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[ profile] 50bookchallenge: #1: Clive Barker, Abarat
(a more formal and spoiler-free review for 50bookchallenge)

However much I love Barker's writing, in some respects it's difficult to talk about a children's / young adults' book and really do it justice, when you're past the intended age-range and have been for quite some time...

For perhaps about the first half of the book I couldn't really shake off the uneasy feeling that this was too much of an edited-for-children, simplified version of the other magical worlds Barker has created - the quiddity from The Great and Secret Show / Everville and the five dominions from Imajica. The heroine's transition from a dreary 'normal' life to some magical universe where she (re-)discovers her identity, destiny and strengths: there is, of course such a thing as an author's personal mythology, but the resemblances were a little too close for my taste. But as the world of the Abarat unfolded, the story developed a life of its own and drew me in.

It has all the things I usually love about Barker's books: the creation of a magical dream-world that isn't derived from pre-existing mythology (like Tolkien's universe) or all-too-obviously based on some historic period, like so many Fantasy worlds are; with creatures that defy species, rationalism or probability, without even trying to explain or justify this to the reader. This may sound strange coming from my mostly very (too?) rational self, but to me there's always something wonderful and inspiring about Barker's way to imagine worlds that break boundaries without even trying and defy about everything possible: laws of physics or biology, social conventions of gender roles or traditional definitions of good and evil (the latter without ever drifting off into nihilistic immoralism).

So many colourful details, such beautiful creations here... John Mischief and his brothers, Malingo, the telepathic binocular squid Squiller (:: sniff ::)... Speaking from a woman's point of view it's also extremely gratifying to have a female saviour-to-be/heroine.

Sadly it's a WIP, so to speak, barely setting the stage for Candy's adventure and introducing the protagonists. Not that I'm exactly on the edge now, waiting for the the next volume, because it's well worth reading for itself, but still... September 2004. Ah well.

Taking an educated guess at this point Candy is the reincarnation of Princess Boa, but knowing Barker, it isn't going to end with anything as straight-forward as a happy re-union with the lover of her former life, even though this is a children's book. Being familiar with Barker's work one can also tell from the beginning before it's actually being pointed out to Candy by Jimothy that the true threat isn't Christopher Carrion, disappointed, bitter and twisted by self-hatred, but ultimately capable of love (at least once) and feelings, part of the balance between light and dark, but Rojo Pixler with his ambition to define everything in terms of buying and selling and his intent on erasing the magic from the Abarat.

The book is worth buying for the artwork alone, which is simply awesome, each picture a joy too look at in its own right, not just as an illustration to the story....


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March 2013

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