i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

Book Review: Days of Magic, Nights of War

February 12, 2007

I enjoyed Clive Barker's first Abarat book. The artwork was beautifully done, I'll admit that it was the cover that caught my attention from across the library, and the story was cool. I figured I'd read the second book Days of Magic, Nights of War for my required reading this semester. This is another book that I would have put down unfinished if I'd been reading it for pleasure rather than for school.

The first half of the book had so many reminders of the original that it was driving me nuts. I'm talking way-obvious clunks on the head versus subtle reminders. After a few chapters, I admit that I was ready to toss the book in frustration. I mean, come on, let's just get to the current story, eh, instead of spending all this time rehashing the past. I realize he's trying to not alienate readers who hadn't read the first one, but after the first one or two winks to the original, move on already!

Another thing, and I should have seen this coming, this book ended with no ending, in other words, paving the way for a sequel, which will probably spend a few chapters rehashing the other two books. I'm all for series, but I hate it when a book just cuts off at the end, because it's like "haha, now wait for the sequel!" grrr.

I can't completely trash the book, of course, there was a resolution of the primary conflict, which I admit was somewhat satisfactory, if I would have remembered that this was a series and would surely leave loose ends (like the hungry insects ready to end the world... what about them, huh?). Barker's got a wonderful sense of imagination, and I love the world he has created with Abarat. I'd like to see this done as an animation. That I would be interested in seeing. (Because, surely, that would cut out some of the unnecessary elements and focus on the main story.)

About half-way through, the author seemed to find his stride with the story again, and it got good (because this is, of course, a young adult fantasy so I have to keep that in mind). Probably Barker felt a little pressure to get this one out, since it seems like it was a while between the first and this one. If he'd significantly compressed the first few chapters (like leaving only one or two throwbacks to the first book, instead of, and I'm serious, at least 6 in the first few chapters), he would have had a better, and tighter, novel.

I'm curious what others thought of this book so I'm pulling up the amazon reviews now:

Hmm... so most people loved it, except one person who wrote:

"I know I'm in the minority, but I've been underwhelmed by this series. ... But too many pages are taken up with inventories of oddities -- some seen by Candy on her travels, others involving the terrible Christopher Carrion and his assorted gruesome hangers-on. Most of these creations are irrelevant or tangential to the plot, so that I wound up skimming through those passages going "blah, blah, blah," while waiting for something to happen that would actually advance the story arc. I don't think I'll bother with the next book."

Sounds about right, I'm afraid.

I'm wondering, however, if the fact that the copy I borrowed from the library has black-and-white illustrations instead of the full color version. I didn't have the full experience without the vivid art, which I remember as my favorite part of the original. And, again, from reading amazon I see this is aimed at 7 - 10th grade, so maybe I'm being too harsh and a reader from that bracket would be more forgiving of the constant flashback moments? Perhaps.

In summary, I'm sorry, Mr. Barker, but I wouldn't recommend this book. I would, however, urge you to check out a (full color) version of the first Abarat book, prepare yourself for a non-ending, and enjoy the art.

Moira at 10:44 AM :: Comments (1) :: ::

I haven't read the second book, but I was underwhelmed by Abarat. And it's sad because his imagination sings, his characters are interesting ... but ultimately, I felt like there was no sense of PURPOSE. It just wandered around aimlessly, and for me, it cut the necessary tension to keep one enthralled.

Posted by: zia at February 13, 2007 12:50 PM
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