Summary: Candy Quackenbush, our heroine from the first Abarat book, continues her journey in the mystical land. With some of her newfound friends, Candy tries to escape the clutches of Christopher Carrion and his henchmen and learn more about her identity and relationship to the Abarat.
Musings: The second Abarat book picks up where the other left off, with Candy and Malingo traveling around the islands and avoiding capture. From the beginning, the book seemed to lack focus. Candy and Malingo were constantly being chased, almost being caught, then--surprise!--narrowly escaping capture. I imagine this was supposed to create tension, but I felt bored. Candy didn't seem particularly worried about being chased, and the creatures chasing her didn't seem all that determined to capture her. The hunters were always "just ten strides away" (a phrase I grew very tired of) before Candy miraculously got away. I kept picturing a bad horror movie in my head where the bad guy slowly walks toward his screaming victim.
The book did pick up momentum toward the end as Candy makes the not-so-shocking discovery about her true identity, and the reader meets a few new characters who will undoubtedly be important in later books. The characters are starting to pile up, however, which causes me concern that future books will also lack focus from the need to talk about so many people.
Barker has already decided this will be a five-book series, and I got the feeling that in setting out a specific length he's grappling for filler in between the two more engrossing parts of the story--Candy's discovery of the Abarat (book 1) and the final war between the day and night (presumably book 5).
All the criticism isn't to say I didn't, as a whole, enjoy the book. It was still a fun adventure novel, Candy is still endearing, and the paintings are a lot of fun. In reading Wikipedia, I came across an article where Barker said he's on page 1,808 of his draft for the third book. I can only hope some very judicious editors will whittle that down to a palatable amount. Although I'm interested in the story and what happens to Candy, count me out if it means reading a 12-pound unnecessary behemoth.