Thief of Always

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Overview

Mr. Hood's Holiday House has stood for a thousand years, welcoming countless children into its embrace. It is a place of miracles, a blissful rounds of treats and seasons, where every childhood whim may be satisfied...There is a price to be paid, of course, but young Harvey Swick, bored with his life and beguiled by Mr. Hood's wonders, does not stop to consider the consequences. It is only when the House shows it's darker face — when Harvey discovers the pitiful creatures that dwell in its shadows — that he comes...
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Overview

Mr. Hood's Holiday House has stood for a thousand years, welcoming countless children into its embrace. It is a place of miracles, a blissful rounds of treats and seasons, where every childhood whim may be satisfied...There is a price to be paid, of course, but young Harvey Swick, bored with his life and beguiled by Mr. Hood's wonders, does not stop to consider the consequences. It is only when the House shows it's darker face — when Harvey discovers the pitiful creatures that dwell in its shadows — that he comes to doubt Mr. Hood's philanthropy.The House and its mysterious architect are not about to release their captive without a battle, however. Mr. Hood has ambitious for his new guest, for Harvey's soul burns brighter than any soul he has encountered in a thousand years...

After a mysterious stranger promises to end his boredom with a trip to the magical Holiday House, ten-year-old Harvey learns that his fun has a high price.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Newsday
Taut pacing and sound structure…None of Clive Barker's admirers are likely to go away disappointed.
Denver Post
A wonderful story for adults and teenagers, profusely illustrated by the author.
Miami Herald
Menacing demons, wondrous miracles, sinister magic, and vivid characters make Thief a compulsive, lightning-paced tales that almost begs to be read aloud.
Virginia Pilot/Ledger Star
Certain to satisfy anyone who just wants to take a fun little trip into one of Barker's worlds.
Midweek
An impressive piece of storytelling.
Today
The interplay between innocence and evil does have a refreshing familiarity.
Camden Courier-Post
Barker's prose is as solid as ever, and to this book he lends his artistic talents with impish pen-and-ink illustrations.
Rocky Mountain News
Appropriate for all ages.
Atlanta Journal
Spellbinding.
L.A. Life
Barker's most ambitious work to date...Rapturously full of emotions.
Washington Post Book World
Rich in plot twists, byzantine intrigues and hidden secrets, Imajica is a Chinese puzzle box constructed on a universal scale...Barker has an unparalleled talent forenvisioning other worlds.
New York Newsday
Taut pacing and sound structure...None of Clive Barker's admirers are likely to go away disappointed.
Denver Post
A wonderful story for adults and teenagers, profusely illustrated by the author.
Miami Herald
Menacing demons, wondrous miracles, sinister magic, and vivid characters make Thief a compulsive, lightning-paced tales that almost begs to be read aloud.
Virginia Pilot/Ledger Star
Certain to satisfy anyone who just wants to take a fun little trip into one of Barker's worlds.
Rocky Mountain News
Appropriate for all ages.
Atlanta Journal
Spellbinding.
L.A. Life
Barker's most ambitious work to date...Rapturously full of emotions.
Washington Post Book World
Rich in plot twists, byzantine intrigues and hidden secrets, Imajica is a Chinese puzzle box constructed on a universal scale...Barker has an unparalleled talent forenvisioning other worlds.
Publishers Weekly
When a 10-year-old boy wishes to be delivered from a boring afternoon, a creature takes him to the Holiday House. "Barker masterfully embroiders this fantasy world with a mounting number of grim, even gruesome details," wrote PW, "in a tale that manages to be both cute and horrifying." Ages 10-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Ten-year-old Harvey Swick is bored. He's bored with his parents, he's bored with school, he's bored with "the great gray beast February" and its dismal, dreary days. When the fanciful character Rictus offers Harvey a retreat at the enticing Holiday House, Harvey scarcely gives it a second thought. Soon enough, he's whisked away to a magical place where all the seasons go through their paces each day, and all the best holidays, from Halloween to Christmas, are celebrated in high style. Soon, though, the house begins to show a darker side; what is that foul-looking pond in the corner of the property, and why does there seem to be no way out of the house's high walls? When Harvey begins to investigate, his discoveries are frightening indeed. The novel's climactic confrontation is a little too long and results in a ham-handed moral. For the most part, however, this is an engaging fable whose occasionally nightmarish episodes nonetheless provide glimpses into the dark, even horrific images for which the author's adult works of fiction are well known. 2002 (orig. 1992), HarperTrophy,
— Norah Piehl
Ray Olson
Barker follows Stephen King's lead this year in significantly reducing his page count (this one's shorter yet than its stated 240 pages, for there's a blank spacer page, a full-page frontispiece, and a title page for each of its 26 chapters) and coming up with a much better book. He calls this one a fable, and it's about 10-year-old Harvey Swick who's so bored one dreary February day that he is enticed by a curious, grinning conman--appropriately named Rictus--to come to Mr. Hood's Holiday House. There the seasons go round in what seems to be a single day, play is always fun, and whatever you want, you get, even when it's impersonating a vampire so well you scare the living daylights out of your friend--and yourself. But there's a viscous, foreboding black lake full of huge, sad-eyed fish and only two other children around despite a huge cache of children's clothing, some of which looks centuries old. Then one of the other kids turns into a fish, and Harvey knows he must get away. Harvey, of course, is the hero who eventually discovers and conquers the elusive, evil Mr. Hood, whose power stems from giving in to pure appetite, electing exciting illusion over mundane reality. Indebted to Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and the episode of King's "Waste Lands" in which Jake escapes the house-monster, Barker's fantasy is, for him, abnormally absorbing and provocative. Here, Barker seems to be stout second fiddle to King, the Thackeray to his Dickens, for the first time.
Kirkus Reviews
Is it penance? Cockiness? A final burst of youth? Whatever the reasons, in recent years, several middle-aging horror authors have written children's books (rarely marketed as such): Whitley Strieber's Wolf of Shadows (1985); Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon (1987); Dean Koontz's Oddkins (1988)—and now, from Barker, a "fable" about a wish-granting house that may be the weakest of the lot. Barker's adult novels (Imajica, 1991, etc.) deal with the play between our world and fabulous alternate realities. Here, too, the hero—ten-year-old Harvey Swick—encounters another world, by having his cry of boredom answered by a yellow-skinned man named Rictus who flies through Harvey's bedroom window and offers to take him to "Holiday House." The boy agrees and, led through a wall of fog, finds himself in a magical place where, during each 24 hours, all four seasons pass (hot, sunny afternoons; snowy winter nights, etc.) along with their holidays, including Christmas mornings that find Harvey's most cherished wishes answered beneath the tree. It's paradise, Harvey thinks at first, but soon wonders: Why is fellow- visitor Lulu so morose? What kind of fish are those, with eyes like "prisoners," lurking in the pond out back? And where is Mr. Hood, the House's wish-granting owner? In time, Harvey senses evil at work and flees, only to find that, back home, his parents have aged a year for every day at the House. And so he returns to the House, to find and battle Mr. Hood and win back his stolen years.... The House is a splendid conceit, but Harvey (Barker's first child hero) is as real as a Norman Rockwell kid, and the studiously simple narration—leached of Barker's usualX-rated, riotous imagery—lacks spirit. If this were a limited edition, it'd be a minor collector's item; with a 100,000 first printing, it's a major miscalculation. (Drawings—42—by Barker.)
Washington Post Book World
“Charming and pleasantly shuddery.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“A modern fable written with literary flare and storytelling-with-a-twist style that will entertain and enchant.”
Chicago Tribune
“Barker...sets up his enchanted kingdom with plenty of wit and atmosphere.”
Library Journal
Young Harry Swick, already jaded by life, desperately wishes for some fun and excitement—which the eccentric Mr. Hood is only too happy to offer. Mr. Hood is the designer of the Holiday House, which has stood for hundreds of years as a refuge for wayward children. Seasons come and go in a day, revelries are always around the corner, but all is not as it seems in this haven. When things start to sour at Holiday House, Harry begins to suspect something malevolent in Mr. Hood's attentions, but it might already be too late. VERDICT Barker (Books of Blood) finds the perfect balance between wide-eyed wonder and the evils of lost innocence in a fantasy that reads like something Ray Bradbury would have written if he were fed a steady diet of Stephen King in his formative years. (SLJ 2/1/93)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061091469
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1993
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.72 (d)

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.

Biography

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:

Read an Excerpt

The Thief of Always

Chapter One

Harvey Half-Devoured

The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive. Here he was, buried in the belly of that smothering month, wondering if he would ever find his way out through the cold coils that lay between here and Easter.

He didn't think much of his chances. More than likely he'd become so bored as the hours crawled by that one day he'd simply forget to breathe. Then maybe people would get to wondering why such a fine young lad had perished in his prime. It would become a celebrated mystery, which wouldn't be solved until some great detective decided to re-create a day in Harvey's life.

Then, and only then, would the grim truth be discovered. The detective would first follow Harvey's route to school every morning, trekking through the dismal streets. Then he'd sit at Harvey's desk, and listen to the pitiful drone of the history teacher and the science teacher, and wonder how the heroic boy had managed to keep his eyes open. And finally, as the wasted day dwindled to dusk, he'd trace the homeward trek, and as he set foot on the step from which he had departed that morning, and people asked him—as they would—why such a sweet soul as Harvey had died, he would shake his head and say: "It's very simple."

"Oh?" the curious crowd would say. "Do tell."

And, brushing away a tear, the detective would reply: "Harvey Swick was eaten by the great gray beast February."

It was a monstrous month, that was for sure; a dire and dreary month. The pleasures of Christmas, both sharp and sweet, were already dimming in Harvey's memory, and the promise of summer was soremote as to be mythical. There'd be a spring break, of course, but how far off was that? Five weeks? Six? Mathematics wasn't his strong point, so he didn't irritate himself further by attempting—and failing—to calculate the days. He simply knew that long before the sun came to save him he would have withered away in the belly of the beast.

"You shouldn't waste your time sitting up here," his mom said when she came in and found him watching the raindrops chase each other down the glass of his bedroom window.

"I've got nothing better to do," Harvey said, without looking around.

"Well then, you can make yourself useful," his mom said.

Harvey shuddered. Useful? That was another word for hard labor. He sprang up, marshaling his excuses—he hadn't done this; he hadn't done that—but it was too late.

"You can start by tidying up this room," his mom said.

"But —"

"Don't sit wishing the days away, honey. Life's too short."

"But —"

"That's a good boy."

And with that she left him to it. Muttering to himself, he stared around the room. It wasn't even untidy. There were one or two games scattered around; a couple of drawers open; a few clothes hanging out: It looked just fine.

"I am ten," he said to himself (having no brothers and sisters, he talked to himself a good deal). "I mean, it's not like I'm a kid. I don't have to tidy up just because she says so. It's boring."

He wasn't just muttering now, he was talking out loud.

"I want to...I want to..."He went to the mirror, and quizzed it. "What do I want?" The strawhaired, snub-nosed, brown-eyed boy he saw before him shook his head. "I don't know what I want," he said. "I just know I'll die if I don't have some fun. I will! I'll die!"

As he spoke, the window rattled. A gust of wind blew hard against it—then a second; then a third—and even though Harvey didn't remember the window being so much as an inch ajar, it was suddenly thrown open. Cold rain spattered his face. Half closing his eyes, he crossed to the window and fumbled to slam it, making sure that the latch was in place this time.

The wind had started his lamp moving, and when he turned back the whole room seemed to be swinging around. One moment the fight was blazing in his eyes, the next it was flooding the opposite wall. But in between the blaze and the flood it lit the middle of his room, and standing there—shaking the rain off his hat—was a stranger.

He looked harmless enough. He was no more than six inches taller than Harvey, his frame scrawny, his skin distinctly yellowish in color. He was wearing a fancy suit, a pair of spectacles and a lavish smile.

"Who are you?" Harvey demanded, wondering how he could get past this interloper to the door.

"Don't be nervous," the man replied, teasing off one of his suede gloves, taking Harvey's hand and shaking it. "My name's Rictus. You are Harvey Swick, aren't you?"

"Yes..."

"I thought for a moment I'd got the wrong house."

Harvey couldn't take his eyes off Rictus's grin. It was wide enough to shame a shark, with two perfect rows of gleaming teeth.

Rictus took off his spectacles, pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of his waterlogged jacket, then started to mop off the raindrops. Either he or the handkerchief gave off an odor that was far from fragrant. The smell, in truth, was flatulent.

"You've got questions, I can see that," Rictus said to Harvey.

"Yeah."

"Ask away. I've got nothing to hide."

"Well, how did you get in, for one thing?"

"Through the window, of course."

"It's a long way up from the street."

"Not if you're flying."

"Flying?"

"Of course. How else was I going to get around on a foul night like this?

The Thief of Always. Copyright © by Clive Barker. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 103 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(66)

4 Star

(28)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 103 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Thief of Always

    Thief of Always is a book about a boy who is ten years old name Harvey Swick.He is uniterested in school,teachers and homework just like any typical kid.Then he meets a man name Rictus,who to tell's him about a kid¿s paradise called The Holiday House. When he gets there he notice that Holiday House has everything a kid ever wanted or dreamed of. But as the days and weeks pass. Harvey begins to notice something odd about this so called PARADISE.Its a catch to this whole experience, and its something your never see coming. <BR/><BR/>I will stop there with that, and tell you if you would like to know more. Buy the book, this book is so great. Your never want to put it down. I read this great book in 2 days!!!!I L.O.V.E this book it is by far one of my best books by Clive Barker.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Best book without a series!!!

    Its like a fantasy gone wrong. My 5th grade teacher showed it to me and I absolutely loved it! I was sad when it ended, its a very quick read. Disturbing at times but not in a bad way. The book is kind of hard to explain, but its amazing with its twists and the mystery of the Holiday House and the fish in the lake. Not many people know about this book but I highly recommend it. I cant say its the best book in the whole world, but it is to me the best without a series.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I have read this so many times and still find something new every time I read it!

    I first read this book in middle school and found it an exciting tell of getting what you wished for only to learn there is always a price to pay. I have since read the book several more times. It seems every time I read it I notice something new. There are some good lessons the author is able to get across while still entertaining you. This book has it all: mysterious flying guys, ladies with cats, kids getting whatever they want, scary monsters, heros. But don't take my word for it read it for yourself.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2009

    A Modern Fable Perfect for All Ages

    This is actually my first Clive Barker story, and when I picked it up in my library, I did not know what to expect. What I got was a beautifully written fable woven by a very subtle master of the written word. The Thief of Always is a story I would have liked to have been read to when I was younger. I highly recommend it to classes fifth grade and up, and for older readers who would like a quick read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Wow...just wow

    I could sit here and write about how excellent Clive Barker is at composing words (neither too poetic nor too simple), or how imaginative and inventive he is; but that would just be pretentious. This was my first Clive Barker book and it has reminded me how much fun reading can be. I am officially classifying this as one of my favorites. If you're thinking, "All of Janus' favorites are probably similar types of books," then I invite you to look over my B&N profile to see what other types of stories I am ranking The Thief of Always alongside.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2006

    Pattie...The thief of always?

    One of the amazing books of Clive Barker, I love is 'The Thief Of Always'. This is a great, magical book which is about a ten year old boy named Harvey. Harvey was tire of the same rutine everyday. Tire and bore of the same thing over and over again. Then he meets a misterious stranger that promises to end his boredom with a trip to a magical place, 'the holiday house'.Ten year old Harvey learns that his fun has a high price. Menacing demons, wondrous miracles, sinister magic and vivid characters make 'The Thief Of Always' a compulsive lighting tale. That begs for more. This book is the interplay between innocence and evil does have a refreshing familiarity. Clive Barker makes more than five stars, in this outstanding job of a book. Which is a dream world once read. a dream world gone bad in Clive Barker's imagination. I remember reading this book a few years ago. I was really young, I feel in love with this book ever since I read it that I would read it over and over again. I would never get enough of it. I personally will recommened this book to everyone. It's appropiate for everyone. It's a great successful book. I love it. I love Clive Barker. Other great books are 'Days Of Magic, Night Of War' and 'Abarat'. Not only that but he is not only a publisher, writer, author. But a great animation creator, and producer very successful and creative with his great films of all time. 'Hellraiser'. Which I love too. But all the 'turtoured souls' animation figures. Which are the best and very detail. All are very unique. I personally look up to him for all his great work, and supreme achievements. For me Clive Barker is the best of all times.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2005

    THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD!!!!!

    This book provides a milestone in literary history...the stars only let me go to five but i give this book 15 stars...i have recommended this book to ppl who HATE to read and so do i but me and my frineds agree this is by far the BEST book in the world!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    One of my favorites!

    Loved this story. Love the characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

    Pretty Intense

    This could really scare late elementary readers. There were some very scary parts of the book. It had a nice message about courage.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Thieves Of Always

    I will never get tired of saying over and over again that Clive Barker is great! In The Thief of Always, we follow a young boy who is tired of doing things and just does not enjoy himself, and the wrong audience has been watching him. During the night a mysterious, apparently friendly vistor enters the room and offers the little boy a bordem-ridden world of fun. The child agrees to go, "for a short while," and finds that he and his new found friends must fight their way out into the real world once more. Clive Barker does a great job with this as a children's story, and provokes fans to make an "adult link" to his other books (where the little boy would be a grown man and the creatures and the alternate world are hell and demons tricking a soul with their desires). Great fun...recommended read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2000

    The BEST book I have ever read!!

    I read the book, 'The Theif of Always' in the 6th grade. It was so good. Then I read it two more times in 8th grade because I enjoyed it so much. I am going to be writing an essay on it too. I thought it was the best book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    Wow is a great book

    Keeps you turning pages that is for sure very igood a must read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2014

    Wonderful story

    It's everything it should be. The pace is quick, the tone serious and full of childlike wonder. The prose so beautiful you can't put it down. I regret it took me so long to get around to reading it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2014

    Great quick read

    Well written and good for all ages. Slightly dark at times for children, but a good story that would likely stay with them, as it has for me.

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  • Posted March 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Holds you until the end!

    Another great work by Clive Barker. This story is very entertaining for adults and young adults alike.
    This is a good book, it will hopefully draw you to the great works of Barker, such as the Abarat series.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    A Magical Adventure!

    Clive Barker has an incredible imagination! As an adult, this story brought out the inner child in me. A great fantasy.

    A young boy is bored with his homelife when he is approached by a very strange character offering to take him to a place where everyday is a party. The boy goes not realizing that he can't come home. The magical house starts out fun but takes a turn. As the boy learns the secrets of the house as well as the occupants he starts planning a way to get out and return home safely.

    As I was reading it, a quote from The Wizard of Oz came to mind...There's no place like home.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2008

    Lovely

    Reading this book is like reading a dream! It's amazing, I really think you should read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2008

    Very good book.

    This book is not very long, but it tell's a truly good story. From start to finish the auther has told a good moral, as well as uplifting story. This book was just captivating. I've always said that writing a good story without going on. and on,is a hard thing to do. And I must say that Clive Barker has written an outstanding crisp tale. It's worth your time to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2008

    I would recommend this book.

    I was gave this book by a friend because i love to read. He said i have only read one book in my life but it was really good. So i took it even though it was really not my style, and im glad i did. It was an amazing, creative book. It captures the readers attention from page one. I have recommended it to several people and will continue too. Thank you!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2007

    I LOVED THIS BOOK!

    This book is full of fantisies and mysteries. It's like a dream.

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