“The storm came up out of the southwest like a fiend, stalking its prey on legs of lightning.” From Clive Barker’s Abarat.
I posted the other afternoon that in my search for reading brain candy a friend suggested that I pick up the young adult fantasy novel Abarat by Clive Barker. Barker is much better known for his horror writings, but Abarat is the first in his young adult series. In a morsel, Abarat is the story of a young girl who escapes a life of boring monotony in modern Minnesota and transports to a magical and wondrous world where she is of some great (though unknown) importance. The world and creatures of Abarat are delightfully and colorfully illustrated throughout the novel by Barker.
First, Abarat definitely served its purpose and gave my mind the splash of rather thoughtless fun and amusement that I craved. The actual landscape and environments that Barker provides are brilliant. Abarat is a world consisting of twenty-five islands. Twenty-four of these islands represent an hour of the day (and that hour is always fixed on that island) and the twenty-fifth island is even more magical and mysterious than the rest of the islands. Our heroine Candy Quackenbush is likable, meets some delightful locals, and becomes the obsession of the Dark Lord on the island of midnight.
While I have never read any of Barker’s adult books there was some narrative struggle in Abarat. At times the narrative quipped and worked well as a young adult read with convenient and nice themes, morals, and humor. However, the book became patchy when involving more serious and dramatic scenes. Abarat has some brilliant, descriptive moments such as when two brothers have been led into fighting each other to the death or when the creative character John Mischief is born again healed from a plant, but as a whole the novel lacked fluidity. In the beginning of the novel there was also some struggle in introducing the characters.
Despite these issues, there are more than enough well-done and fascinating moments in the book to get the reader over any strained humps. The story is imaginative and I have been told to expect even more from the second book (currently in print) from the series (Abarat, particularly towards the end, has some curious and intriguing suggestions of what is to come). In addition, even if you have no intention of reading the book Barker’s illustrations are fabulous and add a lovely quality to the book that encouraged me to flip ahead and try to guess what would come next.
This is most definitely a book I would suggest to young adults and independent readers. For adults, I would caution that themes and development in the book are not its strong points, but that the first book in the Abarat establishes a colorful world that is pleasant to sink into.
Other opinions: Fyrefly’s Book Blog.