Literature / Abarat

Abarat is an as-yet unfinished Young Adult fantasy quintet (of which so far only the first three books have appeared: Abarat, Days of Magic, Nights of War, and Absolute Midnight—the intended sequel of which is tentatively titled "Kry Rising") written and illustrated by one Clive Barker.

Yes, that Clive Barker.

The books follow the adventures of a young woman named Candy Quackenbush. She hails from the small town of Chickentown, Minnesota, a tiny burg with a higher population of its eponymous fowl than people. She longs for something more than her small-town life, but doesn't know where to find it. One day, a strange compulsion grips her, and she races to the outskirts of town. There, she finds a strange man named John Mischief, whose brothers live as heads sprouting out of his impressive antlers, who is running from a strange, gaunt man named Shape. But through the powers of a magical lighthouse, she manages to summon a sea from nowhere—and from there, she is carted off to the Abarat. The Abarat is an archipelago where every island is an hour of the day, and it is full of strange, wonderful creatures. But sinister beings lurk in the shadows, and they have impure designs on Candy...

Perhaps the most noticable aspect of the books is that they are all lavishly illustrated by Clive Barker himself with hundreds of full-color paintings, on glossy paper. They're a visual trip as well as a mental one. While Vanilla Edition, non-illustrated print runs of the books have been made, the pictures are part of the fun.

This series provides examples of:

  • Half-Human Hybrids: Lots and lots of them everywhere around—Izarith the part-Skizmut, the half-dragon priest Deetha Maas.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The Fantomaya. Mespa is the Maid, Joephi the Matron, and Diamanda the Hag.
  • Head Pet: Candy briefly has a squid as one. He dies of exposure, sadly.
  • Hufflepuff House: Many of the islands, other than the ones we spend the "most" time on.
  • Impossible Theft: John Mischief and his brothers managed to steal the tattoos of a criminal named Monkai-Monkai while he was in prison.
  • Instant Expert: Candy, who adapts quickly to Abarat. The strangeness of this is discussed—people from the Hereafter have gone mad from trying to adapt too quickly, since their imaginations couldn't handle the strangeness of Abarat. By comparison, not only is Candy still sane, despite being hunted by Christopher Carrion's minions, she displays an innate talent for magic.
    • It's because she has Princess Boa's soul inside her.
  • Interspecies Romance: Several. Candy and Gazza, mostly shipteased Candy and Malingo. Princess Boa and Finnegan Hobb are this, too.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Shape likes to use these to intimidate people, though they're more openly sinister than tunes from our world, having apparently been written by Card Carrying Villains. There are some innocent nursery tunes too, though. For example, the lullaby Zephario Carrion sung to his son, Christopher.
  • Kill the Cutie: Malingo, but he gets better.
  • Lighthouse Point: In the middle of a field. In Minnesota. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Finnegan Hob's love for Princess Boa causes him to commit mass genocide against all dragons when a single dragon kills Boa.
  • Magitek: Most of the Pixler Company's inventions, the Sublime Verities.
  • The Man Behind the Man: As of the second book, it seems like Mater Motley is the real Big Bad of the series and always was.
    • ...and then we are introduced to the Nephauree, who have given Mater Motley the capabilities to conquer the Abarat.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Boa turns out to be quite a large one in Absolute Midnight.
  • Monster Sob Story: Christopher Carrion's backstory. His entire family, except for his grandmother and absent father, died in a massive fire, he was brought up to be a perfect villain by his abusive grandmother who had sewn up his lips for saying the word love, fell in love with a princess who used and then shunned him...and his life didn't get better since then.
  • Morality Pet: Maratien to Mater Motley in the third book. She's one of the few people who Motley's shown actual kindness and concern for, even more so than her own son.
    • ...and then she kills Maratien and sews her soul to her dress.
  • Multiple Head Case: The John brothers, who share a body, but different heads.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Christopher Carrion, who even wears a glass collar for his embodied nightmares swim in.
    • A mild case with Candy. She apparently got it from her grandmother, who loved to go to strangers' funerals.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Chickentown.
  • Ocean Punk: The Fisherman's Ghetto in the Great Head of Yebba Dim Day.
  • Oh My Gods!: "A'zo and Cha!", "Lordy Lou!"
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Mater Motley would be as happy destroying the islands as she would be ruling them.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Actually, the dragons in Abarat are more of a Reconstruction of the classical dragon. They are hermaphrodites, though.
  • Pardon My Klingon: Abaratian is full of unique swears.
  • Peace & Love, Incorporated: The Pixler Company.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Malingo gets one when Christopher Carrion messes with the course of the glyph through his mind.
  • Place Beyond Time: The Twenty-Fifth Hour, which is always surrounded by a thick fog. Over the edge of the world.
  • Retired Monster: Zephario Carrion, who was a monster in his youth, but realized the error of his ways and became a fairly gentle old man.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Christopher Carrion is fully aware of how screwed up he is, and hates it.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: The Skein, the Thread.
  • Sadist: Mater Motley is a horrendous case. Everything she did, all the atrocities she committed were simply because she liked inflicting pain just as much as wanton murder and mass destruction.
  • Split at Birth: Inverted. Maybe. Princess Boa's spirit was reincarnated into a just-about-to-be-born Candy. However, prenatal Candy had a soul of her own. So Candy as an adolescent girl is referred to as the "Two in One," and realizes that "Candy" and "Princess Boa" are two halves of the same whole within her—hence, fused at birth. It's not exactly clear, just roll with it.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Carrion is of the more malicious sort. Gazza gets disturbingly close, too.
  • Straight Gay: Two-Toed Tom (who tells off John Serpent for an apparently bigoted comment) and his (thus far offstage) love interest Tidal Jim.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: The House of Midnight has spies everywhere. Everywhere.
  • Tyke Bomb: Christopher was explicitly designed to be one.
  • Ultimate Evil: The Requiax, the "enemies of love."
    • And as of Absolute Midnight, the Nephauree.
  • Vanilla Edition: There are two paperback editions of each book—one that has the pictures (and is still pretty expensive even by hardcover standards), and one that doesn't. Interestingly, the Vanilla Edition tends to get shelved in either the teen or adult section of most bookstores/libraries, while the regular ones tend to get shelved with the kid's stuff—Illustration Age Ghetto, perhaps?
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Kiss Curl Carlotti, eaten by the sea dragon.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Christopher Carrion cemented by the happenings in Absolute Midnight.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: In the second book, Candy abruptly learns a specific word of power: "Jassassakya-Thüm". When she says it, it shakes or breaks whatever she focuses on (or if she is not focusing, everything around her). And it will keep shaking and breaking until she inhales it again. In fact, the longer the word is "loose", the stronger it gets.
  • Yandere: Christopher Carrion. After Princess Boa rejected him, he sent a dragon to kill her.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Apparently, seeing the Nephauree's true form is so horrifying and traumatic it makes you want to stab out your own eyes. Mater Motley tried. It was a mistake.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Quite normal for the Abaratians. The Commexo Kid's design does have blue hair.