Candy Quackenbush is growing up in Chickentown, Minnesota, yearning for more–which she finds, quite unexpectedly, when a man with eight heads appears from nowhere in the middle of the prairie, being chased by something really monstrous. And so begins Candy’s epic adventure to the islands of the Abarat. Peopled by all manner of creatures, cultures, and customs, the islands should prove a fertile setting for the series that Barker is calling The Books of Abarat. Candy is an intelligent and likable heroine, and the many supporting characters are deftly drawn, both in words and in the full-color interior art that Barker has produced to give the story an extra dimension.
Abarat, written by Clive Barker, is weird . . . . Like, really weird, and kind of uncomfortable, which I think is a staple of Clive Barker’s books. Oddly enough, however, that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, I got so sucked into this book that I still go back and read it from time to time. The engaging story is made even more enchanting by the amazingly unique art that accompanies it. But . . . it’s weird.
I feel like that’s going to be a common refrain for this book. Indeed, this entire book series (for yes! It is now a series, with 3, and an upcoming 4th book!
Which I did not know until I was researching for this post. Awkward.)
I can summarize this book the best I can, but I honestly don’t think it will be nearly adequate enough to explain it. It’s really one you have to read to understand, much like The Westing Game.
There are many central characters, but the most important is Candy, a young heroine that is literally thrown into a new world that she had no awareness of before she found a lighthouse in the middle of a field on the outskirts of the Midwest town she had grown up in. Despite her ignorance of the world, she and Abarat are linked by magics and forces as yet unexplained.
Ha ha. Sorry, sorry. Couldn’t resist!
But seriously, it is actually witchcraft. There are all kinds of crazy magics and people wandering around Abarat, a world made up of 25 islands, each pertaining to one hour of the day (plus one extra for mysterious reasons). Candy makes her way through some of the islands, the hours of which I can’t remember, and meets all kinds of interesting people.
The story has a habit of switching from character perspective to character perspective, which I actually like. It makes the whole thing more rounded and developed, and we get the perspectives on characters that aren’t just the main heroine and her friends. We get the main villain’s perspective a couple of times, and I remember actually getting really into his story,
but that might be because I tend to glomp onto villains with the sense of a sinking person to an anchor and wanting to know how the whole thing resolves.
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.
No, there was always going to be a sequel to this book, and that left me freakishly frustrated and drooling over the sequel the minute it came out. And even that didn’t resolve anything, just left me with a void of feeling, which I think I’ve heard is also common for Clive Barker. Now that I know about the third one, I think I’ll go look it up and see if there’s anything worth mentioning. I was a little turned off by the series after the second one, but the first one was a brilliant and engaging. I totally recommend it
obviously and encourage you to keep going with the series. If for no other reason than to keep dreaming of the possibility that any of the subplots will eventually make sense.