1. This is the second book in a series, so, you know, spoilers.
2. If you do buy this book (and you really, really should, after you buy the first one), I’d advise getting the first edition. It’s out of print, but not hard to find a fine used copy and not very expensive either. Subsequent additions don’t include Barker’s original artwork and while it’s not completely necessary to the story, it does help set the mood of the book. (I haven’t been able to verify it, but according to legend, Barker created the artwork first, which then inspired him to write the story.)
This book picks up a few weeks after the first left off. Candy Quackenbush is busy exploring the islands of Abarat with her new pal, Malingo, whom she freed from slavery in the previous book. Abarat is a chain of 25 islands, one for each hour of the day, and an extra hour, in case you need it. (There’s so much wonder in delight in the world-building in Abarat, but I assume if you’re reading the review for the second book, you already know what a magical and weird place it is.) Candy and Malingo are also avoiding Christopher Carrion’s hired henchman, the Criss-Cross Man. Carrion is the Lord of Midnight, a place where nightmares are born. He’s preoccupied with Candy, as she appears to have great power in her, for a girl that came from our world.
While I do love exploring the islands with Candy, the first half of the book is a bit of a retread. Candy and Malingo take in an island’s sights, get chased by the Criss-Cross Man, evade the Criss-Cross Man by the skin of their teeth and then go on to explore another island. Things pick up once Candy gets into Carrion’s clutches and her various friends and sidekicks band together. Eventually the first battle of Day versus Night occurs and spills over into our world.
Judging by the repeating chase cycles and the anti-climatic death of a main character, I think Barker lost a bit of the spark of inspiration while writing this book. (It’s still a great read, but only four stars to the first book’s five.) Barker pulled a George R. R. Martin and took a seven year break between this one and the third. Hopefully the intermission helped get this story back on the rails.