First published in September of 2011, Clive Barker’s third instalment into the elaborate and uniquely imaginative ‘Abarat’ series was entitled ‘Abarat - Book Three: Absolute Midnight’.  The book contains the usual full colour oil paintings by Clive Barker, illustrating the amazing fantasy world throughout.

DLS Synopsis:
A lone blind old man flicks through his pack of Abaratian tarot cards, reading the messages that they send out to him.  Prophecies that are on the verge of being realised.  Images of a great war that will tear apart the Abarat and bring with it total darkness.  An absolute midnight.

Elsewhere, Candy Quackenbush is once again back in the Abarat, and upon returning, she is instantly summoned to The Great Head of the Yebba Dim Day to justify all of her actions to the great Abaratian council.  Thankfully for the young girl, fortune (and a few powerful Abaratian council members) is on her side, and she is allowed to go on her way.

But the recent revelation that the soul of the once great Princess Boa is trapped within her has now become an absolute priority for Candy.  It’s time that the princess was released.  Not an easy task in itself, but with the help of the (possibly insane) Laguna Munn and the magical powers of the Abarataraba, the Princes can at last be freed from her prison within the young Chickentown girl.

But the Princess is not as good and pure as her name and title would suggest.  Not all princesses are fair and true.  For before her imprisonment inside the mind and body of Candy, Boa had slowly learnt much of the age-old Abaratian magic from the Prince of Midnight – Christopher Carrion.  And with her despicable desire for power, the Princess will stop at nothing to get what she sees as rightfully hers.

Meanwhile, Carrion’s grandmother, Mater Motley, is ready to commence her great war on the Abarat.  The war that will bring about her absolute midnight.  It starts with unleashing the immense army of Sacbrood from within the Pyramids of Xuxux.  When the great pyramids open up, the Sacbrood will take to the sky, binding together to blot out all light.  The absolute midnight will then be cast over the entire Abarat archipelago.

Next Mater Motley plans to take her massive army of Stitchlings, each one having been sewn together by the Old Hag’s loyal seamstresses, and advance her army on through the Abarat to kill off each and every man or beast that would dare to oppose the new Empress and dark ruler of the Abarat.  With the help of the eon old gods from behind the stars, the Nephauree, The Empress will bring forth the most colossal of war machines, and finally rid the world of her enemies.  Her promise being a knife for every heart.

Only one girl can stand up against this terrifyingly destructive power.  One very special part of the great equation, that can face up to the overwhelming forces of darkness.  With the help of her dear friends (and a few more along the way), Candy Quackenbush must stand against the crushing powers of The Empress and truly realise her ultimate part to play in the precarious future of the Abarat…

DLS Review:
For the third instalment into the ‘Books of Abarat’ series, Barker has set down a complex novel, brimming with engrossing subplots and character development, that all spirals towards an all-encompassing dramatic finale.  Unlike the previous two books, ‘Absolute Midnight’ has a clear goal from the very outset which the reader can identify from early on.  This is in no way a bad reflection on either of the two previous novels, but a slightly different take on how the novel is structured and its larger-scaled plot.

It’s been seven years since the publication of the last instalment - ‘Abarat – Book Two: Days Of Magic, Nights Of War’ (2004); during which time Barker has not only written and published another adult horror novel ‘Mister B. Gone’ (2007), but he’s reportedly gone through a great amount of difficulty in his personal life.  Perhaps this is the reason why ‘Absolute Midnight’ has adjusted itself from the two preceding novels?  It’s far more adult in nature (although clearly still a ‘young adult’ novel).  And it’s a hell of a lot darker, bleaker and more ambitiously descriptive.

The action and excitement is very much pushed to the forefront of the novel.  Barker really has cranked up the imaginative thrills and spills here.  From a wholly corrupt and evil Princess Boa, to a tainted and conspiring false prophet, to an army of grotesque Stitchlings and Sacbrood, to the uprising of Mater Motley to that of The Empress, to the immense near-apocalyptic powers of the Nephauree; the numerous threats constantly at Candy’s heels are almost never-ending.  Indeed, these threats are much more dominating, powerful and intense than anything we had seen thus far.  The goliath Stormwalker that The Empress summons up is unlike anything we have encountered before.  It really is the unrelenting pressure and sheer scale of the enemy powers, what pulls this instalment out from the previous two instalments.

Likewise, the effect that these dark forces have on the Abarat is near-apocalyptic.  Casting the entire archipelago in absolute darkness so that Mater Motley can rule over the islands is indeed perhaps the most immense storyline to the series so far.  Furthermore, the bringing back of old, previously forgotten secondary characters, to play out new and much more evil roles, just further thickens out the overall threat level.  No matter where Candy is taken and what she does, there always seems to be someone or something that is after her blood.  There’s no breaking away from the action, to sit back and bask in the fantastical landscape and intricacies of the Abarat.  That’s already been very much established in the previous two instalments.  Now it’s time to get down to the real nitty-gritty of why Candy Quackenbush is actually in the Abarat.

The backstory of the Carrion family history is also brought into the tale, with a particularly predominant role to play.  Similarly, Candy’s own family are pulled back into the throes of the action, with inter-weaving plotlines forming an elaborate tapestry for the basis of the plot.

The finale itself is epic in all of its gargantuan proportions.  Barker doesn’t hold back one iota, throwing in an absolute monstrosity of an action-packed sequence, with a final desperate fight for survival coming down to one ultimate standoff.  Further still, the rounding up of all The Empress’ enemies for one mass-scale extermination draws surprisingly stark similarities to that of Hitler’s Nazi camps.  Here once again we see the underlying themes of the tale veering further and further into the darker side imaginings within Barker’s mind.

The novel ends well, with a mind-blowingly elaborate sequence from the author, drawing to a close his magical world where the rules as we know them really do not apply.  After finishing the novel, it feels like a multitude of tightly-packed adventures are over.  And in a way they are.  That is, until the next instalment into the series begins…

The novel runs for a total of 571 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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