First published back in October of 2004, ‘Abarat: Days Of Magic, Nights Of War’ formed the second instalment into Clive Barker’s ‘Books of Abarat’ series. The book tied with Steve Burt’s short story collection ‘Oddest Yet’ (2004) for the 2004 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers.
Only a few weeks have passed and now Candy Quackenbush, together with her new travelling companion Malingo the Geshrat, have continued their island hopping escapades in the hope of evading the grasp of the notorious master bounty hunter - Otto Houlihan.
Meanwhile, the Lord of Midnight – Christopher Carrion, has set forth his despicable plans to create a permanent midnight across the Abarat. His swarms of insectile Sacbrood will form the perfect cover for the resurrection of the great barbaric destroyers known as the Requiax, who lie in waiting under the vast Sea of Izabella.
A resistance against Carrion’s army of Midnight is being hastily put together. But Carrion’s increasing frustration at the repeated failure at capturing Candy by his henchmen has now completely consumed the bitter man’s mind. He has become convinced that the girl is the key to the Abarat’s resistance. Her capture has now become a very personal obsession for the Lord of Midnight.
But unbeknown to him, Carrion’s evil grandmother – Mother Motley, has seen what truly lies in the heart of her grandson. And so the hideous-old-hag-of-a-sorceress slaves away night and day, sewing together a ferocious army of nightmarish beasts to join the ranks of the Lord of Midnight’s army.
With her own magical abilities now becoming more and more apparent, Candy Quackenbush sets her sights on the mysterious Totemix who have remained imprisoned within the Twilight Palace on the island of Scoriae. But Carrion’s loyal servant Letheo is close by. And at last the capture of the young girl that has tormented the mind of the great Lord of Midnight has now become imminent.
John Mischief and his brothers must work with Malingo the Geshrat in building up the resistance against the increasing presence of the army of Midnight. Seeking help from the great dragon slayer (and would-be husband to the deceased Princess Boa), the group plan a desperate rescue attempt to bring back Candy form the evil clutches of Christopher Carrion.
But the tides of the Abarat are approaching the human world. The rejoining of the two worlds is imminent, and with it will come great floods across Candy’s home town of Chickentown. Candy and her band of travelling friends are up against everything now in order to secure a future for the Abarat. But to do so, they first need to look closure to home for their ultimate rescue. For Candy may well be the key to it all. And as such she must be protected at all costs.
But there’s a lot more evil in the Abarat than just Christopher Carrion...
In Barker’s follow-on to ‘Abarat - Book One’ (2002), the reader is once again treated to page after page of beautifully presented full-colour illustrations painted entirely by the author himself. This second instalment is slightly longer than the first book, with the storyline setting off at a gallant pace from the outset, and continuing on throughout the duration of the novel at this exciting and engaging page-turning pace.
Barker injects a litany of new and highly imaginative characters into the tale, with plenty of wild magical elements thrown into the mix to tingle the imagination of every young (and older) reader. The elaborate intertwining subplots and multi-layered approach to the storyline makes the tale one hell of a compelling read, with no sagging or loss of pace.
This second instalment is certainly a lot darker and more emotionally complex than the first Abarat novel. The relationship between Christopher Carrion and his grandmother, Mother Motley, is as intriguing as it is eerie. Indeed, Barker really goes to town with the depth of inherent creepiness that he instills in Mother Motley, making this evil and twisted woman one of the most haunting characters to be included in the books thus far.
However elaborate and complex the storyline becomes, Barker keeps a tight rein on its overall direction, with each event, character or occurrence within the tale fulfilling its own specific requirement within the author’s grand design.
Weaving our own world (Candy’s world that is) into that of the Abarat was a brave move to make within the storyline, but one that has certainly paid off. In uniting the two worlds, Barker has managed to bring the magic of Abarat to our doorsteps, connecting the reader with the tale on another new and possibly more engaging level. With Candy now establishing her true calling and connection with the Abarat (and indeed with the realisation of her newly found magical abilities) it’s warming to see her routes with Chickentown and her parents not forgotten.
This second book in the series is predominantly one of discovery. Now that the reader is reasonably well acquainted with the Abarat world, Barker uses the opportunity to unravel many of its secrets and bring answers to questions that were raised in both of these first two books. With so many mysteries surrounding the novels, Barker takes to divulging the explanations with obvious glee – each mystery that’s exposed is given a momentous back-story as well as an integral role within the storyline as a whole.
With the gigantic revelations at the ending bringing the tale to a climatic finale, the book ends on a thoroughly gripping and dramatic note, with the reader’s appetite for the next chapter in this growing saga suitably whetted.
All in all, the book is a fast paced, exciting, imaginative and ingenious instalment into the series. With so much revealed within its pages, the novel has opened up the world of the Abarat so much more for its readers. Once again Barker has managed to create an utterly compelling and engaging read that lights up the imagination with the magical skill of a master conjurer.
The novel runs for a total of 491 pages.
© DLS Reviews