1 September 2002
The Books of Abarat
| 4.7/5 |
1 September 2002
| Print (hardback & paperback)|
Days of Magic, Nights of War
Fantasy, Young adult fiction, Speculative fiction
Works by Clive Barker, Fantasy books
Abarat (2002) is a fantasy novel written and illustrated by Clive Barker, the first in Barker's The Books of Abarat series. It is aimed primarily at young adults. The eponymous Abarat is a fictional archipelago which is the setting for the majority of the story.
The title image contains an ambigram. The paintings in the book are done with oils. Barker had already completed 300 paintings before he started working on the first book. By most accounts, Barker realised early that the story he wanted to tell could not be contained in one book. The American Library Association picked Abarat as one of its Best Books for Young Adults.
Abarat focuses on Candy Quackenbush, a teenage girl frustrated with her life in Chickentown, Minnesota. After an argument with her teacher over a school project, Candy leaves the school and goes to the edge of town, where she sees the remains of a lighthouse. She then encounters a master thief named John Mischief, whose brothers live on his horns. Because he is pursued by a sinister creature named Mendelson Shape, Mischief sends Candy to light the lamp in the lighthouse, which summons an ocean known as the Sea of Izabella from a parallel world. After giving her a key to protect and extinguishing the light, Mischief and Candy ride the seas to Abarat. A group of creatures carry them to a nearby island where Candy is separated from him. On the island, Candy learns that the Abarat consists of twenty-five islands, each occupying a different hour of the day, and was formerly connected to Candy's world before the harbour's destruction by Abaratian authorities. Thereafter the story follows her adventures as she discovers the crises affecting the Abarat, and gains intimations that she may be destined to conclude these. The story also introduces her chief antagonists: the sorcerer known as Christopher Carrion, his grandmother Mater Motley, and the industrialist Rojo Pixler, all of whom seek to dominate the Abarat.
The Abarat series is set on the "Islands of Abarat", of which each is based around a time of day (except the last island, which is the "25th hour"). These islands are mounted in the Sea of Izabella, an ocean sometimes personified by the characters. Together, they compose what is described as "a limitless world" encompassing "chaotic diversity" called Abarat.
In 2002, Abarat was nominated for the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers, and won 2nd place in the 2003 Locus Poll for the Best Young Adult Novel.
Publishers Weekly reviewed it as "...The author's imagination runs wild as he conjures some striking imagery ("Dark threads of energy moved through her veins and leaped from her fingertips" says one of the three women in the opening scene) and cooks up a surreal stew of character portraits (rendered in bold colours and brushwork, they resemble some of Van Gogh's later work). But much of the novel feels like a wind-up for the books to follow and, after this rather unwieldy 400-page ride, readers may be disappointed by so many unresolved strands of the plot."
School Library Journal said "...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."