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.
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.
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 pagesthe 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 togethernot 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.
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.
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.
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.