Early Review: Abarat: Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker

Absolute Midnight (Abarat, #3) by Clive BarkerHow did I get it: HarperCollins sent me an Advanced Reader Copy. Thank you! Absolute Midnight comes out on September 27th.

Why did I read it: I’ve been waiting for ages so there was no way that I could not read this book!

How I would rate it: 5 out of 5 stars.

Summary: 

Abarat: Absolute Midnight continues the thrilling adventures of Candy Quackenbush in the Abarat, a vast archipelago where every island is a different hour of the day—from The Great Head that sits in the mysterious twilight waters of Eight in the Evening to the sunlit wonders of Three in the Afternoon, where dragons roam, to the dark terrors of Gorgossium, the island of Midnight, ruled over by the evil Mater Motley.

Mater Motley plans to create a darkness so complete that it blots out every glimpse of the light and vanquishes the sun, moon, and stars from the Abarat, ending all hope and happiness. Her hour has come—she is prepared to unleash the end of the world. When evil begins rising from the sea, tumbles The Great Head, and sets islands aflame, the Abarat is filled with fear.

Only one person can stop her—Candy Quackenbush from Chickentown, U.S.A.

Review: As overjoyed I was to finally get a chance to read this, I was also incredibly apprehensive. On one hand, darkness taking over is something Barker does well. On the other, I wasn’t sure really what could possibly happen to Candy or Abarat to warrant three more books. Happily, re-reading the first two books assuaged most of my fears and Absolute Midnight itself was more than worth the wait.

Wow. I am still reeling from the emotions, the darkness, the characters, the diverse settings, the amazing writing, and the events that took place. While Absolute Midnight obviously was in the same spirit as Abarat and Days of Magic, Night of War, this new third book was darker, more profound, and more brilliant than I could have ever anticipated. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, I didn’t really and thank goodness because what happened not only to Candy but to Boa, Carrion, Pixler, Motley, Malingo, and everyone else in Abarat or Chickentown made for a thoroughly engaging read.

The direction everything and everyone got taken in were really some of the more refreshing changes, particularly for a YA book, that I’ve come across in awhile. There is a lot going on in the Abarat series that deals with love, life, death, friendship, good, evil, finding one’s true self, and choices. I still don’t know if I would say this was a book strictly targeted towards teens, but all of the topics I’ve mentioned are definitely what teens are starting to become aware of if not to terms with. What makes this book and its prequels work so well is that the subjects are handled in really thought-provoking ways that aren’t in the least bit heavy-handed.

I could go on and on about the wonderfully terrible and terribly wonderful parts of Absolute Midnight, but needless to say there are a wealth of spoilers involved. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that there were so many monsters, so many story-lines, and so many amazingly unexpected developments that I found myself absolutely miserable and frustrated when I couldn’t just sit still to read this book all the way through. While reading, I cried, I laughed, and I was moved by the scope of Barker’s vision, imagination, and depth he gave to each of his characters. I was occasionally horrified by some of what happened, of course. But over all I was impressed, enthralled, and keenly pleased by the uniquely Barker but somewhat Lovecraftian-tinged elements that were introduced as well as how much the stakes get raised for everyone.

One of the strongest elements of the first two books were the art, and the paintings in Absolute Midnight were pretty amazing too. The words themselves held their own a bit more firmly this time around, but I still loved the pairing of images and text. Since I was reading an ARC not a finished book, I had to make do with black and white reproductions. That worked for about half of the paintings. With the other half it just turned everything into one shade of gray on top of the other, which was pretty awful in terms of catching any small details. Again, this is also not something I would hold against the book itself. Instead I will definitely be hunting down a finished copy of Absolute Midnight as soon as it is out in order to see the oil-paintings properly because I am positive that they will look awesome in color. Somehow I suspect re-reading won’t be a hardship either.

As far as complaints go, I can’t really think of any. Yes, there are a lot of cliffhangers, but I think that’s sort of par for the course since this is the third book in a five book series. I could have done without the new love interest for Candy, but I will reserve any real judgment until I see how it all plays out. Besides, Barker did so many things so well that it is difficult to hold anything so trivial against him.

In conclusion, awesome and not to be missed! Throughout the Abarat series, Barker has been able to strike a remarkable balance between the use of words and images, and he is really gifted at expressing himself through both mediums. Even just in terms of words, Absolute Midnight is the sort of work of fiction that readers need and that I sometimes forget even exists. It is such a shame that so few authors are wielding their imagination so freely or in such successful abandon as Barker. Just like the first two books of Abarat, I can see Absolute Midnight appealing to a wide range of people. Particularly to readers who are sick and tired of the same old thing, readers who are tired of authors refusing to go into the dark with their stories, and to fans of really good, fantastical horror.

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About April

I'm a librarian, reader, and writer whose main goal in life is to be able to swim in books the way Scrooge McDuck swims in money. Although my reading choices will always be wildly eclectic and I never plan on leaving any genre unexplored, my favorite reads tend to be Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Gay Romance, or Historical Fiction. You can e-mail me at inspector[dot]librarian[at]gmail[dot]com.
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10 Responses to Early Review: Abarat: Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker

  1. Paul D. Dail says:

    Even though Barker made it into my post, “My own Works Cited list: 10 books that have inspired me,” I wasn’t crazy about the first in this series. Came out about the same time Harry Potter was starting to really gain momentum (and was Barker’s first shot at YA, yeah?), and it kind of felt like trying to get his piece of the pie, as well.

    Having said, there are still some great images in my mind from that book (and many came from the… watercolor?…illustrations which were great). And in all fairness, this was the first YA book I read as an adult (I know, I know. Never read Harry Potter. Came out too early for me, and by the time in my life I would’ve read them, it was too late).

    Anyway, I like what you have to say on books, so I may have to fish Abarat out of the boxes and give it another shot.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • I think his first YA was actually Thief of Always, but was before that sort of book got its own section and as much attention.

      I guess the Abarat series could be seen as him attempting to get in on a good thing, but I have to say that I can’t imagine doing 150+ oil paintings per book for the sake of money or ego. The books have done well, but I hope that is because of the text and images being paired together and the small amount of unconventional YA fiction available. Plus given the time between each book and the fact that the next one won’t be out until 2014 (:(), I would definitely consider Barker’s efforts to be more a labor of love than anything else.

      I hope you do give the first book another chance. And I definitely hope your copy is illustrated. It seems like a few of the reprinted editions don’t even have the paintings in them, which is very odd.

      • Paul D. Dail says:

        I think I was just skeptical at that point, but I don’t think I ever doubted his commitment to the art (both figuratively and literally… yes, my edition did have the art, and I always enjoyed when I came to one). I also don’t think I had much of an appreciation for the YA category at that point in my life. Not that I’m a rabid fan now, but I certainly understand and value its place in the literary world much more.

        Now I’m curious to know if I still have it packed away somewhere 🙂

  2. TBM says:

    Sounds like a great read!

  3. Really great review! And love the love you had for this book. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  4. Pingback: Reader’s Progress #33 | CSI: Librarian

  5. Hey, great review! Just wanted to let you know we just posted the book trailer for ABARAT: ABSOLUTE MIDNIGHT, and it would be awesome if you reposted on your blog! Check it out at: http://bit.ly/p3q2Wd. Enjoy!

  6. Pingback: Best Reads of 2011 – Teen Books | CSI: Librarian

  7. Nurisim says:

    Meh, This book was great when taken as a stand alone, but the incongruities between the plot of the first and second and this one were just too much for me. I feel like Barker was setting up an entirely different story where Boa and Candy–the Two-in-One were the saviors of the island. The plot twist was just too extreme, like someone else had written this book. Like it was fanfiction. Like he totally changed his mind about the entire direction of the series. Totally unsatisfying, especially since Abarat is one of my favorite series and I have waited 7 years for the book! BAH!

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