This is a juvenile fantasy/horror from Clive Barker, appropriate from ages 9 or 10 on. Barker's usual sexual situations and gore is absent from this story. Be warned, there is no external indication that this is the first book in a series. As such, it ends rather unsatisfyingly, and contains a teaser prologue and chapter from the sequel in the back of the book.
The story took a few chapters before introducing the reader to the fantasy world, Abarat, at which point I thought it really took off. Barker has a great imagination, and even the character and place names were entertaining and provoking, unlike so many of the pseudo-fantasy-language names dredged up by second-rate fantasists trying to bask in Tolkien's reflected glory.
The story, once moving, continues at a refreshing clip. Barker's fantasy world is rich in detail and the creatures that inhabit it are among the most original I have come across. Kids should love this series and it would make a lovely gift for teens and pre-teens. As an adult I enjoyed it myself.
The story is essentially a quest story involving the increasingly revealed destiny of the central character, a young girl named Candy Quackenbush who lives a non-descript life in a jerk-water town called Chicken Town which only has its rather pungent chicken industry and nothing much else to recommend it.
Candy is a bit different from the other children and clearly not satisfied with her life in Chicken Town. Then, by virtue of her curiosity, honesty, and smarts, she discovers something wonderful about Chicken Town: it was not always all about chickens.
Candy embarks on a magical journey upon which the fate of two worlds may eventually hang, and in doing so meets up with some of the most colourful and originally imagined characters and places depicted in fantasy literature.
It is entertaining, well-written, and only suffers somewhat from the ending, which seemed more dedicated to setting up a sequel than providing a crunchingly satisfying ending. However, I have read some reviews of the sequel (which won a Bram Stoker award) and it seems the sequel may be even better than the first, so perhaps the weaker ending of the first book is not a total loss.
Decent quality mass market paperback....Continua