I'm having a lot of mixed feelings about this book.
On the one hand, it is so refreshing to read a fantasy novel - especially one that aims at kids or teens - that doesn't pander to its audience. This novel starts off fast and does not let up. You miss something as you go, tough cookies (especially if you're reading an ebook and it's hard to return to prior parts of the novel...). I love that there's no extraneous description, but jeez, you better like this story right away - it flies at you fast and there is no room for "getting used to" anything.
On the other hand, I just couldn't get into the characters. They felt briefly sketched, not fully realized. Sabriel is one more in the long line of girls left by their parents to fend for themselves, with skills they weren't really aware of (magical skills, duh) and thrust into extraordinarily difficult situations whereby they have to use those skills.
In trying to pinpoint what I specifically disliked, I think it's the lack of angst on the part of Sabriel. That's an odd thing for me to say because I have very little sympathy for whiny heroines, but even though there's some guilt and some sadness and some frustration, it didn't seem like a girl with this set of problems should be so, well, put together. Again, I think this may be the speed problem - "just like her right off the bat, darn it, because there's a lot more for me to tell you."
One of my fave Goodreads reviewers says the second book is better than the first, so I'll try that one in a bit. Hopefully, I'll like it a little more.