The Thief of Always is not a rare book, the fact that I am writing a book review is rare. But since my last got such an overwhelming response (3 comments!) I figured I would do it again. Anyone who knows me knows that I love horror written for children. I also love the show Toddlers & Tiaras. Anyway, two of my favorite "horror" books of all time were written for the young and young at heart: The Graveyard Book and Coraline. Both of those books were written by Neil Gaiman. The Thief of Always is written by Clive Barker. Yes, the creator of the Books of Blood and The Hellbound Heart wrote a book for children. I love this on so many levels.
The Thief of Always was really terrifying. If I were a 10 or 12 year old reading it I would wet my pants. When I was 10 or 12 I was reading shit like Flowers in the Attic and Sweet Valley High, which actually explains a lot about me. The Thief of Always tells the story of 10 year old Harvey Swick, a bored boy who is sick of winter, sick of school, sick of his family, sick of everything. He wants some excitement. He wants to relive the happy times like spring and summer, Halloween and Christmas. I am right there with you Harvey.
One night a mysterious man named Rictus flies into Harvey's room. He offers to take Harvey to a place where it is always fun, and where all his wishes will come true. After some soul searching (I would have been like "take me!") Harvey decides to go. Rictus assures him that his parents are fine with him going, and that he can leave anytime he wants. Rictus takes him to "The Holiday House," a place where all four seasons come and go in one day, and everyday is Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. All he has to do is wish for something and it appears. At the house he meets Wendell, a boy about his age who had been at the house for some time, and Lulu, a mysterious girl who likes to hang out by the lake. It doesn't take long for Harvey to figure out that everything is not what is seems at the Holiday House, and that the host, the unseen Mr. Hood, may have bad things in store for the children.
Harvey escapes the house with Wendell but the world he returns to is not the one he left. Mad that time was "stole" from him, Harvey returns to the house to confront Mr. Hood. What ensues is a battle of wits, magic, and thievery. Plus, some children get turned into fish.
The Thief of Always
The Thief of Always has plenty to appeal to adults and children alike. For kids, it is about being careful what you wish for. For adults, it is a reminder of the pleasures and the all to quick passing of childhood. And although no one shows up to scream "I am going to tear your soul apart!!!" you can imagine it happening. I didn't love this as much as I love Neil Gaiman's stories for children, but it was enjoyable.