Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Abarat: Absolute Midnight

Too big. That's my main thought and main complaint with the third book in Clive Barker's Abarat series. Now, this is the third book is a series, and it's a good series, so if you don't want spoilers, stop reading now because in the next paragraph I'll get specific. For all three books, mind, so skip to the final paragraph for spoiler-free thoughts on Absolute Midnight if you've not yet read it.

Right from the first I was confused and overwhelmed. Suddenly Candy's reunited with everyone. I seriously thought I'd missed a book in between this and the last one. Events began to get big and tumultuous, but I was glad when Candy and Malingo went to exorcise the princess, because that felt like the sort of strange buddy-buddy adventure they'd been having since book one, and I just really enjoy the dynamic between the two. The internal strife Candy has over losing Princess Boa is interesting, a unique problem that, to my mind, didn't get the page time it deserved. But I guess there wasn't enough room. Onward to bigger and better things! Christopher Carrion gets a bit woobified (see TV Tropes), but there's been groundwork for that since book one, so I could buy it. He's kind of like Prince Zuko in a way. Mater Motley makes for a pretty great villain anyway, and the fact that she consorts with demons from beyond time and space is pretty darn sweet, although I have to wonder how they're going to wrap things up. Didn't quite care for Gazza. He joins the group really abruptly, switches allegiances after one good look at Candy, and doesn't seem to have any personality beyond standard-issue shounen hero and his devotion to Candy. Yeah, I'll take Malingo any day, because at least his devotion comes from believable backstory, and he's known Candy for more than, like, two days. I don't oppose romance in books as a rule, we all know that, but this just wasn't built up.

Like I said, the whole book felt too epic, too sweeping, too big. We're rushed from event to event, following over half a dozen characters, juggling a crapton of plotlines. The book is, like, six hundred pages long, but that somehow seems too short. Holy peas. For me, the allure of the first two books was that it's one girl on her own in a strange, magical world, having to make her way and figure things out and rely on her wits. She's got a bit of a specialness to her, but she still has to work for things. The best part of the series is Candy. She's awesome, and I regret that the scale of the books has increased to a point where she has to be super special to keep things moving along. Then again, as we may also know, I don't really like epic high fantasy except in very special cases, so it's YMMV.

Spoiler-free conclusion: If you liked the first two books, Absolute Midnight is worth reading. The art is still great, and there are a lot of fun and exciting moments. For all its pitfalls, the book is still good, and I'm excited for the next one.

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