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Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories

Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories

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Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories

4/5 (92 Bewertungen)
308 Seiten
4 Stunden
6. Okt. 2009


From renowned fantasy author of the Old Kingdom series, Garth Nix, comes an entertaining collection of stories, including one Old Kingdom novella.

Across the Wall brings together an electic mix of Garth Nix’s writing spanning several years, beginning with the novella set in the Old Kingdom, “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case,” winner of two Aurealis Awards.

The collection also includes two tales inspired by Arthurian legend, a war story, a western, a traditional tale with a twist and a hilarious choose-your-own-adventure spoof. The volume is introduced by the author himself and, even better, so is each story—giving context, anecdotes and a glimpse into the exceptional mind of Garth Nix.

6. Okt. 2009

Über den Autor

Garth Nix is a New York Times bestselling novelist and has been a full-time writer since 2001, but has also worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. Garth’s many books include the Old Kingdom fantasy series, beginning with Sabriel and continuing to Goldenhand; the sci-fi novels Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes; the Regency romance with magic Newt’s Emerald; and novels for children including The Ragwitch, the Seventh Tower series, the Keys to the Kingdom series, and Frogkisser!, which is now in development as a feature film with Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios. Garth has written numerous short stories, some of which are collected in Across the Wall and To Hold the Bridge. He has also cowritten several children’s book series with Sean Williams, including TroubleTwisters and Have Sword, Will Travel. More than six million copies of his books have been sold around the world and his work has been translated into forty-two languages. You can find him online at

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Across the Wall - Garth Nix


FOUR YEARS AGO, after a Christmas lunch, my younger brother passed around a very small book of four stapled-together pages that he said he’d found while helping my mother clean out a storage area under the family home. The book contained four stories written in shaky capital letters, with a couple of half-hearted illustrations done with colored pencils. On the front, it had Stories and Garth Nix in the handwriting one would expect from someone aged around six.

The stories included such gems as The Coin Shower, which was very short and went something like:

a boy went outside

it started raining coins

he picked them up

I had no memory of this story or the little booklet, and at first I thought it had been fabricated by my brother as a joke, but my parents remembered me writing the stories and engaging in this bit of self-publishing at an early age.

I wrote The Coin Shower and the other stories in that collection about thirty-five years ago, and I’ve been writing ever since. Not always fiction, though. In my varied writing career I’ve written all kinds of things, from speeches for CEOs to brochures about brickworks to briefing papers on new Internet technologies.

I first got into print writing articles and scenarios for the role-playing games Dungeons and Dragons and Traveler when I was sixteen or seventeen. I wrote for magazines like Multiverse and Breakout! in Australia and White Dwarf in the United Kingdom. I tried to crack Dragon magazine in the United States, but never quite managed to sell them anything.

This minor success in getting role-playing game articles or scenarios into print led me to try my hand at getting some of my fiction published. I’d written quite a few stories here and there without success, but when I was nineteen years old, I wrote a whole lot more while I was traveling around the U.K. and Europe, broadening my horizons. I drove all over the place in a beat-up Austin 1600 with a small metal Silver-Reed typewriter in the backseat, a couple of notebooks, and lots of other people’s books. Every day I’d write something in longhand in my notebook, and then that night or perhaps the next morning I’d type up what I’d written. (That established a writing practice that has continued for more than twenty years: I write most of my novels in longhand, typing up each chapter on the computer after I’ve got the first draft done in the latest black-and-red notebook. I now have more than twenty of these notebooks, plus one very out-of-place blue-and-white-striped notebook that I turned to during the stationery drought of 1996.)

I don’t write everything in longhand first, though; sometimes I just take to the keyboard. Most of my short fiction begins with handwritten notes, and perhaps a few key sentences put down with my trusty Waterman fountain pen, but then I start typing. The pen comes into its own again later, when I print out the story, make my changes and corrections, and then go back to the computer. This process often occurs when I have only part of the story written. I quite often revise the first third or some small part of a story six or seven times before I’ve written the rest of it. Often the revision occurs because I have left the story incomplete for a long time, and I need to revisit the existing part in order to feel my way into the story again.

Both my short and long fiction works usually begin with a thinly sketched scene, character, situation, or some combination of all three, which just appears in my head. For example, I might suddenly visualize a huge old mill by a broad river, the wheel slowly turning, with the sound of the grinding stones underlaid by the burble of the river. Or I might think of a character, say a middle-aged man who has turned away from the sorcery of his youth because he is afraid of it, but who will be forced to embrace it again. Or a situation might emerge from my subconscious, in which a man, or something that was once a man, is looking down on a group of travelers from a rocky perch, wondering whether he/it should rob them.

All these beginnings might come together into the story of a miller, once a sorcerer, who is transformed into a creature as the result of a magical compact he thought he had evaded. So he must leave his settled life and become a brigand, in the hope of finding, on one of the magicians or priests he robs on the road, the one item of magical apparatus that can return his human shape.

Or they might not come together. I have numerous notes for stories, and many partly begun stories, that have progressed no further. Some of these fragments might be used in my novels, or at least be the seeds of some elements in one. A few ideas will progress and grow and become stories, complete in themselves. The great majority of my jotted-down ideas, images, and scraps of writing will never become anything more than a few lines in a black-and-red notebook.

The stories in this collection are the ones that got past the notes stage, that became a few paragraphs, then a few pages, and somehow charged on downhill to become complete. They represent a kind of core sample taken through more than fifteen years of writing, from the callow author of twenty-five who wrote Down to the Scum Quarter to the possibly more polished forty-one-year-old writer of Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case.

Fortunately, you have been spared some even earlier efforts, including the heavily T. H. White–influenced short story I published in my school magazine at fifteen, and even my very first professional short story sale, which felt like a great triumph for me at nineteen years old but now looks rather out of place with my later works.

I hope you find some stories here that you will enjoy, or wonder about, or that linger uncomfortably in the mind when you wish they didn’t. But if your favorite story is The Coin Shower, please do not write and tell me that my writing has been going downhill ever since I was six.


December 1, 2004

Sydney, Australia



I have explored Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom a little in my novels Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, and in the process I have found out (for that’s often what it feels like, even though I’m the one making it up) quite a lot about these lands, the people and creatures that inhabit them, and their stories.

But there is much, much more that I don’t know about, and will never know about unless I need it for a story. Unlike many fantasy writers, I don’t spend a lot of time working out and recording tons of background detail about the worlds that I make up. What I do is write the story, pausing every now and then to puzzle out the details or information that I need to know to make the story work. Some of that background material will end up in the story, though it might be veiled, mysterious, or tangential. Much more will sit in my head or roughly jotted down in my notebooks, until I need it next time or until I connect it with something else.

Every time I reenter the world of the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre, I find myself stitching together leftover bits and pieces that I already knew about, as well as inventing some more that seem to go with what is already there.

Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case was particularly interesting for me to write, because in it I connect various bits and pieces of information about Ancelstierre, rather than the Old Kingdom. As always, the story is the most important thing to me, but this novella also gives a glimpse of the people, customs, government, technology, and landscape of Ancelstierre.

Like nearly everything I write, this is a fantasy adventure story, this time with a dash of country-house mystery, a twist of 1920s-style espionage, and a humorous little umbrella on the side that may be safely ignored by those who don’t like it (or don’t get it). Some readers may detect the influence of some of the authors outside the fantasy genre (as it is usually defined today) whom I admire, including Dorothy Sayers and P. G. Wodehouse.

Planned to be a longish short story, Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case grew and grew till it became a novella and ended up taking many more months to write than I had anticipated. It started with these notes:

Nicholas and Uncle to country house

Full of debs and stupid young men

Thing in the Case, eyes follow Nick

Autumn haymaking

thing gets some of Nick’s blood?

refuge in river, thing closes sluice

hay fires in a circle

it is powerful, but poisoned

how far are we from the Wall?

That was the kernel, from which a novella grew over about ten months. I don’t know why I wrote it rather than something else. It wasn’t sold to a publisher, I didn’t have a deadline for it, and I had plenty of other things to do. But only a week or so after writing those notes, I sat down and wrote the first three or four pages in one sitting. I kept coming back to it thereafter, caught up (as I often am as both writer and reader) simply by the desire to see what happened next.


"I AM GOING back to the Old Kingdom, Uncle, said Nicholas Sayre. Whatever Father may have told you. So there is no point in your trying to fix me up with a suitable Sayre job or a suitable Sayre marriage. I am coming with you to what will undoubtedly be a horrendous house party only because it will get me a few hundred miles closer to the Wall."

Nicholas’s uncle Edward, more generally known as The Most Honorable Edward Sayre, Chief Minister of Ancelstierre, shut the red-bound letter book he was reading with more emphasis than he intended, as their heavily armored car lurched over a hump in the road. The sudden clap of the book made the bodyguard in front look around, but the driver kept his eyes on the narrow country lane.

Have I said anything about a job or a marriage? Edward enquired, gazing down his long, patrician nose at his nineteen-year-old nephew. Besides, you won’t even get within a mile of the Perimeter without a pass signed by me, let alone across the Wall.

I could get a pass from Lewis, said Nicholas moodily, referring to the newly anointed Hereditary Arbiter. The previous Arbiter, Lewis’s grandfather, had died of a heart attack during Corolini’s attempted coup d’état half a year before.

No, you couldn’t, and you know it, said Edward.

Lewis has more sense than to involve himself in any aspect of government other than the ceremonial.

Then I’ll have to cross over without a pass, declared Nicholas angrily, not even trying to hide the frustration that had built up in him over the past six months, during which he’d been forced to stay in Ancelstierre. Most of that time spent wishing he’d left with Lirael and Sam in the immediate aftermath of the Destroyer’s defeat, instead of deciding to recuperate in Ancelstierre. It had been weakness and fear that had driven his decision, combined with a desire to put the terrible past behind him. But he now knew that was impossible. He could not ignore the legacy of his involvement with Hedge and the Destroyer, nor his return to Life at the hands—or paws—of the Disreputable Dog. He had become someone else, and he could only find out who that was in the Old Kingdom.

You would almost certainly be shot if you try to cross illegally, said Edward. "A fate you would richly deserve. Particularly since you are not giving me the opportunity to help you. I do not know why you or anyone else would want to go to the Old Kingdom—my year on the Perimeter as General Hort’s ADC certainly taught me the place is best avoided. Nor do I wish to annoy your father and hurt your mother, but there are certain circumstances in which I might grant you permission to cross the Perimeter."

What! Really?

Yes, really. Have I ever taken you or any other of my nephews or nieces to a house party before?

Not that I know—

Do I usually make a habit of attending parties given by someone like Alastor Dorrance in the middle of nowhere?

I suppose not. . . .

Then you might exercise your intelligence to wonder why you are here with me now.

Gatehouse ahead, sir, interrupted the bodyguard as the car rounded a sweeping corner and slowed down. Recognition signal is correct.

Edward and Nicholas leaned forward to look through the open partition and the windscreen beyond. A few hundred yards in front, a squat stone gatehouse lurked just off the road, with its two wooden gates swung back. Two slate-gray Heddon-Hare roadsters were parked, one on either side of the gate, with several mackintosh-clad, weapon-toting men standing around them. One of the men waved a yellow flag in a series of complicated movements that Edward clearly understood and Nicholas presumed meant all was well.

Proceed! snapped the Chief Minister. Their car slowed more, the driver shifting down through the gears with practiced double-clutching. The mackintosh-clad men saluted as the car swung off the road and through the gate, dropping their salute as the rest of the motorcade followed. Six motorcycle policemen were immediately behind, then another two cars identical to the one that carried Nicholas and his uncle, then another half dozen police motorcyclists, and finally four trucks that were carrying a company of fully armed soldiery. Corolini’s attempted putsch had failed, and there had surprisingly been no further trouble from the Our Country Party since, but the government continued to be nervous about the safety of the nation’s Chief Minister.

So, what is going on? asked Nicholas. Why are you here? And why am I here? Is there something you want me to do?

At last, a glimmer of thought. Have you ever wondered what Alastor Dorrance actually does, other than come to Corvere three or four times a year and exercise his eccentricities in public?

Isn’t that enough? asked Nick with a shudder. He remembered the newspaper stories from the last time Dorrance had been in the city, only a few weeks before. He’d hosted a picnic on Holyoak Hill for every apprentice in Corvere and supplied them with fatty roast beef, copious amounts of beer, and a particularly cheap and nasty red wine, with predictable results.

Dorrance’s eccentricities are all show, said Edward.

Misdirection. He is in fact the head of Department Thirteen. Dorrance Hall is the Department’s main research facility.

But Department Thirteen is just a made-up thing, for the moving pictures. It doesn’t really exist . . . um . . . does it?

Officially, no. In actuality, yes. Every state has need of spies. Department Thirteen trains and manages ours, and carries out various tasks ill suited to the more regular branches of government. It is watched over quite carefully, I assure you.

But what has that got to do with me?

Department Thirteen observes all our neighbors very successfully, and has detailed files on everyone and everything important within those countries. With one notable exception. The Old Kingdom.

I’m not going to spy on my friends!

Edward sighed and looked out the window. The drive beyond the gatehouse curved through freshly mown fields, the hay already gathered into hillocks ready to be pitchforked into carts and taken to the stacks. Past the fields, the chimneys of a large country house peered above the fringe of old oaks that lined the drive.

I’m not going to be a spy, Uncle, repeated Nicholas.

I haven’t asked you to be one, said Edward as he looked back at his nephew. Nicholas’s face had paled, and he was clutching his chest. Whatever had happened to him in the Old Kingdom had left him in a very run-down state, and he was still recovering. Though the Ancelstierran doctors had found no external signs of significant injury, his X-rays had come out strangely fogged and all the medical reports said Nick was in the same sort of shape as a man who had suffered serious wounds in battle.

All I want you to do is to spend the weekend here with some of the Department’s technical people, continued Edward. Answer their questions about your experiences in the Old Kingdom, that sort of thing. I doubt anything will come of it, and as you know, I strictly adhere to the wisdom of my predecessors, which is to leave the place alone. But that said, they haven’t exactly left us alone over the past twenty years. Dorrance has always had a bit of a bee in his bonnet about the Old Kingdom, greatly exacerbated by the . . . mmm . . . event at Forwin Mill. It is possible that he might discover something useful from talking to you. So if you answer his questions, you shall have your Perimeter pass on Monday morning. If you’re still set on going, that is.

I’ll cross the Wall, said Nick forcefully. One way or another.

Then I suggest it be my way. You know, your father wanted to be a painter when he was your age. He had talent too, according to old Menree. But our parents wouldn’t hear of it. A grave error, I think. Not that he hasn’t been a useful politician, and a great help to me. But his heart is elsewhere, and it is not possible to achieve greatness without a whole heart.

So all I have to do is answer questions?

Edward sighed the sigh of an older and wiser man talking to a younger, inattentive, and impatient relative.

Well, you will have to appear a little bit at the party. Dinner and so forth. Croquet perhaps, or a row on the lake. Misdirection, as I said.

Nicholas took Edward’s hand and shook it firmly.

You are a splendid uncle, Uncle.

Good. I’m glad that’s settled, said Edward. He glanced out the window. They were past the oak trees now, gravel crunching beneath the wheels as the car rolled up the drive to the front steps of the six-columned entrance. We’ll drop you off, then, and I’ll see you Monday.

Aren’t you staying here? For the house party?

Don’t be silly! I can’t abide house parties of any kind. I’m staying at the Golden Sheaf. Excellent hotel, not too far away. I often go there to get through some serious confidential reading. Place has got its own golf course, too. Thought I might go round tomorrow. Enjoy yourself!

Nicholas hardly caught the last two words as his door was flung open and he was assisted out by Edward’s personal bodyguard. He blinked in the afternoon sunlight, no longer filtered through the smoked glass of the car’s windows. A few seconds later, his bags were deposited at his feet; then the Chief Minister’s cavalcade started up again and rolled out the drive as quickly as it had arrived, the Army trucks leaving considerable ruts in the gravel.

Mr. Sayre?

Nicholas looked around. A top-hatted footman was picking up his bags, but it was another man who had spoken. A balding, burly individual in a dark blue suit, his hair cut so short it was practically a monkish tonsure. Everything about him said policeman, either active or recently retired.

Yes, I’m Nicholas Sayre.

Welcome to Dorrance Hall, sir. My name is Hedge—

Nicholas recoiled from the offered hand and nearly fell over the footman. Even as he regained his balance, he realized that the man had said Hodge and then followed it up with a second syllable.

Hodgeman. Not Hedge.

Hedge the necromancer was finally, completely, and utterly dead. Lirael and the Disreputable Dog had defeated him, and Hedge had gone beyond the Ninth Gate. He couldn’t come back. Nick knew he was safe from him, but that knowledge was purely intellectual. Deep inside him, the name of Hedge was linked irrevocably with an almost primal fear.

Sorry, gasped Nick. He straightened up and shook the man’s hand. Ankle gave way on me. You were saying?

Hodgeman is my name. I am an assistant to Mr. Dorrance. The other guests do not arrive till later, so Mr. Dorrance thought you might like a tour of the grounds.

Um, certainly, replied Nick. He fought back a sudden urge to look around to see who might be listening and, as he started up the steps, resisted the temptation to slink from shadow to shadow just like a spy in a moving picture.

The house was originally built in the time of the last Trouin-Durville Pretender, about four hundred years ago, but little of the original structure remains. Most of the current house was built by Mr. Dorrance’s grandfather. The best feature is the library, which was the great hall of the old house. Shall we start there?

Thank you, replied Nicholas. Mr. Hodgeman’s turn as a tour guide was quite convincing. Nicholas wondered if the man had to do it often for casual visitors, as part of what Uncle Edward would call misdirection.

The library was very impressive. Hodgeman closed the double doors behind them as Nick stared up at the high dome of the ceiling, which was painted to create the illusion of a storm at sea. It was quite disconcerting to look up at the waves and the tossing ships and the low scudding clouds. Below the dome, every wall was covered by tiers of shelves stretching up twenty or even twenty-five feet from the floor. Ladders ran on rails around the library, but no one was using them. The library was silent; two crescent-shaped couches in the center were empty. The windows were heavily curtained with velvet drapes, but the gas lanterns above the shelves burned very brightly. The place looked like there should be people reading in it, or sorting books, or something. It did not have the dark, dusty air of a disused library.

This way, sir, said Hodgeman. He crossed to one of the shelves and reached up above his head to pull out an unobtrusive, dun-colored tome, adorned only with the Dorrance coat of arms, a chain argent issuant from a chevron argent upon a field azure.

The book slid out halfway, then came no farther.

Hodgeman looked up at it. Nick looked too.

Is something supposed to happen?

It gets a bit stuck sometimes, replied Hodgeman. He tugged on the book again. This time it came completely out. Hodgeman opened it, took a key from its hollowed-out pages, pushed two books apart on the shelf below to reveal a keyhole, inserted the key, and turned it. There was a soft click, but nothing more dramatic. Hodgeman put the key back in the book and returned the volume to the shelf.

Now, if you wouldn’t mind stepping this way, Hodgeman said, leading Nick back to the center of the library. The couches had moved aside on silent gears, and two steel-encased segments of the floor had slid open, revealing a circular stone staircase leading down. Unlike the library’s brilliant white gaslights, it was

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  • (5/5)
    Fantasy author Garth Nix collects a novella set in the same world as Sabriel and previously published short stories published from the 1990s to early 2000s and talks that he's given at conferences, each with an introduction explaining the story's origins.The novella that starts the collection was probably my least favorite, as I didn't think it added all that much to what I'd already read in the series. It focuses on a character from Ancelstierre and does give more details of that part of the world of the Abhorsens. The other short stories, however, really show Nix's writing chops and versatility. Some of my favorites included "My New Really Epic Fantasy Series," which was laugh-out-loud funny, and "Endings" which was deliciously creepy. "Charlie Rabbit" impressed me most, as it was an intense story about children affected by war and was very much outside what I've come to expect from Nix, but very well done. An excellent collection for anyone who enjoys them or wants to get a sense of Nix's writing without investing in a novel.
  • (3/5)
    I will admit that "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case" was my primary reason for picking up this book. I wanted more stories based in the Old Kingdom and/or Ancelstierre. My only real complaint is that the story isn't long enough; I would love to see another novel (or two or three!).

    The other stories in the collection are also good. Some I enjoyed more than others, and several of them had me laughing out loud. Definitely a worthwhile read.
  • (3/5)
    The first story in this book of short fiction is about Nicholas Sayre, a character from the Abhorsen series, it’s a really fun and exciting adventure story with a terrifying monster that really makes for a good read. But that really is the only great story. Others are ok, one or two may be good, but they really don't grip the reader that much, and just leave you wanting more from the world of the Abhorsen.The introductions at the beginning of each story is the only thing that saves the book from being a complete let down, and it served as a nice window into Garth Nix's life.Worth a look, but don’t expect too much from Across The Wall.
  • (3/5)
    One last dip into the land outside of the Kingdom of the Abhorsen. I was worried I didn't remember enough from the trilogy and I also missed having Tim Curry read it to me. The story was fine as a vehicle for Sam to make it back to the Kingdom. The other stories were hit or miss, but all short. Nothing that rocked my socks off.
  • (4/5)
    I adore the neighboring worlds of the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre. The Old Kingdom is a darkly fantastical world in which magic not only exists, but is necessary to keep demons trapped past the Nine Gates of death. On its border lies Ancelstierre, which seems both terribly old-fashioned and very modern; the technology and mores seem similar to those of 1940s Britain. The interaction between the two nations--and the clashes and misunderstandings that inevitably occur--are half the fun of the series, for me.
  • (4/5)
    More more more Abhorsen stories please!
  • (4/5)
    A re-read - due to my somehow forgetting to mark down that I'd read the book, and finding another copy at the thrift store for $1. The stories are good enough that I didn't mind re-reading.

    Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case — This story features characters from the 'Abhorsen' series, but relates a stand-alone adventure. Nicholas gets involved with secret agents and has to save the aristocratic attendees of an annoying party from a vicious and magical creature from Across the Wall. Very action-oriented.

    Under the Lake — What if the Lady of The Lake, of Arthurian legend, was an amoral, inhuman creature, interacting with Merlin for her own purposes?

    Charlie Rabbit — A very sentimental, but effective story. Two boys are trapped in a bomb shelter after an air raid. The older boy tells his brother a story starring his toy rabbit to keep from panicking...

    From the Lighthouse — I really like this one. A boorish developer arrives at a remote island that he has (possibly) purchased, with all kinds of plans to change it utterly. But a clever woman does not intend on letting her home be stolen from her community.

    The Hill — Apparently, there was an objection to this story featuring Aboriginal Australian characters, and it got bowdlerized. I'd like to read the original. Still, it's good. Thematically similar to the previous selection: a boy and his grandfather team up to prevent the boy's father from selling the family land to developers.

    Lightning Bringer — This one reminds me a bit of Charles deLint. A young man sees a girl he knows killed by lightning summoned by a strange drifter... There's nothing he can do, but when the man arrives in town for the second time, and sets his sights on his girlfriend, he knows he has to somehow prevent a second crime.

    Down to the Scum Quarter — A 'Choose Your Own Adventure' story. If you remember the series, you'll find this hilarious. If you don't, you'll probably be mystified.

    Heart's Desire — A story of doomed love between Merlin and his apprentice Nimue.

    Hansel's Eyes — A cyberpunk-ish, dystopian & futuristic Hansel and Gretel story, where the witch's cabin is a video game store in a ghetto. Really quite creepy and disturbing.

    Hope Chest — In a Old West town, a foundling girl has a mysterious legacy - that will help her to defeat evil, but lose her the ones that she loved.

    My Really Epic New Fantasy Series — A brief, humorous speech given at a con. Not really necessary. But it's only two pages.

    Three Roses — A short-short with an authentic fairy-tale feel. A king high-handeldly demands ownership of a gardener's roses, but they always fail to thrive...

    Endings — Another short-short - but possibly the most powerful piece in the book. Love it.
  • (2/5)
    I was really let down by this book. I just re-read the Abhorsen series and I loved it as much as I did the first time I read them. With Across the Wall, however, I felt that each story had such an amazing buildup and every ending was just disappointment.
  • (3/5)
    I'm not a fan of short stories, so I'm unfairly predisposed against this book, but I picked it up out of a desire to see what happened next to Nicholas Sayre. And I did. And it was very good.
    And then I had 280 pages of short stories to read.
    Some were very good, some less so. Over all, I'd go with a 3.5 star rating, but I'm rounding down because the book's description was very misleading (it implies that the collection has many Abhorsen-world stories with a few unrelated ones, whereas the actual collection has only the one Nick Sayre novella in that universe). So. 3 stars.
  • (2/5)
    Meh. I've already read the two good stories in this book (the title story and "Hope Chest") and the others are not very interesting. Plus his introductions to each story are self-congratulatory.

    I love the Abhorsen books but the rest of his work is only moderate.
  • (4/5)
    The Abhorsen universe story that begins this collection was really a lot of fun. I've always really liked Nicholas, being a skeptic myself. It's a great story in its own right, but I'm still longing for the Old Kingdom and more stories of the Charter.I was pleased to find that I enjoyed the author's writing in other worlds as well. I think the Arthurian stories were my favorite of the collection (probably because I am not at all well versed in the traditional legends), with "The Hill" and "Three Roses" close behind. The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure tale proved that I am really a major dork in that I actually pulled up an online dice emulator to move through the plot honestly (and was victorious!).
  • (3/5)
     Short stories with author intros - nothing amazing, but pleasant to read. The Choose Your Own Adventure parody wasn't followable on my iPod screen, but I could taste scenes enough to get an idea of the fun.
  • (3/5)
    There can't be many children's fantasy authors who have remained untouched by the Arthurian legend:John Masefield, Alan Garner, Ursula LeGuin (she shows this awareness in her introduction to 'Tales from Earhsea'), Dian Wynne Jones, Joan Aiken and Philip Reeve are all writers who spring to mind as acknowledging the huge influence of the Matter of Britain. The Australian author Garth Nix is another who makes his debt clear.Nix is best known for his sequence of outstanding novels set largely in the Old Kingdom, across the Wall from Ancelstierre. This setting is deliberately reminiscent of Scotland, Hadrian's Wall and the North of England respectively, but there any resemblance ends, for these are tales of magic--Free Magic, Charter Magic, prophetic sight and the constant war with the Dead. 'Across the Wall' does include a novella related to these worlds, but the other twelve stores take different directions, some promising, others less so. Here I want to just mention two of them.Nix confesses that he "doesn't like the Arthurian mythos", believing that "there are already too many stories and books that have mined the canon" re-using the same stories "tih little or no variation of character, plot, theme or imagery". So when he does give in to requests to write Arthuriana we can and do expect something approaching at a tangent.'Under the Lake' and 'Heart's Desire' don't disappoint, taking an obtuse look at the Lady of the lake and at Merlin's infatuation with Nimue. Nix focuses on character motivation, so that the clichéd tales become reforged, shining with a strange familiarity while retaining a semblance of their traditional shapes. Worth reading for these two tales alone, 'Across the Wall' might well encourage you to search out his other electrifying novels if you haven't yet come across them.
  • (4/5)
    This is a collection of short stories by the author of the Abhorsen trilogy and the Keys to the Kingdom series for younger readers. Although the subtitle ("A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories) and cover design would indicate that this is being marketed to readers of the Abhorsen series only one of the short stories is set in the same world as the Abhorsen series and an Abhorsen only turns up on the last page of that story. Having said that, the Abhorsen story (The Creature in the Case) was pretty good as I expected. I enjoyed the breadth of the stories in this collection, there's one story set in Australia, one more science fictiony story, one with an old-fashioned Western style, some Arthurian retellings and one fantastic spoof of the "choose your own adventure" genre with a Three Musketeers theme. If you're only interested in the Abhorsen story then I think you can get hold of it separately but I think the other stories in this book are well worth a look and each has an introduction by Nix explaining why he originally wrote it which was very nice.
  • (4/5)
    An anthology of fantasy stories by Garth Nix, most well known for his Abhorsen Trilogy. There is quite a mixture of different stories included in the collection which includes a story set around the Abhorsen stories. Instead of reviewing all the stories I will just mention some of the ones that really stood out.Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the CaseA tale of Nicholas from the Abhorsen series who lives in Ancelstierre. His ambition is to return to the Old Kingdom and see Lirael. His uncle will help him if he answers some questions for the mysterious Department Thirteen. Dorrance runs the Department and is an eccentric who owns a strange free magic creature in a case form the Old Kingdom and Nicholas is convinced it is still alive.Lightening Bringer This was my favourite in the collection. It mixed controlling minds, seeing auras, lightening, sex and love. It reminded me of The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman which is another story I love.Down to Scum QuarterA fun "choose your own adventure" story that plays with Zoro and the Three Muskateers. Very silly but a lot of fun.Hearts DesireA re-telling of the Merlin/Nimue myth from Arthurian legends. To gain power one must catch a star and give up their heart's desire. Merlin caught his star years ago and knows his future and now it is the turn of Nimue.Hope ChestA fantasy Western tale about a baby girl who is found on a train with a note saying her name is Alice May Susan and she will bring good luck. She is adopted along with a mysterious trunk which none can open until she turns 16. What she finds inside helps her go after a dangerous cult leader called The Master.Three RosesA sad and poignant tale about a man who growa beautiful roses for the love of his dead wife.One thing I really enjoyed about this collection was the introduction to each story by Nix. They give you an idea of what the story is about and why he wrote it and what it was written for. I really look forward to reading more of his writing.
  • (4/5)
    This is a set of short stories based on the Abhorsen Trilogy. Unfortunately, they lack flow and continuation like the long stories Garth Nix is used to writing. Disappointing in their dis-jointedness, and some stories are intentionally left unfinished, which is not satisfying to the fan of the Abhorsen Trilogy who would like more background information on the characters/situations.
  • (5/5)
    Garth Nix writes well and this collection of short stories is no exception.I was drawn to this book after having completed the Abhorsen series. The first short story picks up where Abhorsen left off and shows that young Nick Sayre can handle himself in a crisis, even if he feels he bungled the job.Two of the stories are Arthurian in nature and involve Merlin. Bot takes characters and give "back stories" about them while staying within the realm of the Arthur myths.One story is a kind of do-it-yourself story in that the author gives you paragraphs that send you elsewhere in the story depending on how you make a choice at the end of the paragraph. It lends itself to you, the reader, actually creating several different stories on your own using his words.
  • (5/5)
    I was initially hesitant to jump into this collection of short stories as the first is set in Nix's Old Kingdom. It's been quite some time since I read "Sabriel," "Lirael," and "Abhorsen" and I was nervous that I would not remember enough of the details of those stories to enjoy "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case" without spending most of the time while reading it trying to remember what/who was being referenced. If that started happening, I would be forced to re-read the entire 1,744 page saga in order to enjoy this book. I do intend to re-read those books someday, but as I'm trying to do 200 books this year, that would really set me back. I was pleased to find that I could quite enjoy the story as Nix provided enough reminders and backstory that I was able to jump right back in.I was also quite enamoured of the other stories in the book. These are an excellent sampling of the Author's work over the years. I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite, and, as with almost no short story collection I have ever read before, I did not dislike any of them. The best thing about the anthology is the author's introductions to each of them. These paragraphs gave insight into both the origin of the story and the writing process of the author himself, information I always find fascinating. I find, also, that it gives the reader a much richer reading experience.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent short stories and great to return to the Wall.
  • (4/5)
    This is a collection of 12 short stories and 1 novella by the author, each previously published in one format or another. The best of the collection is the title story, a novella set in the world of the Abhorsen trilogy and a direct sequel to the third book, Abhorsen. The other stories vary, some I really liked, others did nothing for me. Generally, Nix's writing is grim and dark and it is these stories that I enjoyed. The few stories that were light or humourous just did not entertain me at all. I highly recommend the reading of the title story for fans of the trilogy. The rest of the stories may be enjoyed by others. #1 - Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case - This 95-page novella starts shortly after the events of the book Abhorsen. Nicholas Sayre is recuperating in Ancelstierre at the home of an acquaintance of his father's. He soon finds that the body of a Free Magic creature is stored in the underground rooms. The creature is not dead though and soon finds the strength to return to life but he has a craving for blood. Nicholas must stop the beast before he kills them all. This was a wonderful, fast-paced read that gave the reader greater insight into Nicholas' character. An appearance by Lireal at the end is a delight. I don't think the story would make much sense to anyone who hasn't read the trilogy though. #2 - Under the Lake - An Arthurian tale of the Lady in the Lake. A quiet, lyrical story that tells of how the lady, who is not really a lady at all, ended up in the lake. This was just ok, different but nothing special. #3. Charlie Rabbit - This was a very grim story of children in wartime. A boy and his little brother, along with his toy rabbit, are alone when their house is bombed in the middle of the night. A chilling tale. #4. From the Lighthouse - This was a bit strange and I'm not sure I really got it. A man arrives on an island and tells the residents that he has just bought the island and is now their new owner. His guide pretends to be happy for him but has other plans in mind. #5. The Hill - A boy rushes off to tell his great-great-grandfather that his father is selling the family property. So the old man rushes off to prevent it. Another good one. #6. Lightning Bringer - A man comes to town wielding a terrible power. He realizes that a boy can see his power and is just like him. He tells the boy he must use his power before he loses it. There is more to the story but it would give it away to say more. I liked this one, it was pretty cool. #7. Down to the Scum Quarter - This was a lot of fun! A parody of the choose your own adventure books, you must rescue your beloved who has been kidnapped and taken to the seedy part of town. My first try, I made three moves and ended up dead. Then I started over and made it through to the end alive. I used to be addicted to these books as a kid so this was really fun for me. #8. Heart's Desire - In this story we learn the reasons behind the Merlin/Nimue story of Arthurian legend. Merlin is my favourite Arthurian character and the Merlin/Nimue relationship intrigues me but this story fell flat with me. It was just overall, rather boring. #9. Hansel's Eyes - A retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story with a modern twist. The witch entices children not with candy but with PlayStation games and systems, nor does she wish to eat the children but rather sells their parts for organ transplants. This was very good and one of my favourites. #10. Hope Chest - This is one of the longer stories in the book and aside from the title novella, my favourite story in the book. This is set in a quasi wild west/alternate USA world. A baby is found abandoned in a small town. One family adopts her and she grows up to be a young lady. The baby was found with a large hope chest but no one has ever been able to open it. Upon the girl's 16th birthday, the chest opens for her and the girl's destiny starts to unravel as she must save the town from an evil that is taking over the world. This was really good and one of those stories you want more of and wish there were a whole book. #11. My New Really Epic Fantasy Series - This is a humourous speech the author has given several times that is a parody of epic fantasy series. I didn't find it particularly funny. #12. Three Roses - Very short, sweet fairy tale about a gardener who grows roses with the love of his dead wife. #13. Endings - Another very short story. A vampire tells how, in the end, he was killed. The last two stories were short but I enjoyed them both.
  • (5/5)
    Even the stories that I didn't like as much were good, this has several great stories, particularly the Abhorsen story.Well recommended particularly if you're a fan or looking for a taster.
  • (3/5)
    I loved the first novella, Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case. I miss the Old Kingdom already. :p
  • (5/5)
    The Abhorsen Trilogy is possibly my all time favorite childhood fantasy series. So you know what...Garth Nix can go back to this world anytime he likes and I will follow. That is much how I came into contact with this collection, and I really enjoyed not just the novella but all the tales.Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case - It was really just a pleasure to go back into this world that I've always so enjoyed. And the appearance of Lirael at the end certainly didn't hurt. It was a quick read, as are all things Garth Nix writes, but a fulfilling one, an enjoyable one.Under the Lake - The first of two Arthurian tales. I adored it. The lady of the lake is possibly my all time favorite character from the myths....and I loved this new take on things.Charlie Rabbit - It broke my heart. The short tale gives you just a brief glimpse into the lives of children facing like in the middle of a war zone. And sometimes the faith of a small child...isn't always for naught. You may not see it that way. Or even afterward view it the same way the small child did. But he was right. Charlie Rabbit did save them.From the Lighthouse - Nix took a bit of a step into the Sci-Fi realm... and while I like the concept and the setting... due to its length...I think I just feel like I'm missing out on more of a story. But nice nonetheless.The Hill - I adored this. The setting, the young boy, the old man, the cab driver, the young boy's father....everything seemed so fleshed out...though the short story is just that short. I didn't feel like I was just glimpsing this story. I understood this story. A love of a land and how it should be. Longing to the simplicity of the past before everything became all about money and greed and what you can get from something rather than just enjoying something.Lightning Bringer - I appreciated it...and the lightning concept reminded me a bit of Something Wicked This Way Comes. But not one of my favorites.Down to the Scum Quarter - Brilliant! I laughed. Choose Your Own Adventures...shall always be grand.. especially with the humor of well Nix.Heart's Desire - The second of the two Arthurian tales, and once again I adored it. Because he picked up on my other favorite part of the myth. The twisted tale of Merlin and Nimue. I love this take how well why everything fell apart. Why a great man such as Merlin fell for Nimue to begin with. Loved it.Hansel's Eyes - I love modern day takes on fairy tales. I always have and always will. Because the tales that were creepy when we were young...remain creepy to our older selves when they are taken from a hidden faraway fantastical world. And put into our own modern day one.Hope Chest - Brilliant! I wish there was more. Or that it could be lengthened to an actual novel. There is so much here. And so much I am left wondering out. Plus...I have a soft spots for tales about ordinary women who suddenly come into powers and kick major ass.My New Really Epic Fantasy Series - Just a riot! I laughed all the way through.Three Roses - Just really short, simple, and sweet.Endings - Another tale that I wish I had been given more of. Simply because it was so well awesome really. Because within three pages...there was so much story there. So much woven into that short amount of words. Love!
  • (5/5)
    More tremendous writing from Nix. A couple things made this especially cool to read: First, Nix does a brief intro to each story, and I have not read much of him writing about himself. Second, the rich humour in a number of the tales (2 are even satire) and also in the intros. The story "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case" I had read before in a special edition, but I'm sure it helped spark interest in this very worthy collection.
  • (4/5)
    While I picked up this book for the title story, which takes place in the Abhorsen universe, I was more charmed by the delightful parody of Choose Your Own Adventure Novels. Garth Nix has the rare ability to write intense fantasy drama as well as laugh-out-loud comedy!
  • (3/5)
    The long Old Kingdom story in this collection, "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Cabinet," is really well-written and a lot of fun. The other stories vary in quality and are by and large kind of forgettable.