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Abhorsen is a fantasy novel by Garth Nix, first published in 2003. It is the final novel in his Abhorsen trilogy (unofficial name coined by fans) and his third book in the currently five book long planned Old Kingdom series (following Sabriel and Lirael).

Abhorsen features Lirael, who is the recently revealed Abhorsen-in-Waiting; Prince Sameth, who is Lirael’s new-found nephew and descendant of the Wallmakers; Mogget, a bound servant of the Abhorsen line; and the Disreputable Dog.

The novel is named after the position of Abhorsen in the book's world. The origin of this title is unknown, but Nix may have chosen the name referencing "Abhorson," the executioner in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure.

Plot summary

The main novel begins at Abhorsen's House, which is besieged by Dead Hands led by Chlorr of the Mask, once a powerful necromancer who has died and come back as one of the Greater Dead. She is in turn under the control of Hedge the Necromancer, who serves Orannis the Destroyer. The Destroyer is the Ninth Bright Shiner, and the most evil magical force or being. It had destroyed many worlds before It was defeated by the Seven Bright Shiners, the free magic entities that formed the Charter after defeating Orannis. The Seven also bound Yrael, the Eighth Bright Shiner, who was a free magic entity who would not join the charter. The Seven were known as Ranna, Mosrael, Kibeth, Dyrim, Belgaer, Saraneth, and Astarael. These Seven binders are also the names of the seven necromantic bells and some of the original natures of The Seven linger in these bells. Lirael and Sameth must escape the Abhorsen's House to stop the Destroyer and to save Sameth's friend Nicholas Sayre, who is being used by Orannis as an avatar.

Lirael and Sameth now have to travel to the Red Lake, where The Destroyer is being unearthed. As Lirael and Sameth journey through the Old Kingdom they learn more about Orannis and its plans to destroy all life.

Meanwhile, Prince Sameth's parents, the Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone are in Ancelstierre trying to stop the probable death of thousands of Southerling refugees if they are allowed to enter the Old Kingdom without the protection of the Charter (see also the Five Great Charters). While they are in Ancelstierre attempting to reason with a corrupt government they become victims of an assassination attempt and barely escape with their lives. They flee to the Old Kingdom to attempt to save the lives of the Southerling Refugees from the other side of the Wall.

While Sabriel and Touchstone are trying to get back to the Old Kingdom, Lirael, Sameth and the Disreputable Dog are trying to save Nicholas Sayre, Sameth's best friend and also the host of the Destroyer. The question becomes one of whether Lirael and Sameth are able to stop The Destroyer from completing its plans for eternal freedom and the destruction of the world and other worlds after this. Orannis is successful in joining the hemispheres that imprisoned him. Nick dies in the process of the rejoining, but the Disreputable Dog gives him a Charter Mark, thus binding him to the edge of death. Lirael uses her Rembrancing powers to figure out how the original Seven bound Orannis. During her journey through Death to use the Dark Mirror, she is confronted by and defeats Hedge. In the end, Lirael and her friends defeat Orannis, who must once again bind Orannis by re-enacting the original binding of the Seven with each member holding a bell and adding a bell’s voice. Lirael takes Astarael, and prepares to strike at the hemisphere with a new sword, forged from her panpipes and Nehima, that Sameth made for her. The others include King Touchstone (Ranna) and Abhorsen Sabriel (Saraneth), Sanar and Ryelle (Mosrael), Ellimere (Dyrim), the Disreputable Dog (who is truly a remnant of Kibeth), and Sameth (Belgaer). The first attempt at rebinding shows that the Destroyer is strong enough to resist. Eventually, Sameth frees Mogget, who reveals himself to be the Eighth Bright Shiner, Yrael. Yrael fights against the impulse to kill the Abhorsen, and sets itself against Orannis. This shocks Orannis, and gives the added power to bind him. As Lirael prepares to make the final blow, she readies herself to die. Unexpectedly, the Disreputable Dog takes the blow for Lirael and disappears into Death. In the end, though, the Disreputable Dog gives Nick back his life and tells him that Lirael will have a hand of gold made for her by Sameth to replace the hand she lost while being saved by the Dog.

Important characters

  • Lirael - New Abhorsen-in-waiting, daughter of the Clayr, and Remembrancer.
  • Hedge - An evil necromancer who serves Orannis
  • Orannis - The Destroyer, formerly a powerful free magic creature. The other seven Bright Shiners defeated and bound it.
  • Prince Sameth - Sabriel's and Touchstone's son, prince of the Old Kingdom. Descendant of the Wallmakers and the ex-Abhorsen-in-waiting.
  • Disreputable Dog - Lirael's best friend, a free magic and Charter sending that Lirael summoned from a dog statue that she found in the library. The Disreputable Dog is actually what was left of a Bright Shiner from when the great Charters were created; she is Kibeth, the Walker.
  • Mogget - Abhorsen's servant in the form of a cat. Can also change shape into an albino dwarf. Another leftover from when the great Charters were created; he is the Eighth Bright Shiner, Yrael. He did not take sides for or against the creation of the Charter.
  • Sabriel - Abhorsen and Queen of the Old Kingdom.
  • King Touchstone - King of the Old Kingdom. Originally named Torrigan, he took on the name Touchstone when he claimed the Old Kingdom Throne. Named for the motley fool in As You Like It by William Shakespeare.
  • Nicholas Sayre - An Ancelstierren friend of Sameth, avatar of Orannis, the Destroyer.
  • Princess Ellimere - Princess of the Old Kingdom, next in line to the throne.
  • Chlorr of the Mask - One of the greater dead, follows Hedge's wishes. Close to the end of the book, Mogget hints that Chlorr was once an Abhorsen.

Literary significance and criticism

Abhorsen was a joint Aurealis Award winner for Best Young Adult Novel 2003. [1] The novel was a Teens' Top Ten selection for 2003 by the Young Adult Library Services Association. [2]


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