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It Begins in the Most boring place in the world: Chickentown, U.S.A. There lives Candy Quackenbush, her heart bursting for some clue as to what her future might hold.

When the answer comes, it's not one she expects. Out of nowhere comes a wave, and Candy, led by a man called John Mischief (whose brothers live on the horns on his head), leaps into the surging waters and is carried away.

Where? To the Abarat: a vast archipelago where every island...

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It Begins in the Most boring place in the world: Chickentown, U.S.A. There lives Candy Quackenbush, her heart bursting for some clue as to what her future might hold.

When the answer comes, it's not one she expects. Out of nowhere comes a wave, and Candy, led by a man called John Mischief (whose brothers live on the horns on his head), leaps into the surging waters and is carried away.

Where? To the Abarat: a vast archipelago where every island is a different hour of the day, from The Great Head that sits in the mysterious twilight waters of Eight in the Evening, to the sunlit wonders of Three in the Afternoon, where dragons roam, to the dark terrors of Gorgossium, the island of Midnight, ruled over by the Prince of Midnight himself, Christopher Carrion.

As Candy journeys from one amazing place to another, making fast friends and encountering treacherous foes -- mechanical bugs and giant moths, miraculous cats and men made of mud, a murderous wizard and his terrified slave -- she begins to realize something. She has been here before.

Candy has a place in this extraordinary world: she is here to help save the Abarat from the dark forces that are stirring at its heart. Forces older than Time itself, and more evil than anything Candy has ever encountered.

She's a strange heroine, she knows. But this is a strange world.

And in the Abarat, all things are possible.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Clive Barker, the sultan of fantastic horror, has ventured out with another project aimed at younger audiences, this time a weighty and spellbinding first book in a series dubbed The Books of the Abarat.

Candy Quackenbush is a troubled yet good-natured Minnesotan girl, but when she ventures into an empty field one day and meets John Mischief, a creature with seven extra talking heads on his antlers, she's rendered awestruck and knows she's bound for a heap of adventure. Soon the two are narrowly escaping a dark hunter sent by the evil Lord Carrion and diving into the Sea of Izabella, a vast ocean containing 25 islands that stand for each hour of the day, plus a mystical Twenty-Fifth Hour. As Candy embarks on her adventure throughout this mind-bending archipelago, she visits the average citizens of Yebba Dim Day, joins a clan of tarrie-cats and slothlike Malingo to battle the dastardly Kaspar Wolfswinkel, and even gets a horrific taste of the Twenty-Fifth Hour itself.

Barker's first installment will send you excitedly jumping headfirst into the unknown, and you'll be itching to read more. An introduction to a fantastic world, Abarat introduces readers to an abundance of characters who play both major and secondary roles, but all seem to have a reason for being included -- not necessarily revealed here -- which makes the plot that much more suspenseful and thrilling. Candy is also a likable heroine, and her gutsy yet modest demeanor is an interesting fit with Abarat's quirky and surprising creatures. Complete with more than 100 pieces of color artwork by Barker himself, this is the start of an adventurous new series sure to win over Barker fans. Matt Warner

Publishers Weekly
Candy Quackenbush travels from Chickentown, Minn., to a fantastic otherworld of unbelievable characters, including the Lord of Midnight, Christopher Carrion. "The author's imagination runs wild as he conjures some striking imagery." (Barker's surreal illustrations are not included in this paperback.) Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
What can one say about the paper reprint of a proven best-seller? For starters, it is a handsome paperback. Instead of the usual pulp paper relegated to reprints this one retains its thick, glossy, heavyweight pages—the better to showcase Clive Barker's hundred-plus full color paintings scattered through the text. It's still the same story, though: a fantasy about the teenage Candy Quackenbush from Chickentown, U.S.A., and her adventures in the mythical world of Abarat. Therein lies the problem. Writer and film director Barker has apparently studied the genre, made a list of every conceivable situation, every conceivable grotesque character, and cobbled them all together—not particularly well, either (although to be fair, John Mischief and his brothers hold a certain charm.) Unless, of course, the book was meant as a tongue-in-cheek caricature from page one. Since the story dead ends in the middle of nowhere with the promise of a second book to follow, this scenario is unlikely. While awaiting the second coming, aficionados of true fantasy might prefer returning to the masters: Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, Philip Pullman. 2003 (orig. 2002), Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins, Ages 12 up.
—Kathleen Karr
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, November 2002: The first in a four-part series, Abarat takes readers into Clive Barker's imagination... Teenager Candy Quakenbush of Chickentown, Minnesota, stumbles upon a skeletal lighthouse in a field along with John Mischief, a "man" with the seven heads of his brothers growing from the antlers on his head. With Mischief, she crosses the border between her reality and that which lies beyond, finding herself in Abarat, a parallel world of 25 islands, each representing a different hour of the day, as well as the mysterious 25th hour. Candy takes possession of a key, and in doing so becomes the target of the evil Lord Carrion and his minions. As Candy travels through the islands, she encounters fantastic creatures, places, and adventures. Barker's world is complex, as is his writing, making Abarat more suitable for advanced readers of fantasy who can piece together multiple plots and tease out the underlying logic of an unfamiliar world... The appendix at the end of the book describes each of the islands and their characteristics, and might be a good place to begin reading. (An ALA Best Book for YAs and Top 10 Fantasy Book for Youth.) (Book One). KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, HarperCollins, 431p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Michele Winship
School Library Journal
Candy Quackenbush is tired of her humdrum existence in boring Chickentown, MN. After skipping out on a particularly frustrating day of school, she wanders into an empty field at the edge of town, and suddenly her life takes a remarkable turn. Through a series of most unusual events, she finds herself transported to the Abarat, a magical realm composed of 25 islands, each representing one hour of the day, with the mysterious Twenty-Fifth designated for Time Outside of Time. As she travels around the islands, Candy becomes involved in a power struggle between two ruthless and bitter rivals, Rojo Pixler of Commexo City and Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight. Each man seeks to control the island chain, and Candy may be the deciding factor in its survival or destruction. Barker is obviously more comfortable in the Abarat than he is in our more mundane world; the chapters that take place in Chickentown don't seem fully developed. Once Candy is safely in the fantastical realm, however, the story takes off. The rendering of the Abarat's locales, cultures, and mythology, combined with the author's own full-color illustrations and well-realized characters, allows readers to become quickly immersed in this beautiful and frightening world. In spite of a less-than-credible, almost preternatural calm in the face of the bizarre, Candy makes a fine protagonist, displaying strength, vulnerability, and a lack of the forced spunkiness displayed by some adventurous heroines. This first book in a series of four sets the stage nicely for what is sure to be a rollicking, epic ride.-Alison Ching, North Garland High School, Garland, TX Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A new series revives the almost-extinct genre of the fantasy travelogue. Candy Quackenbush is fed up with her life of "boredom, violence, and tears" in unbearably ordinary Chickentown, Minnesota. After a typically brutal school day, she runs away to the prairie, only to fall into a most extraordinary adventure. Helping the improbable John Mischief (whose seven brothers all grow from horns on his head) escape creepy Mendelson Shape, Candy magically summons the Sea of Izabella, which links our world to the archipelago of Abarat, where the chief islands are each governed by a single Hour of the day. Candy easily finds friends and guides among its fantastical inhabitants, including Samuel Klepp (publisher of the indispensable Almenak) and the downtrodden slave Malingo; but she also accumulates powerful enemies in the dastardly wizard Wolfswinkel, the ambitious tycoon Pixler, and Shape's terrifying master Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight. Eventually Candy realizes that her journey is no accident, but part of a mysterious destiny. Abarat is an intriguing creation, deserving of comparison to Oz. Filmmaker and adult-novelist Barker (Coldheart Canyon, 2001, etc.) pours out an utter phantasmagoria, ruled by the logic of dreams. Yet there is a peculiar lifelessness to all this imaginative fecundity; fascinating in its minutiae, the world fails to cohere about a compelling narrative or charismatic central character. Like the dozens of illustrations by the author, it dazzles with color and detail, but on closer inspection proves curiously flat, all surface and no depth. Still, with three promised sequels on the way, many readers will, like Candy, want to "trust to Mama Izabella" to take them somewhere worth the trip.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064407335
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/11/2003
  • Series: Abarat Series, #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Clive Barker

Clive Barker is the bestselling author of twenty-two books, including the New York Times bestsellers Abarat; Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War; and The Thief of Always. He is also an acclaimed painter, film producer, and director. For twelve years Mr. Barker has been working on a vast array of paintings to illuminate the text of The Books of Abarat, more than one hundred and twenty-five of which can be found within this volume.

Mr. Barker lives in California. He shares his house with seven dogs, three cockatiels, several undomesticated geckoes, an African gray parrot called Smokey, and a yellow-headed Amazon parrot called Malingo.

Clive Barker is the bestselling author of twenty-two books, including the New York Times bestsellers Abarat; Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War; and The Thief of Always. He is also an acclaimed painter, film producer, and director. For twelve years Mr. Barker has been working on a vast array of paintings to illuminate the text of The Books of Abarat, more than one hundred and twenty-five of which can be found within this volume.

Mr. Barker lives in California. He shares his house with seven dogs, three cockatiels, several undomesticated geckoes, an African gray parrot called Smokey, and a yellow-headed Amazon parrot called Malingo.


Nothing ever begins....Nothing is fixed. In and out the shuttle goes, fact and fiction, mind and matter woven into patterns that may have only this in common: that hidden among them is a filigree that will with time become a world.

It must be arbitrary, then, the place at which we choose to embark.

Somewhere between a past half forgotten and a future as yet only glimpsed."

And here is as good a place as any to begin with Clive Barker, the author of strange and scary stories such as the novel that begins above, Weaveworld. Barker is probably best known as the creator of the Hellraiser franchise -- which began with the novella The Hellbound Heart; later became the 1987 horror classic that Barker directed; and was then a comic from 1989-1994. He accomplished the print-to-film-to-comic trifecta again with Nightbreed, the film version of which was released in 1990.

Barker drew attention with his early '80s story volumes, Books of Blood. His first novel, The Damnation Game, not only put him on a par authors such as Stephen King but earned praise from those same authors. He is widely admired for weaving into his scary stories complex themes about human nature and desires.

In addition to crafting his signature novels, a chilling amalgam of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, Barker is an accomplished artist. (His comic Ectokids is in development as a movie project at Nickelodeon.) He has also written for children -- a fact that surprises readers familiar only with his disturbing adult oeuvre. But, in fact, his children's tales (The Thief of Always, Abarat, etc.) are among his most imaginative.

No matter what his audience or medium, Barker's stories are effective because it's clear that he takes his work, and his genre, very seriously -- and expects the same from his audience. In an interview with Barnes & Noble.com, he told us "[Fantasy and horror] liberate us into a world in which our frustrations and our repressions can take an exoticized form, rendering them more safely and also, if we dare, more approachable."

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    1. Hometown:
      Los Angeles
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 5, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Liverpool, England
    1. Education:
      Liverpool University
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter Thirteen

In the Great Head

Candy had always prided herself upon having a vivid imagination. When, for instance, she privately compared her dreams with those her brothers described over the breakfast table, or her friends at school exchanged at break, she always discovered her own night visions were a lot wilder and weirder than anybody else's. But there was nothing she could remember dreaming -- by day or night -- that came close to the sight that greeted her in The Great Head of the Yebba Dim Day.

It was a city, a city built from the litter of the sea. The street beneath her feet was made from timbers that had clearly been in the water for a long time, and the walls were lined with barnacle-encrusted stone. There were three columns supporting the roof, made of coral fragments cemented together. They were buzzing hives of life unto themselves; their elaborately constructed walls pierced with dozens of windows, from which light poured.

There were three main streets that wound up and around these coral hives, and they were all lined with habitations and thronged with the Yebba Dim Day's citizens.

As far as Candy could see there were plenty of people who resembled folks she might have expected to see on the streets of Chickentown, give or take a sartorial detail: a hat, a coat, a wooden snout. But for every one person that looked perfectly human, there were two who looked perfectly other than human. The children of a thousand marriages between humankind and the great bestiary of the Abarat were abroad on the streets of the city.

Among those who passed her as she ventured up the street were creatures which seemedrelated to fish, to birds, to cats and dogs and lions and toads. And those were just the species she recognized. There were many more she did not; forms of face that her dream-life had never come near to showing her.

Though she was cold, she didn't care. Though she was weary to her marrow, and lost -- oh so very lost -- she didn't care. This was a New World rising before her, and it was filled with every kind of diversity.

A beautiful woman walked by wearing a hat like an aquarium. In it was a large fish whose poignant expression bore an uncanny resemblance to the woman on whose head it was balanced. A man half Candy's size ran by with a second man half the first fellow's size sitting in the hood of his robe, throwing nuts into the air. A creature with red ladders for legs was stalking its way through the crowd farther up the street, its enormous coxcomb bright orange. A cloud of blue smoke blew by, and as it passed a foggy face appeared in the cloud and smiled at Candy before the wind dispersed it.

Everywhere she looked there was something to amaze. Besides the citizens there were countless animals in the city, wild and domesticated. White-faced monkeys, like troupes of clowns, were on the roofs baring their scarlet bottoms to passersby. Beasts the size of chinchillas but resembling golden lions ran back and forth along the power cables looped between the houses, while a snake, pure white but for its turquoise eyes, wove cunningly between the feet of the crowd, chattering like an excited parrot. To her left a thing that might have had a lobster for a mother and Picasso for a father was clinging to a wall, drawing a flattering self-portrait on the white plaster with a stick of charcoal. To her right a man with a firebrand was trying to persuade a cow with an infestation of yellow grasshoppers leaping over its body to get out of his house.

The grasshoppers weren't the only insects in the city. Far from it. The air was filled with buzzing life. High overhead birds dined on clouds of mites that blazed like pinpricks of fire. Butterflies the size of Candy’s hand moved just above the heads of the crowd, and now and then alighted on a favored head, as though it were a flower. Some were transparent, their veins running with brilliant blue blood. Others were fleshy and fat; these the preferred food of a creature that was a decadently designed as a peacock, its body vestigial, its tail vast, painted with colors for which Candy had no name.

And on all sides -- among these astonishments -- were things that were absurdly recognizable. Televisions were on in many of the houses, their screens visible through undraped windows. A cartoon boy was tap-dancing on one screen, singing some sentimental song on another, and on a third a number of wrestlers fought: humans matched with enormous striped insects that looked thoroughly bored with the proceedings. There was much else that Candy recognized. The smell of burned meat and spilled beer. The sound of boys fighting. Laughter, like any other laughter. Tears, like any other tears.

To her amazement, she heard English spoken everywhere, though there were dozens of dialects. And of course the mouth parts that delivered the words also went some way to shape the nature of the English that was being spoken: some of it was high and nasal, a singsong variation that almost seemed about to become music. From other directions came a guttural version that descended at times into growls and yappings.

All this, and she had advanced perhaps fifty yards in the Yebba Dim Day.

The houses at the lower end of The Great Head, where she was presently walking, were all red, their fronts bowed. She quickly grasped why. They were made of boats, or the remains of boats. To judge by the nets that were hung as makeshift doors, the occupants of these houses were the families of fishermen who'd settled here. They'd dragged their vessels out of the cool evening air, and taken a hammer and crowbar to the cabins and the deck and hold, peeling apart the boards, so as to make some kind of habitation on land. There was no order to any of this; people just seemed to take whatever space was available. How else to explain the chaotic arrangement of vessels, one on top of the other?

As for power, it seemed to be nakedly stolen from those higher up in the city (and therefore, presumably, more wealthy). Cables ran down the walls, entering houses and exiting again, to provide service for the next house.

It was not a foolproof system by any means. At any one moment, looking up at the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of heaped-up houses, somebody's lights were flickering, or there was an argument going on about the cables. No doubt the presence of monkeys and birds, pecking at the cables, or simply swinging from them, did not improve matters.

It was a wonder, Candy thought, that this outlandish collection of people, animals and habitations worked at all. She could not imagine the people of Chickentown putting up with such chaotic diversity. What would they think of the ladder-legged creature or the smoke creature, or the baby beast throwing nuts in the air?

I need to remember as many details as I can, so when I get back home I can tell everybody what it was like, down to the last brick, the last butterfly. I wonder, she thought to herself, if they make cameras here? If they have televisions, she reasoned, then surely they have cameras.

Of course she'd first have to find out if the few soaked and screwed-up dollars she had in the bottom of her pocket were worth anything here. If they were, and she could find somewhere to purchase a camera, then she could make a proper record of what she was seeing. They she'd have proof, absolute proof that this place, with all its wonders, existed.

"Are you cold?"

The woman who had addressed her looked as though she might have some Sea-Skipper in her heritage. Vestigial gills ran from the lower half of her cheek into her neck, and there was a faintly mottled quality to her skin. Her eyes had a subtle cast of silver about them.

"Actually I am a little," Candy said.

"Come with me. I'm Izarith."

"I'm Candy Quackenbush. I'm new here."

"Yes, I could tell," Izarith said. "It's cold today; the water gets up through the stones. One day this place is just going to rot and collapse on itself."

"That would be a pity," Candy said.

"You don't live here," Izarith said, with a trace of bitterness.

She led Candy to one of the houses made from fishing boats. As she followed the woman to the threshold, Candy felt just a little pang of doubt. Why was she being invited into Izarith's house so quickly, without any real reason, beyond that of a stranger's generosity?

Izarith seemed to sense her unease. "Don't come in if you don't want to," she said. "I just thought you looked in need of a fire to warm you through."

Before Candy could reply there was a series of crashes from outside the Head, accompanied by a din of yells and screams.

"The dock!" Candy said, looking back toward the door.

Obviously the jetty had finally given out beneath the weight of the crowd. There was a great rush of people out to see the calamity, which was of course only going to make matters worse out there. Izarith showed no desire to go and see what had happened. She just said: "Are you coming?"

"Yes," said Candy, offering the woman a smile of thanks and following her inside.

Just as Izarith had promised there was a fire in the little hearth, which the woman fuelled with a handful of what looked like dried seaweed. The kindling was consumed quickly and brightly. A soothing wave of warmth hit Candy. "Oh, that's nice," she said, warming her hands.

On the floor in front of the fire was a child of perhaps two, her features one generation further removed from the sea-dwelling origins of her grandparents, or perhaps her great-great-grandparents.

"This is Maiza. Maiza, this is Candy. Say hello."

"Hell. O," said Maiza.

With her duty to courtesy done, Maiza returned to playing with her toys, which were little more than painted blocks of wood. One of them was a boat, painted red; a crude copy, perhaps, of the vessel whose boards had built these walls.

Izarith went to check on the other child in the room; a baby, asleep in a cot.

"That's Nazré," she said. "He's been sick since we came here. He was born at sea, and I believe he wants to go back there."

She bent low, talking softly to the baby.

"That's what you want, isn't it, dearling? You want to be out away from here."

"You want that too?" Candy said.

"With all my heart. I hate this place."

"Can't you leave?"

Izarith shook her head. "My husband, Ruthus, had a boat, and we used to fish around the Outer Islands, where the shoals are still good. But the boat was getting old. So we came here to trade it in for a new one. We had some money from the season's fishing and we thought we'd be able to get a good boat. But there were no new boats to be had. Nobody’s building anymore. And now we're almost out of money. So my husband's working putting in toilets for the folks in the towers, and I'm stuck down here with the children."

As she told her tale, she pulled back a makeshift curtain which divided the little room in two and, sorting through a box of garments, she selected a simple dress, which she gave to Candy.

"Here," she said. "Put this on. If you wear those wet clothes much longer you'll get phlegmatic."

Gratefully, Candy put it on, feeling secretly ashamed of her initial suspicion. Izarith obviously had a good heart. She had very little to share, but what she had, she was offering.

"It suits you," Izarith said, as Candy tied a simple rope belt around her waist. The fabric of the dress was brown, but it had a subtle iridescence to it; a hint of blue and silver in its weave.

"What's the currency here?" Candy asked.

Plainly Izarith was surprised by the question; understandably so. But she answered anyway. "It's a zem," she said. "Or a paterzem, which is a hundred zem note."


"Why do you ask this question?"

Candy dug in the pocket of her jeans. "It's just that I have some dollars," she said.

"You have dollars?" Izarith replied, her mouth wide in astonishment.

"Yes. A few."

Candy pulled the sodden notes out and carefully spread them on the hearth, where they steamed in front of the fire.

Izarith's eyes didn't leave the bills from the moment they appeared. It was almost as though she was witnessing a miracle.

"Where did you get those …?" she said, her voice breathless with astonishment. Finally she tore her gaze from the hearth and looked up at Candy.

"Wait," she said. "Is it possible?"

"Is what possible?"

"Do you … come from the Hereafter?"

Candy nodded. "Actually I come from a place called America."

"America." Izarith spoke the word like a prayer. "You have dollars, and you come from America." She shook her head in disbelief.

Candy went down on her haunches before the fire and peeled the now almost dried dollars off the hearth. "Here," she said, offering them to Izarith. "You have them."

Izarith shook her head, her expression one of religious awe.

"No, no I couldn't. Not dollars. Angels use dollars, not Skizmut like me."

"Take it from me," Candy said. "I'm not an angel. Very far from it. And what's a Skizmut?"

"My people are Skizmut. Or they were, generations ago. The bloodline's been diluted, over the years. You have to go back to my great-grandfather for a pure Skizmut."

She looked melancholy; an expression which suited the form of her face better than any other.

"Why so sad?"

"I just wish I could go back into the deeps and make my home there, away from all this …"

Izarith cast her sad eyes toward the window, which was without frames or panes. The crowd outside moved like a relentless parade. Candy could see how hard it would be to exist in this tiny hovel, with the twilight throng moving up and down the street outside, all the hours that God sent.

"When you say the deeps," Candy replied, "do you mean the sea?"

"Yes. Mama Izabella. The Skizmut had cities down there. Deep in the ocean. Beautiful cities made of white stone."

"Have you ever seen them?"

"No, of course not. After two generations, you lose the way of the fish. I would drown, like you."

"So what can you do?"

"Live on a boat, as close as we can to the deeps. Live with the rhythm of Mother Izabella beneath us."

"Well, perhaps the dollars will help you and Ruthus buy a boat," Candy said.

Candy handed Izarith a ten and one single, keeping six for herself.

Izarith laughed out loud, the music in her laughter so infectious that her daughter, Maiza, started laughing too.

"Eleven dollars? Eleven. It would buy two boats! Three boats! It's like eleven paterzem! More, I think!" She looked up, suddenly anxious. "And this is really for me?" she said, as though she was afraid the gift would be reclaimed.

"It's all yours," Candy said, feeling a little odd about sounding too magnanimous. After all, it was only eleven bucks.

"I'm going to spend a little piece of this one," Izarith said, selecting a single, and pocketing the rest. "I'm going to buy some food. The children haven't eaten this day. I think you haven't either." Her eyes were shining; their joy increased by the silvery luster that was the gift of her Skizmut breeding. "Will you stay with them, while I go out?" she said.

"Of course," Candy said. She suddenly realized she was starving.

"And Maiza?"

"Yes, Muma?"

"Will you be kind to the lady from the Hereafter, while I fetch bread and milk?"

"Grish fritters!" said Maiza.

"Is that what you want? Grish fritters with noga seeds?"

"Grish fritter with noga seeds! Grish fritter with noga seeds!"

"I won't be long," Izarith said.

"We'll be fine," Candy said, sitting down beside the child in front of the fire. "Won't we, Maiza?"

The child smiled again, her tiny teeth semitranslucent, carrying a hint of blue. "Grish fritters with noga seeds!" she said. "All for me!"

Abarat. Copyright © by Clive Barker. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Interviews & Essays

Talking to the Fantastic Clive Barker

Barnes & Noble.com: The Abarat islands -- each being an hour of the day (plus the Twenty-Fifth Hour) and having its own identity -- is such a developed and intricate world. Where did you come up with the idea for The Books of Abarat? How long did the first book take you to write?

Clive Barker: There are things created in medieval times called books of hours: They are essentially books of meditation and prayer designed so that the nobleman who owned them could go to a specific hour and see what the meditations were for that particular hour. There's one particular version of the book of hours which I love -- for the Duc de Berry, a French nobleman who had two brothers create a book of hours for him. And I had a facsimile edition I've owned since I was 18 or 19. When I bought it, it was the most expensive book I ever bought, but I loved it so much. What I loved about it was the scheme of it: The idea that you could go to a particular hour, and there would be not just things about the hour but things about seasons, the moon, prayer, and meditations. And I had the idea in the back of my head for years -- probably since I bought that book, which is now 30 years ago -- that it would be lovely to create something that had that kind of pattern to it. I have also, since my childhood, loved books of invented worlds. They would include all the classics: Narnia, Oz, obviously Middle-earth, but also worlds that are lesser known. Like the short stories of Lord Dunsany, who wrote short fictions of invented worlds. What I've always loved about them was the idea that you stepped through a literary door, and you were in another place, and over a period of many books you would return to that place (in the case of Oz, very many books, and in the case of Narnia, seven books). And, about 12 years ago, I said to Joanna Cotler, my editor on this project, that I wanted to write a book set in a fantastic world. For a number of reasons I could never get HarperCollins to commit to doing it.

But what happened was this world started to seep out of my imagination in the form of paintings; about six years ago I started to paint canvases that were utterly unlike anything I had done before. And I began to realize that my world was escaping through my fingertips onto the canvas. Now we put all these points together, and what we end up with is a lot of paintings, which described a world, which I began to realize was the world I'd been planning all along. I thought, Ya know, I'm gonna make this world an archipelago, and each island will be a different hour and it will have the intensity of -- it's three o'clock in the afternoon in California right now, and it could not be any other hour. If I were to lead you out, having woken from sleep, and lead you out into the afternoon right now and say, "What hour is it?" you would get it right within 45 minutes, I'd bet. Because we all know how time feels and we associate with certain times of the day feelings -- romantic feelings, scary feelings, feelings of hunger, feelings of expectation. The curtain for theater really should rise at eight o'clock, it shouldn't rise at ten, shouldn't rise at six. I'm always disappointed by matinees. I don't want to go to matinees because theater is an evening experience. Some of this is obviously expectation, but some of it also has to do with how our minds work, and if we're going to be in the fantasticated world of a theatrical production we want to do it when we're moving towards sleep. It's not something we want to do at nine a.m. In other words, there are lots and lots of things that happen in our day that are about our bodies, our minds, our culture -- that are intricately tied to the process of the hours -- and I thought it would be a wonderful structure for a world.

B&N.com: You've said that you're "just an imaginer," and that you "think the heart of what [you] do lives in the shamanistic instinct to be a walker between worlds." What are some of the worlds you bridge? Do you think Abarat's main character, Candy Quackenbush, would think of herself in a similar way?

CB: Candy will come to understand herself as a walker between worlds before the quartet of Abarat is over. But I think of the world that I bridge as being primarily worlds of darkness and of light. I want to move between good and evil, I want to move between extremes. I think of myself as somebody who is reporting from a world of dreams.

B&N.com: Of all the characters that appear in Abarat, which are your favorites and why?

CB: I love Candy because she is a very tough, strong character in a very strange world. I also have a real fondness for Malingo, who turns out to be her sidekick in subsequent novels. And I have a real fondness for the villains, so I would have to say Christopher Carrion ranks highly in there too. Carrion will turn out to be a villain with a lot of sympathetic elements to him, and I've always felt the best villains are those you can comprehend.

B&N.com: The first book puts us on the edge of our seats with its conclusion! Can you give some hints about what we can expect in future Abarat books?

CB: Well, there is a huge story, which runs through the four books, which is about the ongoing battle between night and day. It is going to resolve itself in the space of this quartet. And it also has to do with why Candy feels she's been in this place before. So Candy's sense of herself is one of the things we're going to understand more. The intricate relationships between Mater Motley and Christopher Carrion, Carrion and Candy, and Candy and a bunch of other characters, will be explained in further books, too. But I don't want to give too much away.

B&N.com: You painted 130 very impressive color illustrations for the book. Do you foresee all of the books having as many? Did the idea for the book's paintings come first, or did you begin writing and then think about the illustrations? Where do you find inspiration for your paintings?

CB: We have about 380 paintings already made. So yes, I do see all the books as having as many illustrations. Though I don't really see them as "illustrations" because they preceded the text, and for them to truthfully be illustrations, the text needs to come first. So in most of these cases, the text, curiously, is the illustration; in the book the text is illustrating in words what the paintings first discovered.

B&N.com: On your web site, it states that you were "looking for a partner to take this world into every other medium," and Disney recently bought some hefty rights to The Books of Abarat. Can you talk a little about their hopes for the books? Why did you feel this series in particular had such potential?

CB: I feel any world that can be explained in many different ways has potential for a film, because film actually revisits worlds very successfully. For example, if we're going to get a bunch of Harry Potter books, we're gonna get a bunch of Harry Potter movies. I, in my work as a filmmaker, have revisited characters and by extension, the worlds that contain them.

I feel as though this partnership with Disney is potentially tremendous; certain parts of Disney's work have been very influential to me. When the Abarat books were first being prepared, I said there were three major points of influence: the Narnia books, Cirque du Soleil, which was visually important, and the first Fantasia picture, which is a huge influence upon me, and which for many years I have been listing as one of my top three movies of all time.

B&N.com: It seems like you have so much going on -- how do you find time for all of it? Is there such a thing as "spare time" in your life?

CB: No, I have no spare time, and sometimes it's quite difficult. For instance, it's Friday, and I feel like I don't have an ounce of spare energy left, and soon I'm going on tour for the book, but we're also having an exhibition for the paintings at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, and we also have a movie coming out on the Sci Fi Channel titled Saint Sinner, and it's all happening in the same month. And I'm finishing up Book Two of Abarat, and it all collides. That's just the nature of things, and there is nothing I can do about it but celebrate the fact that I have the chance to do it all in the first place.

B&N.com: Along with The Books of Abarat, you've written another children's book, The Thief of Always. Why do you like writing for younger audiences? What were you like as a child?

CB: As a child, I was a reader, a passionate reader, and that's one of the reasons why I'm really writing for children again. There is something wonderful about getting up in the morning and writing for an audience that has perhaps a more open mind than an adult audience. I mean there are things that I am able to do in the Abarat books which I am simply not able to do in books for adults. Now, that isn't to say that there aren't adult readers whose minds are every bit as open as children's minds are -- and obviously I'm hoping that hundreds of thousands of those adults will come to Abarat. I know there are readers in the millions worldwide who are ready to say, "Yes -- bring on the magic."

B&N.com: Can you name a few of your favorite children's books?

CB: Oh, that is a long list. Well, I mentioned the Narnia books, but there's also Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and the Babar books because they're so surreal and strange. Treasure Island is also a huge favorite of mine. Graham Greene said that you could learn everything you needed to learn by reading Stevenson. The Wind in the Willows, The Wizard of Oz, of course. The Hobbit, Oscar Wilde's short stories. Grimm's collection of fairy tales. Winnie-the-Pooh. I could go on and on and on! And what's interesting is that the phenomenon of literature for children is very recent -- but children's literature is 200 years old, if that, really. And yet in that 200 years there has been an incredible intensity of imagining. It's fascinating to behold what happens when adults give themselves the freedom to imagine the children they were.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 229 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 229 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    What you should be reading now that Harry Potter is over.

    To be honest I don't understand why The Books of the Abarat haven't become the next big thing in the book world. I am a huge Harry Potter Fan and this was my Fantasy fix after I was done with HP. The first Book of the Abarat was beautifully written and was so colorful that you really feel like you are in the story with Candy. I read the paperback version that didn't have any of the art in it but that was a mistake because when I read the second one (Days of Magic Nights of War) it was so thrilling to see where Clive Barker was getting all these great characters and places from. In fact I did a little looking and the paintings came before the book!! Clive Barker is one of the greatest writers of our time and takes inspiration for The Books of Abarat from two of the greatest fantasy writers in History, J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and combines his own creative genius to make a world that is so completely different from our own that it is almost hard to conceive, but is so well described and detailed that it stands out vividly in your mind as though you have been there. A must read for EVERYONE.

    12 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2009

    my opinion on the Abarat

    Clive Barker
    Genre: Fantasy

    The book Abarat is about a girl who discovers a world outside our own. The girl, Candy, leaves home with a mysterious man named Mischief while trying to escape an evil man named Shape by diving into the Sea Izabella. Once she dives into the sea with Mischief, she knows that she is no longer in her home town but instead in a completely new world called the Abarat.

    The main character in this story is Candy Quackenbush. In our world, she is strange and doesn't fit in. But in Abarat, she feels like she's been there before. In the book, the author shapes her into a girl who has strong feelings for people she hasn't even known for that long. She tries to help out other people more then she helps out herself. There are plenty of other characters in this book but Candy is the main one.

    In this book, setting is everything. The story wouldn't be right if it was in another place. The Abarat is made up of twenty five different islands that all symbolize the twenty for hours of the day and also the twenty fifth hour. All of the islands are very different because there is an island for every hour of the day. The setting of this story creates major conflicts for Candy and her companions that help her along her journey. The different islands are all very mysterious to her and danger hides around every corner.

    The point of view in this story is probably first person. Throughout the book, the point of view changes between the different characters. Usually the narrator is very reliable and gives us a lot of insight when it comes to their actions and what they are thinking. I think that if the point of view was any different it might lose some important information that is needed to understand the book well.

    I like how the author created a entirely different world from our own. He made everything completely different for our world. I also liked how he described the people in the book so well and he also included some pictures to help make them real. But I didn't like how the author left things untold in the end. I would have liked it if he at least wrapped up a few things at the end of the book. Also, I didn't how he made the main character kind of unbelievable. She seemed too worried about other people instead of herself and most people aren't like that. But in all I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the mysterious, fantasy, and action type of books.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    None of the pictures!

    The print version of this book is replete with graphics. The ebook has none. The eboo is, thus, pretty much a waste of money.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Dazzling Blend of Fantasy, Adventure, and Horror...

    Clive Barker, once hailed in the 80's as the successor to Stephen King, has embarked on a five book series that feasts upon our imaginations and holds both young and old in thrall to its spell. This is the perfect fantasy adventure (with only a smidgin of Barker's trademark terror beats) for ages 11-81. Books 1 and 2 are available in gorgeous hardcover and paperback editions, with Book 3 anticipated sometime in 2010. (The last two volumes will follow, presumably before I turn 40.) Fans of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Bella Swann and other youthful protagonists will find much to admire and delight in with this epic-crafted yarn. Fall into the world of the Abarat; it's a journey you won't regret taking.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    one of the best stories i've ever read. it recalls Alice in Wonderland. it's beautiful and the illustrations are magical.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Hard to put down!

    I really enjoyed this book. The characters were well built, as well as the plot. Clive's words really jump off the page as vivid pictures in your mind! I highly recomend this to any fan of fantasy works.

    Disney has decided to make this series into movies,
    I cant wait! Hopefully book 3 will be out soon!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2014

    Book needs graphics

    This is one of my favorite books of all time, I was so dissappointed to see that the graphics DO NOT come with this e-book version.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2015

    I Love You, Abarat!!!


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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014


    Best book i have ever read
    I recomend this to anyone
    Who likes fantasy adventure

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    I recommend this book to anybody looking for a good book

    This book wa svery interesting an dfull of suprises thi sbook i sa about a girl named candy qauckenbush who live sin chickentown sh ewas brought to a place called abarat by a man named john mischief and his brothers who live on his antlers on the way she meet some very strange people and goes to many different places she learns that abarat is made up of islands that represent each hour of the day. I dont want to spoil this book so i will stop!Read the book i tis good an donce you start reading it you cant stop.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013

    Hey what is this about?

    I hate it when on the nook it doesnt explain what is happening in the book will someone please give me a over view please?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2013

    Jake Walton part 20

    Hey guys! Im so sorry i havent posted. I keep trying to post but somthung always goes wrong. My nook is so retarded im sorry!!!!!!!!!!! Anyways... Thank you all for being paitient with me. Comments at gods res. 2! Next book at book 2!---The door shuts behind me. "Why dont you stand up to me?" She asks. "Oh i will fight you. Dont worry. You'll lose too." I look around rhe room and see different statues. One surprises me. Medusa meets where i am looking and pushes the statue i am looking at towards me. That statue is really familiar. I stare at it for a moment wondering why it is so familiar. Medusa tries to attack me while I am staring at the statue. I remember this statue. It is a family member. My brother. "Jackson...?" I walk towards the statue. Its him alright. I stare at my older brother and a tear rolls down my cheek. "Aww." Medusa says. "I see you two have reunited. Now you can join him in the underworld." "No. I wont let you. He was innocent and you killed him. Killed him!" I stammer while i start sobbing. I sprinted out that door like there was no tomorrow. I know she would eventually find me and come after me but it was all i got. I run to the room my friends were in. They are all pounding on the door like maniacs. "Guys its me. Are you all ok in there?" I wipe my tears away. "Jake! You have got to help us get out of here. There are 5 gigantic hellhounds trying to eat us ALIVE!" Sienna says still pounding on the door. "Its alright Sienna I will get you out of there. On that happy note, we are kinda in Medusa's lair." I say as calmly as i can. "Oh holy Zues. Now you really need to help us." Sam says. "Stand a foot away from the door." I tell them. They do as told. I stick my dagger in the door and carve a hole just big enough to get my friends out. They all come out and get situated. We run to the exit. We try opening the door, but realized it was jammed. "No. I am not going to die like this." I say aloud. I nod at John and he knows what to do. We both turn to the girls. I look at sienna and he looks at Sam. "Hey sienna. I just want you to know that if we die right here right now that..." i say awkardly. She looks at me with her beauty and smiles that gorgeous smile of hers. I become in a coma. Dang, i tell myself. She would look good as my girlfriend. Focus. I tell myself. "I was wondering if you-" i get down on one knee and i see John doing the same. "-would like to be my girlfriend?" She looks at me shockingly and starts to cry. "Jake. Is this for real?" She asks me. "Yes. It is." A tear runs down my cheek. "Yes!" She squeals with joy. "I will!" I get off my knee abd we hug for about 30 seconds. Then, we kiss. Kissing her was amazing. Shes perfect, i think to myself. We let our lips spread apart and stare at each other for a moment. Then we hug again. "Well, well, well." Medusa says walking up to us. "Now that you lovebirds are done i think i should freeze you." She announces."SIENNA JOHN SAM LOOK AWAY NOW AND CLOSE YOUR EYES!" I scream to them. They follow my orders and we hear a hissing sound. "You are very clever, Jake Walton, son of Hermes. But beware i will kill you."---thanks guys for cooperating with my my nook is really retarded and doesnt want to work any more. I will post very soon to make up for this. Again thank you for cooperating with me and my nook. •JW:)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2013


    Your kidding right? Of course i would!!!- Sam

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2013


    Yup! Great series! But still...Please try to post at least eypvery other day.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2013


    Yeah, I would!--- SDA ;-)

    P.S. Please don't take as long!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013


    I started reading this series as a teenager and still love it as an adult. It's reminiscent of Frank L. Baum's Oz books but even more strange and vivid. Not only are the books witty and well written but as an added bonus there's gorgeous artwork. The audio version of this is very well done too. It's a family favorite for road trips.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2013



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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2012


    Fantastic read. I lament waiting as long as I did to buy this book. Imaginative, well-paced, and bursting with memoriable characters. Highly recommended.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2012

    Loved it

    Superbly imaginative and there is no other book quite like it. The characters develop incredibly throughout this book. I couldn't wait for the second one to be released

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  • Posted July 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Clive Barkers tale of a girl named Candy (Quakenbush of all thin

    Clive Barkers tale of a girl named Candy (Quakenbush of all things) from Chickentown (yep, really) would go down easier if the names where more in line with the age of the audience and not 3 yr olds. Simply put Candy inadvertently opens a gate between our world and the world of Abarat where each Island is 1 hour of the day perpetually. The book is fantastical and epic in scope and the print version has hundreds of original paintings (the NOOK version is a waste, text only) but it's hard to feel an emotional attachment to Candy, she's a fairly distant character and she never feels fully fleshed out. There's a lot going on and plenty of action and fantasy but I had a hard time really caring about what was happening. In all other ways I'm very fond of Clive's work and he continues to be my favorite author, but this one lacks the suspense and tension of even The Thief of Always and until Candy connects to something it'll be hard to connect to her.

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