The Thief of Always
is a fable written by Clive Barker
that may read like a children's book, but it's just as enjoyable for adults. It deals with temptation
, growing up
, and it has a few good helpings of horror, as expected of Clive Barker.
Ten-year-old Harvey Swick is unsatisfied with boring, day-to-day life; he is sick of dealing with school, homework, nagging parents... Until a shady figure named Rictus appears in his room and offers him a stay at the "Holiday House
", a paradise
where kids don't age or ever have work. There are four seasons a day, every night is Christmas, and the House grants any wish, all made possible by a man called Mr. Hood.
Harvey quickly befriends the incumbent residents of the house: two other kids named Wendell and Lulu, kindly caretaker Mrs. Griffin and her seemingly sentient cats, and two of Rictus's "siblings". However, some sinister hints are dropped, such as the collection of children's clothes
in the attic, the forbidden lake behind the House, and mentions of a fourth member of Rictus's family called "Carna
". Above all, who is Mr. Hood and where does he get his power from? Eventually, Harvey's curiosity and growing suspicions about the House lead him to discover some unpleasant truths...
This work provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Due to Hood's magic, only children can find the house. When adults try, all attempts to find the House fail.
- Bad Future: The first time Harvey escapes, it's revealed that a year passed for every day spent at Holiday House. Harvey disappeared for 30 years and returned to his parents as a 10-year-old boy.
- The Barnum: Hood gains immortality by luring in gullible, greedy, lazy or just plain lonely children to the Holiday House and then taking their souls when they've spent enough time there.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The book's premise
- Big Brother Is Watching: The House itself is listening to you.
- Bittersweet Ending: The heroes escape Holiday House, but they have to go back to their separate time periods. When Harvey encounters Lulu again outside the House, she's already grown up and engaged.
- Body Horror: Lulu's gradual transformation into a fish.
- Chekhov's Gun
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Rictus
- Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Griffin
- Dark Is Evil: But it's hard to spot the darkness at first...
- Deal with the Devil
- Delicious Distraction: Harvey doesn't fall for it, but Wendell does.
- Devour the Dragon
- Did Not Get the Girl
- Disney Villain Death (doubles as Karmic Death): Hood is killed when he falls into the lake and is pulled into a swirling vortex, which agonisingly destroys him.
- The Ditz: Wendell
- The Dragon: Carna
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Epiphanic Prison
- The Faceless: Mr. Hood does make a "body" for himself from the remains of Holiday House, but his true face is never seen.
- Fantastic Fragility: To defeat the Big Bad, Harvey wishes up a real, live ark, then an impossible feast, then for every season at once, under the guise of a soon-to-be apprentice testing his master's power. This ends up destroying the House and draining the Big Bad's power.
- The Fog of Ages: Mrs. Griffin
- Foreshadowing: Harvey's transformation into a vampire for Halloween
- Giving Them the Strip: Henry is grabbed by the back of the jacket, so he slips out of his jacket to escape.
- Growing Up Sucks: Played with. It's definitely a theme in the beginning of the novel.
- Happy Place / Lotus-Eater Machine: Holiday House
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Mr. Hood, for the majority of the book
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Marr, Jive. And Hood to a lesser extent.
- Immortality Immorality
- Impossibly Delicious Food: Every night is Halloween, then Thanksgiving.
- Involuntary Shapeshifting: When Marr is hoisted by her own petard.
- Jedi Mind Trick: Hood's illusions can be very persuasive for the Weak-Willed.
- Kid Hero
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: Mrs. Griffin
- The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday
- Loners Are Freaks: Wendell believes that Lulu qualifies for this trope, but once Harvey gets to know her she's quite nice. Unfortunately, there's a reason (see Body Horror) why she keeps to herself...
- Lotus-Eater Machine
- Master of Illusion: Hood
- Meaningful Name: Marr, Jive, Rictus
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Carna, Rictus.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Carna
- Not So Different: See Title Drop.
- Strictly speaking, Hood is completely correct in this assessment; they've both stolen things that make a person what they are — things that should never be taken by anyone. Hood has stolen the souls of the children lured to his Holiday House, while Harvey has stolen the lives of Hood's illusory minions The difference comes in why they did it — Harvey did it to lure out Hood so he could defeat him and save the children trapped there, while Hood has merely done it to extend his warped existence and feed his unholy hunger. The difference between heroism and villainy sometimes isn't in what you do, but why you do it. Not the sort of thing you tend to see in a children's book.
- Older Than They Look: The residents of the House
- One-Winged Angel
- Our Souls Are Different: Losing yours apparently causes you to turn into a fish.
- Our Vampires Are Different
- Pleasure Island: At the Holiday House there are four seasons a day, every night is Christmas, and the House grants any wish, all made possible by a man called Mr. Hood. Eventually though, Harvey's curiosity and growing suspicions about the House lead him to discover some unpleasant truths...
- Powered By Forsaken Children
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: Rictus and his family
- The Renfield: Rictus is revealed to be one.
- Reset Button Ending: Sort of.
- The Reveal
- Right Behind Me: After Hood is seemingly defeated, Rictus reveals that he had secretly stolen some of Hood's power for himself. But then a hand reaches out of the ruins of the House and grabs him...
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory
- Title Drop: In a Not So Different moment, "Vampire King" Hood tells Harvey he is a "Thief of Always" just like him.
- Trapped in Another World
- The Trickster: Rictus appears to be this at first, but later on it's shown that Harvey fits the heroic variation.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Played with. Marr has the ability to transform other people, she uses it to turn Harvey into a giant bat at his request. However...
- Weak-Willed: Wendell
- We Can Rule Together: Hood plays this straight with Harvey.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?
- What Year Is This?
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Mrs. Griffin
- Year Outside Day Inside
- You Have Failed Me / You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Rictus
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle