cover image The Thief of Always: A Fable

The Thief of Always: A Fable

Clive Barker. HarperCollins Publishers, $20 (225pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017724-9

In a tale that manages to be both cute and horrifying, bestselling novelist and screenwriter Barker ( Imajica ) puts the dark side back into childhood fantasy, recalling the violent undercurrents of the Grimm Brothers' tales and other classics. When archetypal 10-year-old Harvey Swick desperately wishes to be delivered from a boring February afternoon, he is miraculously rescued by Rictus, a smiling (if somewhat sinister) creature. Rictus takes Harvey to the Holiday House, where every morning is spring, every afternoon is summer and every evening offers Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in quick succession. Barker masterfully embroiders this fantasy world with a mounting number of grim, even gruesome details. Harvey must heroically battle what is gradually revealed to be the malevolent force behind the Holiday House in order to save not only himself but all its previous young guests. Barker's own illustrations convey the story's deceptively sweet appeal. A welcome modern-day return to a classic form, this fable lives up to the publisher's billing as a tale for all ages. 100,000 first printing; $140,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild, Doubleday and Sci-Fi Book Club alternates; author tour. (Nov.)