.

    I am myself now a few years into a writing degree at Middlesex University, home of the north London literary festival and I have learned just how much hard work goes into making something seem effortless and, therefore, how blessed we are to have Garth’s truly astounding plethora of work to enjoy

    Thank you, Garth Nix.
    And thank you. Allen & Unwin, for doing it again.


  • I can’t remember the exact year I read Sabriel, but I remember being nervous about it as I thought it was going to be horror-themed and I don’t do well with horror. I started reading anyway and eventually found that, yes, there were some scary bits, but there was also amazing characters, a story I disappeared into, and even a talking cat (a hands-down win for me). I was so in love with Sabriel that for quite some time I found I couldn’t move on to the next books (eventually I did, but that’s another story).

  • Josh

    I was a year 8 student in high school, heading to the library as I usually did during lunch. I had just finished a fantasy book and my yearning for yet another was quite keen, So I browsed the fiction section, looking through the collection there. My friend had told me Garth Nix was a great author with interesting stories to be explored. At first I had read through the entire keys to the kingdom series by Garth Nix and I knew my soul yearned for more! So I went through his books and Sabriel immediately jumped out at me, calling for me and I knew I must answer. I borrowed the book and finished it and fell in love with the series!!

  • Jessica Moyer

    My mom bought my younger sister a paperback sometime after I started college. On break I borrowed it and fell in love. I don’t think I ever returned it 🙂 she got her revenge a few years later by stealing my copy of Lirael

  • Amanda SchulZ

    Stumbling across Sabriel in a local bookstore over a decade ago was a wonderful point in my life! After picking up this book, I quickly devoured every Garth Nix novel I could get my hands on. His worlds and characters are absolutely stunning and every time I reread these stories, I am amazed. Sabriel holds a special place in my heart and is one of those books that I will always own a copy of.

    Thank you Garth Nix!


  • Tiffany Riggins

    I actually read Lirael before I read Sabriel (I know, sacrilege…) I stumbled across this book during one of those infamous book sales at our school library. I liked reading but wasn’t really in love with it, I was still in the awkward middle school I don’t really have friends and don’t know how to get out of my own head. This series really gave me my love of reading and books. I was engulfed in this amazing world of talking animals yet not animals and the dead. I found such an amazing world to escape the mundane and it really helped me get through school. I owe so much to these and a few other books for helping me learn magic is in the most unlikely of places.


  • I first read Sabriel because I happened upon Lirael in the bookstore and was really intrigued by the cover. I realized it was a sequel and bought both books, and stayed up until 2 in the morning to finish Sabriel that very day. (It wasn’t a weekend, even. I was still in school!) I’ve now since read it maybe 50 times, perhaps more. I felt like it was a world that I had known since I was a little kid, and I was rediscovering it somehow, that’s how real it felt to me. Like I’d know Sabriel and Touchstone forever, and I’d just fallen out of touch with them. It just clicked for my younger self, and it’s become a yearly reread, if not more.

  • Chimervera

    I first read Sabriel when I was 9 or 10 and I found it in the school library. For a young me, who so far had really only had access to ‘classic’ fantasy or ‘children’s fantasy’, this book was revolutionary. It introduced me to the concept of necromancy, to different types of magic, and to a more ‘adult’ perception of evil.

    This series gave me my first truly relatable protagonists, with complicated lives and feelings and families. It had lady characters kicking ass, without needing to be saved by male characters all the time. I saw people suffering loss, and dealing with that loss as more than a footnote, and continuing on anyway because they had to. It really opened my eyes to the variety of books out there, and as a result I became an avid reader. To this day I’m rarely far from a novel of some sort.

    Reading Sabriel led me to the rest of the series (and getting my first membership to a public library, because the school library didn’t carry Abhorsen, but that was life changing in a whole different way).

    I read Lirael when I was dealing with depression for the first time. As someone with a complicated family life, and as a chronically shy person who was bullied a lot and never felt like I belonged anywhere, I could really relate to her situation and her feelings. Seeing her make a friend and find somewhere that she felt comfortable and content gave me hope that I could someday find the same. Over the years, whenever everything started to look too bleak I’d bring out my books and re-read them, and by the time I was finished reading Lirael and Abhorsen I’d feel a little better and living wouldn’t seem like such a horrible fate.

    Fast forward to 2014 and the release of Clariel, the first full novel in the Old Kingdom series since the original trilogy. I was so excited for it to arrive, checking the mail multiple times a day and running to the door at every sound that could possibly indicate a delivery. As soon as it arrived I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting

    Clariel was the first – and only – book that I have read with an aromantic/asexual protagonist. As an aromantic asexual person myself, seeing this in my favourite series of all time nearly brought me to tears. There were also a lot of other aspects of her personality that I found relatable – liking solitude, having little patience for social ritual, wanting to get away from her family, having strong goals that she would have done almost anything to achieve. Even knowing who she was going to become, I couldn’t help but become extremely invested in her story and cheering her on.

    ~12 years after first reading Sabriel, the Old Kingdom series is still my favourite book series of all time. The boxed set of the original trilogy were the first books I ever bought for myself. I tracked down and bought (via ebay) the World Book Day edition of The Creature in the Case. My first tattoo was a charter mark that I had designed myself (and then scribbled all over notebooks and desks for years after), placed over my heart to symbolise the impact the series has had on me.

    (Originally posted [with photos] at http://chimervera.tumblr.com/post/118669496373/today-may-11th-is-sabriel-day-it-is-the-20th )

  • Lira

    I actually read Lirael first since I got it from a book fair. After I realized my brother had Sabriel and borrowed it from him to read. It was really awesome to read about such a strong and cool character. I really love the Mogget too. It also made Lirael so much better to know about Sabriel and Touchstone. I never did return Sabriel to my brother.

  • I don’t remember the exact year I first read Sabriel, but it can’t have been more than a couple of years after it was published, I would have been all of 9/10 years old. It was one of the first fantasy novels I ever picked up, and I fell head over heels. Before that, I had been reading a lot of Roald Dahl, Encyclopedia Brown, Enid Blyton, etc etc and to come across a girl that didn’t fit into any of the stereotypes – she was getting out there, doing what needed to be done and not waiting for someone to come along and save her, and it was just the coolest thing ever. I wouldn’t have been able to put it into so many words at that age, but Sabriel was a huge influence on me and how I approached things – she helped me discover that women could be strong and brave and adventurous, and that life didn’t have to be about following a traditional path. It’s a lot to take in at that age, but Sabriel does it perfectly.

  • Carissa Cornell

    The first time I had ever read Sabriel was in 7th grade. I had just move from Texas to Montana, so I did not have any friends at the time because it was during the middle of the year and I was shy. During lunch I had decided to hangout in the library even though I never like reading. I remeber picking up the second book in this series Lirael because I thought the art cover was really pretty. As I went to check it out, the librarian informed me that Lirael was not the first in the series. I honestly was not a fan of the cover of the first one so I wasn’t going to check it out but I am so thankful that my librarian talked me into it or I would have missed out on the most amazing adventure and learning to love to read. This book was my start to all the other wonderful lives I have gotten to expence.

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