Title: Abarat: Absolute Midnight
Author: Clive Barker
It’s not often that an acclaimed director, screenwriter and producer can captivate audiences with highly detailed, intriguing imagery in an anticipated sequel in a book series. But that’s exactly what horror-fantasy mastermind Clive Barker did with his latest novel, ‘Abarat: Absolute Midnight’ the follow-up to 2002’s ‘Abarat’ and 2004’s ‘Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War.’ The book once again details the admirable actions taken by heroine Candy Quakenbush, who feels destined to protect and guard the innocent.
‘Abarat: Absolute Midnight’ follows the 16-year-old Candy as she leaves her home and ordinary live in Chickentown, Minnesota, to travel to, and protect, the mythical, title archipelago. Every island represents a different hour of the day, and the Old Mother of darkness, Mater Motley, is once again scheming to conquer the archipelago. Abarat is in danger of being destroyed forever, as Mater Motley is determined to unleash her war, tyranny and evil on the residents. She threatens to obliterate the sky over the islands as absolute darkness.
Candy proves what a loyal, brave protagonist she is by willingly becoming like a martyr to save the Abarat from total destruction. She is an inspiration for young readers, showing that even with the possibility of uniting with her first love, she instead chooses to sacrifice her life to save the people of the Abarat. While Candy deals with contemporary issues, including protecting the innocent, sacrificing her own happiness and safety and coping with an abusive, drunken father, Barker still effortlessly brings her into a highly detailed, imaginative world.
The outlandish residents and locations of the Abarat are visually characterized in detailed, creative oil paintings that fill the pages of the fantasy-adventure novel, next to the text. Such characters as Nyritta Maku, one of Candy’s accusers at the Abarat Council Chambers, are greatly described in the story’s text. But seeing the characters, including the councilwoman’s blue-skinned skull that’s bound to soft-boned sub-skulls, will surely make readers feels as though they’re experiencing Candy’s plight and struggle to overcome her enemies.
Besides creating a distinct hero and intriguing illustrations, Barker also fashioned a truly diabolical villain in Mater Motely. While traveling in the Hereafter, as Candy’s world is known, Mater Motely suffers the loss of her grandson, Christopher Carrior, who drowned. In her despair, she continues to command her army of stitchlings to follow through with her plan to overtake Abarat. While Candy distinguishes herself by willingly standing up, and fighting, for what she believes in, Mater Motely uses her evil army to purposefully unleash terror, without any guilt or regret.
In order to combat Mater Motely and save Abarat, several residents in the alternate world support Candy’s mission to stop Mater Motely and her plans. These diverse, intriguing characters include the Councilman from Ninnyhammer, a bipedal tarrie-cat named Jimothi Tarri, who met Candy before she spoke to the Abarat leaders. Nyritta presses Candy on why she returned to Abarat, but Jimothi regularly comes to the young girl’s defense.
Like with the first first two entries in the ‘Abarat’ series, Barker featured a natural, intriguing hero with Candy, who readers will surely empathize with during her struggle to defeat Mater Motely. Candy’s adventures into Abarat never become dull or boring, despite the book being almost 575 pages long; the protagonist’s real-life characteristics, including sacrificing her own happiness to save the innocent, allow readers to picture themselves in her shoes, tackling the evil looming on Abarat. Readers unfamiliar with the first two books in the trilogy will still understand, and appreciate, Barker’s unique imagination.
Written by: Karen Benardello