28 January 2010

“Kirkus-style” review

The Thief of Always... written by Clive Barker... published by HarperCollins... 1992.

The Thief of Always is the first book by Clive Barker to be aimed at a younger audience (he has since published two titles in the Abarat series). Barker has previously been known as mainly a writer of horror fiction. He burst onto the scene with his "Books of Blood" short-story collections in the early 1980's, which earned a quote from Stephen King ("I have seen the future of horror, and his name is Clive Barker.") that has followed him throughout the years.

In this book, however, Barker has lightend the tone somewhat, and headed into new territory by writing a book for older children/young adults. The story is still a bit on the dark side (though no darker than something like the "Harry Potter" books), and still retains Barker's penchant for the fantastique. It begins with young Harvey Swick feeling bored and nullified by the "great gray beast February." That soon bordom soon lifts as he has a visitor who pops in his window (not unlike in the story of Peter Pan) who claims that he can take Harvey to a place where he can do anything he pleases, have all the fun he likes, and never be bored again! Harvey is reluctant, but eventually follows... through his hometown, and through a wall of clouds to a place that is quite unlike his dreary neighborhood. He goes up to a great house and is greeted by a kindly woman, Mrs. Griffin, who offers him and food he likes.

Harvey meets a couple of other children in the house. The girl takes to herself, but Harvey goes out to play with the boy on the bright summer-like day. Soon enough, it becomes evening... and Halloween! ...which later becomes Thanksgiving, and then Christmas (with snow!) later that night! Harvey has found himself at Mr. Hood's Holiday House! All seems well, with Harvey and his friends having a year's worth of fun in each day! ...but is all as it seems? ...and what is wrong with the fish in the pond behind the house? Harvey begins to question... but questions are not always well-met!

All in all, this is a wonderful book for younger readers and adults alike! There is great fantasy adventure, with just enough chills to delight readers. Harvey does learn a life-lesson in the end, but Barker manages to not make it preachy. This book is definitely recommended for young readers who can handle something on the darker side of things, and also for adults who would like to revisit something of this sort.

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