Abhorsen: A Tintinnabulation Of Bells

Abhorsen is written by Garth Nix. It is the third book in the Old Kingdom series. It was published in 2003 by Eos (HarperCollins). Nix’s website can be found here.


“[Orannis, the Destroyer] has been freed from its subterranean prison and now seeks to escape the silver hemispheres, the final barrier to the unleashing of its terrible powers.

Only Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, has any chance of stopping the Destroyer. She and her companions—Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget—have to take that chance. For the Destroyer is the enemy of all Life, and it must be stopped, though Lirael does not know how.

To make matters worse, Sam’s best friend, Nick, is helping the Destroyer, as are the necromancer Hedge and the Greater Dead Chlorr, and there has been no word from the Abhorsen Sabriel or King Touchstone.

Everything depends upon Lirael. A heavy, perhaps even impossible burden for a young woman who just days ago was merely a Second Assistant Librarian. With only a vision from the Clayr to guide her, and the rather mixed help of her companions, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the Destroyer.

Before it is too late….”


I highly recommend reading all three books (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen) back-to-back, or at least within small periods of time. It has been quite a while since I’ve read Lirael (six months, at least, even though all three reviews were released this week. You can tell how long it’s been because my blog format is different) and I struggled to remember details that Nix had revealed in that book that were important for this one.

Despite that, though, this book was pretty much tension and nail-biting galore, as Lirael and Co. race to defeat Hedge and Orannis. I especially liked the final conflict with Orannis, as all of the heroes gathered together to defeat it. Both Lirael and Sam get final moments of character development, although I wish more time had been spent on Sam. I felt as if he had less time devoted to him here than in Lirael.

I think one reason I prefer Lirael and Abhorsen to Sabriel is that Sabriel had that romance between Sabriel and Touchstone bogging it down. Lirael and Abhorsen do not have romance as a main plot, so much more time could be spent developing tension, plot, and development rather than characters having fits of jealousy over misunderstandings. Abhorsen in particular is a very tightly-paced book, with very little downtime in between plot events/action sequences. I know “epic” is overused, but I would say that Abhorsen is the most “epic” of the three books. Sabriel was introduction, Lirael was set-up, and Abhorsen is the realization of both.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence, death, disturbing images.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult


Lirael saw something like a long, spindle-thin rat—with burning coals for eyes—leap aside as the Dog struck. Then it was coming straight at her, and she felt its cold and powerful spirit rise against her, out of all proportion to its rat-like form.

She screamed and struck at it with her sword, blue-white sparks streaming everywhere. But it was too quick. The blow glanced off, and it snapped at her left wrist, at the hand that held the bell. Its jaws met her armored sleeve, and black-red flames burst out between its needle-like teeth.

Then the Dog fastened her own jaws on the creature’s middle and twisted it off Lirael’s arm, the hound’s blood-curdling growl adding to the sound of the thing squealing and Lirael’s scream. A moment later all were drowned in the deep sound of Saraneth as Lirael stepped back, flipped the bell, caught the handle, and rang it, all in one smooth motion.

~Nix 101

Overall Review:

Abhorsen is basically the quintessential last book: all the plot threads are wrapped up, the Big Bad is defeated, there’s a happy ending with just a bit of a mystery to leave readers guessing, and the characters become fully realized in their positions. Nix’s writing is very engaging and he can certainly create engaging worlds with engaging characters. My only problems with the book were a lack of remembrance of details and not enough focus on Sam, as well as a general slow start.

You can buy this here: Abhorsen

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