Sabriel--I was hooked. Here was a place I'd never been in a book. And I think that's why Sabriel has a spot on my top shelf. Garth Nix has opened a door into a world that's so fully realized and so unique, you can't help but want to go back, even if that world is not always pleasant.
Early in the story, Sabriel discovers that her father, the Abhorsen, is missing. When she first sets out to find him, her mission is personal, but she soon realizes just how much his services mean to the Old Kingdom. The Abhorsen keeps the Dead in check, keeps them banished to Death where they should be. Without him, the Dead are at the beck and call of others who would use them. And so Sabriel sets off on a dangerous journey, through the kingdom, and also through Death.
Normally, I might not enjoy a book where the undead walk, their fleshlesh joints grinding and clacking as they go. But this story also has many of the things I love--characters who become friends, a fascinating world with magic that feels real, heart-pumping action, and even a bit of romance.
I also love it when a good book has sequels. Lirael and Ahorsen are excellent follow-ups. But Mr. Nix, I really could use one more trip to the Old Kingdom.