How did I get it: The library.
Why did I read it: I’ve read both of these books quite a few times, but when I got an ARC of Abarat: Absolute Midnight I realized I didn’t remember much outside of it being awesome. I’d done a lot of sleeping since then and a lot of reading, after all. So upon discovering that my copies had been one of the many books I lost in a flood several years ago, I went to the library to borrow theirs.
How I would rate it: 5 out of 5 stars for both books.
Summary: (For 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.
Review: Abarat and Abarat: Days of Magic, Night of War are collectively and separately made of pure awesome and the products of a truly remarkable imagination. Not to mention an incredible creative process and a lot of hardwork.* Basically all of the oil paintings in the books are actually very large canva-sized pieces of artwork and since there’s a handful in every section… That’s a lot of painting to do. Then, of course, there’s a book to write, songs to make up, poems to divise, and an over all plot to construct so that’s definitely a few years worth of work at the very least. The result is truly stupendous, and the experience is one that virtually any reader could appreciate and enjoy.
Abarat is definitely a story about love, friendship, and starting to find one’s true self, which are not uncommon themes, but few books explore them in as unique a setting or with as original a flare. There is just so much more of an umph to this Abarat than there is to a lot of fiction I pick up regardless of their genres. To some degree this is owed to the artwork accompanying the text, but it is also because there is truly no limit to Barker’s imagination or to the strange, fantastical scope of his archipeligo. To top it all off, the characters are memorable, distinct, and so unusual that it is impossible to not be enthralled and as swept away by it all. Candy, for example, is one of the most likable teen protagonists I’ve read about in awhile. Even her special specialness is done in a great way that doesn’t leave a reader to roll their eyes but to instead wonder what will happen next.
Abarat: Days of Magic, Night of War continues not too long after Abarat left off. It was a bit darker and a bit more plot-driven perhaps, but it was pretty much just as amazing as the first book. It definitely doesn’t suffer from any kind of second book symptom that I could tell. Still, I have to admit that I found myself liking Candy slightly less and dwelling on Christopher Carrion infinitely more. Carrion has been a favorite character of mine for ages, but only this time around did I realize just how awesome it is to have an evil, misunderstood character literally full of brooding darkness that wasn’t going to get the girl or end up being made strictly of glitter, rainbows, and puppies on the inside. Of course Carrion is probably the only supernatural mess of a man that I’ve ever really wanted to see get the girl, but I digress.
In conclusion, perfection. Every time I read these books, I’m stunned that Barker managed to be so articulate and to tell such an amazing story given how many ideas he must have at any one point in time. As far as conveying how personally powerful I find Barker’s art, text, and imagination to be, there really isn’t a succinct way to explain or for me to go into detail about how much I love every picture, every sentence, and every idea. But trust me. Everything about Abarat is equal parts amazing and vivid.
* You can read more about the paintings and all things Abaratian over at Clive Barker’s Official Website.