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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 7-12. In the first of a planned four-book series, Barker imbues the traditional conventions of fantasy with a whimsical Wonderland quality, providing a host of bizarre characters, a fabulous landscape, and a coherent underlying mythology. Teenage Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown, Minnesota, begins (unbeknownst to her) a prophesied journey toward her destiny when she dives into a mysterious sea that appears outside the town. She is carried to Abarat, an unusual archipelago of 25 islands. Happy to get away from her abusive father, resigned mother, and boring town, Candy eagerly enters a series of zany adventures, making friends and eluding enemies as she finds herself caught in the struggle for power between the Lord of Midnight and the architect of the high-tech Commexo City. The multilayered adventure story not only embraces the lands of Oz, Wonderland, and Narnia but also offers a wink and a nod to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. More than 100 full-color paintings by Barker are appropriately quirky, grotesque, and campy, effectively capturing and expanding on the nuances of the tale. Sally Estes.

  Kirkus Review

A new series revives the almost-extinct genre of the fantasy travelogue. Candy Quackenbush is fed up with her life of "boredom, violence, and tears" in unbearably ordinary Chickentown, Minnesota. After a typically brutal school day, she runs away to the prairie, only to fall into a most extraordinary adventure. Helping the improbable John Mischief (whose seven brothers all grow from horns on his head) escape creepy Mendelson Shape, Candy magically summons the Sea of Izabella, which links our world to the archipelago of Abarat, where the chief islands are each governed by a single Hour of the day. Candy easily finds friends and guides among its fantastical inhabitants, including Samuel Klepp (publisher of the indispensable Almenak) and the downtrodden slave Malingo; but she also accumulates powerful enemies in the dastardly wizard Wolfswinkel, the ambitious tycoon Pixler, and Shape's terrifying master Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight. Eventually Candy realizes that her journey is no accident, but part of a mysterious destiny. Abarat is an intriguing creation, deserving of comparison to Oz. Filmmaker and adult-novelist Barker (Coldheart Canyon, 2001, etc.) pours out an utter phantasmagoria, ruled by the logic of dreams. Yet there is a peculiar lifelessness to all this imaginative fecundity; fascinating in its minutiae, the world fails to cohere about a compelling narrative or charismatic central character. Like the dozens of illustrations by the author, it dazzles with color and detail, but on closer inspection proves curiously flat, all surface and no depth. Still, with three promised sequels on the way, many readers will, like Candy, want to "trust to Mama Izabella" to take them somewhere worth the trip. (Fiction. 12+) Film rights to Disney; author tour
Once upon a world<br> where time is place<br> a journey beyond imagination<br> is about to unfold....<br> <p>It begins in the most boring place in the world: Chickentown, U.S.A. Candy Quackenbush lives in Chickentown, her heart bursting for some clue as to what her future might hold.</p> <p>When the answer comes, it's not one she expects. Out of nowhere comes a wave, and Candy, led by a man called John Mischief (whose brothers live on the horns on his head), leaps into the surging waters and is carried away.</p> <p>Where? To the ABARAT: a vast archipelago where every island is a different hour of the day, from the Great Head that sits in the mysterious twilight waters of Eight in the Evening, to the sunlit wonders of Three in the Afternoon, where dragons roam, to the dark terrors of Gorgossium, the island of Midnight, ruled over by the Prince of Midnight himself, Christopher Carrion.</p> <p>As Candy journeys from one amazing place to another, making fast friends and encountering treacherous foes -- mechanical bugs and giant moths, miraculous cats and men made of mud, a murderous wizard and his terrified slave-she begins to realize something. She has been here before.</p> <p>Candy has a place in this extraordinary world: she is here to help save the Abarat from the dark forces that are stirring at its heart. Forces older than Time itself, and more evil than anything Candy has ever encountered.</p> <p>She's a strange heroine, she knows. But this is a strange world.</p> <p>And in the Abarat, all things are possible.</p>
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