“Abarat” by Clive Barker (Joanna Cotler Books, 2002)

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A lot of people have been waiting for Clive Barker to unveil his newest creation since Coldheart Canyon earlier this year.  We all knew it was going to be for kids, but we also knew it was going to be classic Clive Barker, and would be a great first book in the series.  Having read this first installment, I concur with every fan’s automatic assumption.

Abarat is the first book in the series about a young girl, Candy Quakenbush, who lives in Chickentown, USA.  She has never felt she truly belongs in the dead end town which prides itself on maintaining the industry of its name.  And so one day she heads out into the fields, where he finds what looks like the ruin of an old lighthouse and an old pier.  Soon she meets a couple of characters, one good and one bad, and she has just seconds to start up this old lighthouse using a magic she never knew she possessed.  Suddenly the sea comes rushing in from nowhere and she is whisked away to the Abarat, a vast archipelago where every island is a specific hour of the day.  And so Candy is taken on many different adventures, both good and bad, where each time she comes close to losing everything, she somehow manages to break free.

With a vast cast of crazy and unusual characters, any reader would be struggling to deal with what they all look like and how to separate all these places.  Fortunately, Barker hasn’t only been busy writing, but he has also been busy painting for this series.  Abarat features over one hundred original designs and paintings by Barker which he has spent the last four years creating, all to do with the current book at hand.  The result is a visual opening into an impossible world that could only exist within the mind of one man.

The book ends with Candy alive and well on towards another adventure, as Barker ends with a familiar phrase: “So Ends the First Book of the Abarat.”  With three more to come in the series, one can only wonder what Candy is going to get up to next.

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Originally published on December 9th, 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.