Cover Across the Wall: A boy holding a knife surrounded by fire and a monster in the corner

About the Book

Title: Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories (Abhorsen #3.5)
Published: 2005

Cover Story: Misleading
The Best: “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case”, “Charlie Rabbit”
The Worst: “Under the Lake”
The Weird: “The Lightning Bringer”, “The Hope Chest”
Bonus Factors: Australia, Choose Your Own Adventure
Anti-bonus Factor: Crappy Parents
Break Glass In Case Of: An All-Abiding Love of Garth Nix

Cover Story: Misleading

The cover borrows from the first and only story that takes place in the Abhorsen world, featuring Nicholas—looking a lot more dashing than he does on the original cover—and the Creature. After finishing the book, this seems slightly misleading and feels like the publisher’s attempt to ensnare unsuspecting Sabriel fans into thinking this is a new book focused on short stories all about the Old Kingdom. Let this be your warning that this is not the case.

The Deal:

Are you a famous author who has spent their three-decade career writing a bunch of short stories for different anthologies or magazines and then randomly decided to include them all together in one place? No? Well, then I guess your name isn’t Garth Nix.

The Best: “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case”

This story fits in between Abhorsen and Goldenhand, serving as an immediate lead in to the start of the newest book. Nicholas has spent the last six months recuperating from his near death experience and daydreaming about a certain dark-haired necromancer. As a trade-off for a visa back to the Old Kingdom, he agrees to attend a government dinner party and answer any questions about his experiences. If we know anything by now, it’s that nothing ever goes according to plan.

It’s not strictly necessary to read this before diving into the latest release, but you will get a fuller idea of what Nick’s been up to, plus as a bonus you’ll revisit a scene from Goldenhand from both Nick and Lirael’s perspectives, and, I don’t know about you, but I always love the feeling of omniscience.

The Best: “Charlie Rabbit”

I fell right into this story of two young brothers trying to survive on their own during an ongoing war in their home country. Nix explained he wrote this to show that when there’s conflict, children are always the losers. Most of these stories include a fantastical element, but this one didn’t need any embellishment to evoke my horror. I wanted to hug Abbas and Joshua and not let go.

The Worst: “Under the Lake”

There are two King Arthur inspired shorts here, and they both bored me. To be fair, I’ve never been a King Arthur fan, so it was not easy for me to understand the implied backstory that seemed necessary in order to full grasp the plot points. This was an attempt, I guess, to reimagine the Lady of the Lake as something other than a watery goddess, and it made her into a kind of witchy, navel-gazing jerk. I couldn’t bring myself care about the long, drawn out history of the forging of Excalibur.

The Weird: “The Lightning Bringer”

A boy obsesses for years about the connection between the murder of a teenage girl and a homeless grifter who seems to harness the power of lightning, until, one day, the grifter returns…and sets his sights for the boy’s girlfriend. This was alternately campy and amusing (it brought the lolz when someone’s clothes got sizzled off during a fit of passion) and felt like a ‘80s movie about sexual awakening.

The Weird: “The Hope Chest”

I would not have imagined a Western-Hitler-Chosen One genre mashup working, but this…wasn’t bad? It got a little weird and a lot dark near the end, but the beginning—opening on a baby abandoned at a train station with nothing but a trunk that couldn’t be unlocked—hit all the right notes.

Bonus Factor: Australia

Sydney Opera House at sunset

“The Hill” waxes poetic about the Australian bush and preserving its natural beauty. If it weren’t for the giant spiders and the fact that everything there wants to kill you, I would be on a plane to Australia tomorrow (though perhaps the lack of disposable travel funds and vacation time has a little something to do with it, too).

Bonus Factor: Choose Your Own Adventure

Various covers of the old Choose Your Own Adventure series

Your lady love has been kidnapped! What do you do first, grab the gun or halberd? The last thing I was expecting when I opened this book was a Choose Your Own Adventure style story, but Nix delivered with “Down to the Scum Quarter”. It was strange and satirical and confusing, but I can’t help it; it’s engrained in me to love these types of stories. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can follow his detailed cosplay instructions to get the most out of your experience.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

Absentee or horrible parents play into at least three of the stories, with the worst, by far, appearing in “Hansel’s Eyes” in the form of a dad who allows his children to be abandoned in various locations by their stepmom Hagmom. 

Break Glass In Case Of: An All-Abiding Love of Garth Nix

Aside from the Abhorsen novella, I don’t think there’s a real need to pick this anthology up unless you are a Nix-stan and must read everything he’s done. I was mildly entertained by most of the stories, but there wasn’t one stand-out among them that I really had to read.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.