First published back in November of 1992, ‘The Thief Of Always’ was Clive Barker’s first novel to be published that was predominantly aimed at a younger audience. The tale is an exciting escape into a magical world that, although perfect in its appearance, is hiding a dark and deceptive secret. However, like with C. S. Lewis’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’ (1865) or Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Halloween Tree’ (1972), Barker wanted the novel to appeal similarly to an adult audience, who will see a more eerie undertone within the tale. AS such, for the more mature reader, the tale is more inclined towards the loss of your childhood, a loss which you can never reclaim.
Between January of 2005 and May of 2005, a ‘The Thief of Always’ graphic novel adaptation was published over three bimonthly issues. The graphic novels were adapted by Kris Oprisko with artwork by Gabriel Hernandez.
Ten-year-old Harvey Swick spends each and every day feeling utterly bored with the apparently mundane day-to-day events of his life. However, a seemingly chance meeting with a mysterious character named Rictus suggests a more exciting lifestyle that could be had for the young boy. Rictus tells Harvey of a magical paradise named ‘The Holiday House’, where children experience the very best parts of all of the four seasons of the year each and every day. Beaming with anticipation from the sound of this dream come true, Harvey accepts Rictus’ invitation, and is whisked away from his parent’s house and off through a strange mist wall that conceals the magical land that Rictus had promised.
Over the ensuing month, Harvey falls in love with everything about the Holiday House and its glorious blend of seasons crammed into each day. Harvey is not alone in this children’s paradise. He makes friends with the children Wendell and Lulu, who like him are also guests at the house. The kindly Mrs Griffin looks after the house’s guests; cooking up one delightful meal after the next, keeping the children well fed and happy as each day passes.
As time creeps by, Harvey learns about the owner of the house - a man by the name of Mr Hood. Doubt begins to creep into Harvey's mind, and after becoming suspicious of the true nature of the house, Harvey realises that they are in fact prisoners in this bizarre place where time follows a different set of rules.
Together with Wendell, the two begin to plot their escape from the Holiday House. But a horrifying revelation awaits them back in the real world. Time has not waited for the children at the Holiday House; far from it in fact. For each day that they spent indulging in the delights of the four seasons, an entire year has passed away in the real world. The two have no choice but to return once again to the Holiday House, where they must face up to Mr Hood and steal back the time that was so deceptively taken from them...
Throughout the novel, Barker has purposefully used a slightly more simplistic choice in words to allow a younger audience to easily enjoy the novel. However, Barker has cleverly maintained his flair for imagination, mixing in beautifully descriptive elements of the magical house, with the eerie undertones that slowly begin to emerge as the true menace behind the House begins to unfold.
The story offers up a classical ‘fable-esque’ atmosphere to it, whilst managing to remain somewhat contemporary with the timeless (pardon the pun) premise of wasted childhood. With definite glimpses of Aleksandr Ptushko's 1964 film 'A Tale Of Time Lost' glimmering through the basic premise of the tale, inspiration behind such a traditional conceptual idea was sure to come from many pre-existing sources close to the author's heart.
Packed with colourful characters and eventful happenings, the pace remains a constant blend of excitement and suspense filled jeopardy, which will keep young readers gripped to the story as much as it will the adults. As the tale spirals to the dramatic and wonderfully imaginative grand finale, Barker throws in every clever twist and turn to the plot that he has kept up his sleeve throughout the novel.
The ending is superb, with a nicely rounded off finish that leaves a satisfying (and heart-warming) conclusion to the story. The underlying messages are obvious for all ages, but not too forced that the storyline suffers at their delivery.
All ages will take immense enjoyment from the tale, with its magical premise and wonderful array of exciting events that unfold. The tale inspires imagination from the younger readers, whilst taking the more adult audience back to their childhood for a wistful glimpse of those precious years. This truly is a tale that will be treasured by the young and the adult alike.
The novel runs for a total of 230 pages, including numerous pen and ink illustrations done by Barker himself, which beautifully illustrate the story throughout the book’s length.
© DLS Reviews