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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations



by Clive Barker

Reviewed December 7, 2002.
A Joanna Cotler Book, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2002.  390 pages. 
Available at Sembach Library (JF BAR).

I have to confess that I was prepared not to like this book.  I think of Clive Barker as a horror writer, and I don’t like horror.  I also don’t like the idea that an author for adults can decide to write a kids’ book and instantly receive huge acclaim, when all the time there are countless specialists’ in children’s books who far more richly deserve the attention.

However, despite my prejudices, I was impressed with this book.  It was a little too dark for me to love it, but I have to acknowledge that Clive Barker has created a well-written and unique fantasy tale.  His imagination is incredible—if leaning a bit toward the nightmarish.  Who else has ever thought of a character with antlers and seven heads growing out of them?  All of the heads are named John, with different last names.  The author’s imagination seems boundless.

This volume is said to be the First Book of Abarat, and indeed the story it presents is left hanging, ending at a lull rather than at a point of completion.  The story it begins is intriguing.  Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown, Minnesota lives a boring and awful life.  Her father is a drunkard, her mother puts up with it, and her teacher persecutes her.  One day, Candy follows a longing and wanders away—and finds another world.

First she meets John Mischief, of the many heads, who tells her how to bring an ocean before she is captured by the horrible Mendelson Shape.  They cross the ocean, which brings her to the islands of Abarat, where every island is a different hour of the day.  The Lord of Midnight wants Candy and the Key that John Mischief gave her.  As she tries to elude the various messengers of the Lord of Midnight, she meets strange and amazing creatures.  Her adventures are never boring.  We learn that she is in Abarat for a reason, but we still don’t know what that reason is before the end of the book.

This book has been beautifully created.  It is printed on extra thick glossy paper, and sprinkled with elaborate paintings done by Clive Barker.  He has created an astonishing world, and I will definitely be looking forward to reading the sequels.  Although the book is too dark to capture my heart, it has definitely captivated my imagination.

Reader comment:  Violet gives Abarat five stars, with the comment:  "Abarat is a masterpiece. This book captivates the attention and holds on. An unimaginable world of incredibly  strange and wonderful of creatures, unimaginable lands, and the tantalizing dark characters. The book is wrought with peril and mystery, but has the light, kind character too. Abarat- separated by night and day, Clive Barker illustrates the evil side of the lord of midnight and other villans, yet shows their deepest desires and sadness. The heros in the book are wonderfully described, with strenghs, weaknesses and fears."  

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.
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