Abarat is the first in a new YA fantasy series by horror master, Clive Barker. The story is simple: Candy Quackenbush lives a boring life in Chickentown, MN with her abusive father and distant mother. After drawing an odd doodle in her workbook, Candy is drawn out of school to a field beyond the city. What she finds is something far removed from her reality. By an out-of-place ruined lighthouse she meets a strange eight-headed man, John Mischief and his brothers. Since they are being pursued by the malevolent Mendelson Shape, the Johns give her a strange package to keep and convince her to start the lighthouse and call Mama Izabella, the sea, to carry them to Abarat. And here Candy’s adventure begins.
The Abarat is an archipelago with each island a different hour of the day. Its inhabitants are a varied lot; some fantastical, some grotesque, but all with a definite Barker flavor. Through her travels, Candy learns that she is the first person in generations to cross over from the Hereafter (the Abaratian word for our world). And that has made her well known to some, most notably Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight. As Carrion pursues her, she is also brought to the attention of Rojo Pixler. With his Commexo kid, Pixler is the embodiment of capitalist monopolies. I began to wonder who the real villan is, Carrion or Pixler.
Although I enjoyed this book immensely, the plot is simplistic and Candy’s character struck me as very flat. I had the feeling that Barker knew how he wanted Candy to change as a result of her travels, but wasn’t entirely sure how she should start out. I think the Candy he wanted to write about is the one already changed by experience and I look forward to reading more about her adventures. What the story lacks in intricacies Barker makes up for in imagery and imagination. The creatures that inhabit the Abarat are unlike any others I have come across. I am still awed by his ability to create darkly beautiful images that make me feel as if I have traveled along with Candy to the Abarat.
Abarat by Clive Barker is an entertaining read for adults and young adults. If you’re looking for a fantasy that is not the “sword and sorcery” type, this is a great book to try.
Abarat by Clive Barker
Reprinted by HarperTrophy
Abarat is available at Amazon.com
The second book, Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War is also available.
I reviewed Abarat from my own personal library