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

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

by Garth Nix


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Nicholas Sayre will do anything to get across the Wall, back to the Old Kingdom.

Thoughts of Lirael and Sam haunt his dreams, and he has come to realize that his destiny lies there, along with all those he cares for. But here in Ancelstierre, far south of the Wall, the Charter is dormant, and among the obstacles Nick faces is one that is not entirely human, and which has a strange power that seems to come from Nicholas himself.

With "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case," Garth Nix continues to explore the magical world of The Abhorsen Trilogy. In additional short stories that range from classic fantasy -- two widely different takes on the Merlin myth -- to a gritty urban version of Hansel and Gretel, to an unusual take on the role of nature in matters of love, and to a heartbreaking story of children and war, Garth Nix displays the range and versatility that have made him one of today's leading writers of fantasy for readers of all ages.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060747152
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/01/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 381,386
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.86(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

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

Read an Excerpt

Across the Wall

A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories
By Garth Nix

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Garth Nix
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060747145

Chapter One

Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case

"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," saidEdward. "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...


Excerpted from Across the Wall by Garth Nix Copyright © 2006 by Garth Nix. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case3
Under the Lake95
Charlie Rabbit107
From the Lighthouse125
The Hill139
Lightning Bringer157
Down to the Scum Quarter173
Heart's Desire223
Hansel's Eyes237
Hope Chest253
My New Really Epic Fantasy Series287
Three Roses295

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Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 76 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a vibrant collection of Garth Nix's short stories. The novella about Nick Sayre is a thrilling addition to the Abhorsen trilogy, while the rest of his stories are extremely diverse. It ranges from fairy tales to Arthurian legend to entirely new ideas. Yet even the material inspired by outside sources are incredibly unique, such as a modernized version of Hansel and Gretel or a completely new way of looking at Merlin and the Lady of the Lake. This collection is perfect for anyone who enjoys Nix, Arthurian legend, fairy tales, or the fantasy genre in general. Nix also provides brief introductions to each story, so readers can also get a glimpse into the writing process and where inspiration comes from.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In its own way the novella is the perfect wrap up of the series, even if it wasn't intended for that purpose in the first place. We see how Nick and Lirael have transfered back into normal life after the traumatic events brought around by the joining of the hemispheres. Hey, there's even a little fluff flirting which is both hilarious and adorable. The other stories are just as wonderful with my personal favorite being down to scum quarter. The range of Garth Nix's ability is astounding. A wonderful collection worth a read or two or three.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lots of people seem to think that this was meant to be part of the Abhorsen Trilogy. IT WAS NOT! It is a collection of short stories, and just because they aren't about Sabriel or Lirael does not make them bad. I thought most of them to be very excellent. Read with an open mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The novella about Nick was great! I know people are upset that it wasn't another book for the abhorsen triliogy (hint: the are three, not 4, books in a trilogy), but a novella is just a fun addendum the author decided to add. THe other stories in the volume are well thought out and clever, especially the charlie rabbit one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like some of the other reviewers, I was in tears when I heard that there was going to be another book, I was ecsatic. I was really sorry that the Abhorsen book was such a cliff hanger, it practically killed me. I am so glad that he has written another story, even if it is just a novella. ~ Piper~
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
koalamom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
EmScape on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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
vintage_books on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
souloftherose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Rhinoa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
ed.pendragon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
allify on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the first novella, Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case. I miss the Old Kingdom already. :p
meerka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent short stories and great to return to the Wall.
verbafacio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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!
omphalos02 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Alera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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!
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Crowyhead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"What's wrong?" She asked softly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He hummed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago