The Thief of Always

ISBN: 1933239174
ISBN 13: 9781933239170
By: Clive Barker Alex Garner Gabriel Hernandez

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Adventure Childrens Clive Barker Fantasy Favorites Fiction Horror To Read Ya Young Adult

About this book

Master of horror Clive Barker's Thief of Always is a fable appealing to horror and fantasy fans young and old. Now IDW brings you its own lavishly illustrated adaptation of the thrilling tale. Mr. Hood's Holiday House has stood for a thousand years, welcoming countless children into its embrace. It is a place of miracles, a blissful round of treats and seasons, where every childhood whim may be satisfied... for a price.

Reader's Thoughts


This is a quick read, even though it's 225 pages. The last time I read it, about 10 years ago, I read it in about a day, and I'm not a fast reader. It's just really hard to put down, and clips right along.This one is all about the story, and there's almost no extra fluff if I recall. It's odd that I would give such an animal five stars since I'm all about great prose, even if it adds a couple of hundred pages to a book, but there it is.Since I don't feel like typing out bits of the story, and the book summary attached to this does it just fine anyway, I'll leave you with a recommendation to check this out.


Clive's first all-ages story, or as he put it, "it's for the pissed off ten year old in all of us." it's great and full of imagination and it feels like a timeless classic. I don't know if any of the versions currently in print include his illustrations, but it's worth making sure you get an illustrated copy.On another note, beware that Clive's books that are not aimed at younger audiences are definitely adult in nature, in every way. They are excellent and unique and of great value, but if you're looking at books for your kids, go with this one and the beautiful Abarat series, and then stop.


I read this for the first time when I was 12 and I remember my mother being disturbed by some of the scenes I described to her, so much that she decided to read it as well. Ultimately she had to admit that it was a good book. Since then I think I've read it over again two or three times. I adore the story. There are so many intricacies that have fed my imagination that I can still see the images that this book made me conjure up 16 years ago!


Finished! Well as the title suggests, it is a fable so it reads more like a dark children's story than full on horror. I liked the characher of Harvey, he's flaws and his determination to uncover the secret of the fantasy land he became entangled in. The main villain, Mr. Hood, was also a nice touch even though the concept of an evil presence encompassing an entire structure has been seen before. Overall I do wish the pace of the story was a bit slower and maybe even more digging into the orgin of Mr. Hood and the true source of his magic would have added a bit more depth but nonetheless a good read.

Geert Daelemans

A touching fable for the young at heartThe Great Grey Beast of February has imprisoned Harvey Swick and the young boy is bored to death. How will he ever survive that dreadfully dull period between New Year and Easter? Contemplating his misery, Harvey discovers that he is not alone in his room. Indeed a somewhat strange and scrawny figure is standing in the corner. The man makes himself known as Mr. Rictus and invites Harvey to the Holiday House. And true, Harvey does not believe his eyes: the house is filled with all the pleasures a boy can want. Delicious food, many friends, tons of toys, every day Christmas. What more do you need? Of course there is a price to be paid, but young Harvey Swick, bored with his life and beguiled by the wonders of the Holiday House, does not stop to consider the consequences. Only when he discovers that he is no longer a guest, but a prisoner does Harvey start to react. But maybe it is already too late.Clive Barker's first attempt at writing a book for a younger audience does not go by unnoticed. As Clive is known for his very dark and fantastic tales, he indeed uses these talents to draw a magnificent place where many children surely would love to hide. But with the same zeal he deconstructs the dream and craftily let the evil seep into the story. Of course the villains are not as dark and disturbed as in his adult novels, but still he manages to portrait a series of characters that would enjoy taking permanent residence in the dreams of the younger ones.One critique that might pop up is that the setting of the story is so rich that it begs for more than one episode. After reading the story, so many things are left untold that it leaves you wanting for more. Even the narrative itself is extremely concise with its twenty-six chapters counting on average not more than six pages each. It would probably not have hurt if more details were introduced in order to make the environment even more exciting and colorful. Nevertheless the story is exciting enough to get the stamp of a must-read. And please, do not worry if you think you are too old to read this book. You never are!


So, when I reviewed Coraline, I mentioned that, in terms of "Young-person-casts-off-illusions-and-outwits-a-vastly-more-powerful-otherworldly-entity-and-comes-to-appreciate-the-realities-of-life" stories, I thought this book was vastly superior. So I jumped onto Bookmooch to see if anyone had a copy. Lo and behold, a nice person in Israel was giving his copy away, so I snagged it. And I stand by my judgment.Plus, this book has one of the best opening lines I have ever read: "The great, gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive."Can't beat that.Harvey Swick is ten years old, and like so many ten year-old boys, he is bored with his life. The interminable grayness of February, the drudgery of life - going to school, coming home, going to school again - and believes that, if his life became the tiniest bit more boring, he would certainly perish.Then he met a strange, smiling man named Rictus, who told Harvey of a wonderful place where boredom could not enter, and there was nothing to be had but fun and adventure. There is no better place for children, Rictus said, than Mister Hood's Holiday House.Thinking about it, given that Harvey was willing to follow a strange man to a mysterious house without much consideration for his safety, suggests either that Harvey is not very bright, or Rictus is extremely persuasive. Given the rest of the book, I'd bet on the latter.The Holiday House is truly a place of miracles. The food is better than you've ever eaten and there are enough toys and games and costumes and masks to keep any child happy for the rest of their lives. And in every day there are four seasons - a perfect green spring in the morning, a blazing wonderful summer in the afternoon, an evening full of woodsmoke, pumpkins and fallen leaves, and every night is a white Christmas with a present for each boy and girl.It is the best place Harvey has ever been, and it takes him about a month to realize that something is not... quite right. Why would the mysterious Mister Hood do this for children? And what happened to the children who had come before? And what's the deal with that cold, deep pond full of big, creepy fish?It's a very quick read, but a very good book.

Mike (the Paladin)

I gave this 3 could have gone either way on the third one. I don't care for most of Barker's writing. I picked this up as it's a youth book, and frankly I wanted to see what Mr. Barker would call a youth book.Interestingly enough there are some of the same themes that I've seen in the other works of his I'm familiar with. Self-indulgence as a trap. The "Thief" character who steals life or time or innocence. The only difference here is it's far "lighter" than in his other novels. Not a bad read if you like YA books...sort of the Island of Lost Boys meets the Land of Faerie.


A friend recommended this to me, and the very next day ANOTHER friend recommended Barker's Abarat, so it seemed like too big of a coincidence to put off reading him any longer. This was a very quick read, and you know a book is good when you lose all sense of time. I read straight through without stopping. The opening sentence, which is, perhaps, the most crucial part of any book, is definitely one of the best I've ever read, and I enjoyed how Barker kept referencing it throughout. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: children books are extremely underrated. This story has some of the most imaginative characters (especially villains) I've ever seen. Harvey, Lulu, Wendell, and Mrs. Griffin are all enjoyable in their own unique way. I loved the part where (view spoiler)[Wendell and Harvey escape only to find that years have gone by (hide spoiler)]. I also enjoyed the book because it helped reaffirm my plagiarist claims against Lev Grossman's The Magicians (i. e. walking into a wall where a magical building exists on the other side, turnaround mist, and Rictus is very reminiscent of Martin Chatwin when he (view spoiler)[attacks Brakebills (hide spoiler)]). And it makes me question the origins of Neil Gaiman's Coraline (a cat that helps the protagonist, ghostly children set free from demonic being who captured them with illusions, etc). I've removed one star for the extremely saccharine ending, and a lot of the key turning points were very predictable (i.e. (view spoiler)[The moment Mrs. Griffin mentions the fish being poisonous, I knew they were the lost children (hide spoiler)]). There were also some really weird "are you serious?" moments like (view spoiler)[when his parents just SUDDENLY believe Harvey and this random stranger's explanation that The Holiday House existed (hide spoiler)]. Lastly, the illustrations are pretty phenomenal, and, at times, quite terrifying and grotesque. Now to get a copy of Abarat!


This was beautiful! I loved it. "You're real," he said, as he stood panting on the porch. "You are, aren't you?"He started to laugh at the foolishness of talking to a House, but the smile went from his face as a voice, so soft he was barely certain he heard it, said: "What do you think, child?" I wish I had read this when I was younger. I know my younger self would've absolutely gone nuts over it. That's all right though, I got to read it now, and anytime I come across a ten year old and they ask me about books, I'll make sure to get them to read this. It's funny, adventurous, and very chilling. The illustrations add a wonderful touch to it. OH, WHY DIDN'T I READ THIS WHEN I WAS YOUNGER?

Scott Rhee

"The Thief of Always" was Clive Barker's only (as far as I know) foray into young adult fiction. It is disturbing, to say the least, and probably not suitable for most young children (especially those whose experience with supernatural oddities in fiction extends to the Harry Potter series) as it is pretty graphic and gory in parts, at least, from what I recall. In truth, it may have not been that graphic at all, but Barker's gift is triggering the reader's imagination to go places that the reader neither expects (or sometimes even wants) to go. In truth, Barker's gift is simply showing us a hand holding a knife, a throat, and letting our imaginations go from there, which is probably scarier than actually showing us what happens. Fans of dark fantasy, especially those in the YA set, should check this out...


Edit 4: My love for this book knows no bounds because I managed to get this hard copy of the graphic novel. Signed and hand-numbered (there were only 500 of these going out).Edit 3: Did I just buy the ebook of this? Yes I did. Gotta be safe in case I lose the paperback copy. <3333“The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”The most fabulous opening line I’ve ever read. In all seriousness. It shows that there will be beautiful writing in future pages. It is inevitable.I’ve praised this book for such a long time. Long enough that I forgot huge chunks of it. They started to jump at me and wonder why the hell I haven’t reread them. It made me think "Why DID I love this book?" when I was 12, in 6th grade, and hated hated hated reading? Maybe my subconscious was telling me something the day I finished The Thief of Always nine years ago. Sixth grade was a magical year. My reading teacher deserves just as much praise for introducing me to this book.I’ll say it again: Originality wins me over no matter what. Originality and I are two peas in a pod. Can’t have my love without having originality. It’s completely cool if you were to make an homage or even say that a particular character or event was influenced by something else, but if the overall idea is doing a great job at being original, high five to you. I was more than happy to see that my lil’ 6th grade self didn’t try to shadow this story to be any less than it was. My little self knew what it was talking about for once.This story is about a ten year-old boy by the name of Harvey Swick. Harvey is bored out of his mind at home in Millsap, and wants to do something fun that’ll hopefully kill the rest of the days in February. Then along comes Rictus, a yellow-skinned sir with an obnoxious grin and an urge to take Harvey away to a fun place called Mr. Hood’s Holiday House. Harvey says, “Sure why the fuck not?” and joins Rictus through a wall of mist that leads him to said wonderland. Harvey spends a great first day, but then things start going downhill, and Harvey says, “Looks like it’s up to ME!”Let’s break it all down now:There is greatness in this story through the writing alone. Clive Barker, known for Hellraiser and other such horror tales, knows how to use his words. And use them to throw me the craziest defined image of the Holiday House I’ve ever witnessed in my brain. When I was 12, I didn’t care for this stuff, I was more along the lines of, “This place is cool can I have more please?”THANKFULLY, having an urge to pursue the need to publish a series as a sort of American Dream, rereading this with the knowledge I now have just makes this story that much more impressive. Never was I so blown away with writing. Like other authors I’ve mentioned, Barker’s got a knack for pacing and how to make someone grimace by description alone. He is also a fabulous wielder of context clues, because I found words in this reread that got me going, “WHAT DOES IT MEEEEAN?” And there he was, telling me with his writing. I thank ye, Barker.I think this short book took me so long because of the fact that I reread passages over and over again. I loved the sound of them, the images I received, and the way the plot was driven through the characters.Another thing I want to mention before I move onto the characters is Clive Barker’s multiple talents. Barker can surely write, and he can most certainly illustrate. That’s right, he did his own illustrations. If the illustration of the wall of masks (where there is one of Hellraiser’s Pinhead) wasn’t enough to tell, I’m sure it’s written in somewhere that he did them. The illustrations drawn do a wonderful job of showing a chapter’s motives, but not enough to tell you how or why something’s happening. My all-time favorite illustration was Harvey as Barker’s version of a vampire (probably one of my favorite scenes, too):This is just beautiful. I mean, the composition, the stance, the great contrast of the shadows, that SMIRK UNF (oh god what’s wrong with me).Also I’m burning this particular image into YOUR SOUL. Damn it’s amazing.All the pictures have meaning in this fable. They are beautiful, horrifying, and almost tense you up for particular scenes. Perfect example of that was the illustration of Carna, before you’re even introduced to it. The description comes and you see the picture again, and you say, “NO NO NO HARVEY RUN. GET OUTTA THERE!” It made me scared for Harvey’s life.I am heavily tempted to make my own illustrations for my series again. I had thought it once before, but I thought it’d be too much work. After Barker’s illustrations and seeing how much of a punch they made, I want to make my own.Needless to say, I would like to point out that the pictures do not make this story. They are a nice accent, but even without them, this story would still thrive.Let’s meet some characters. Our story goes through a single month and a few days through the life of 10 year-old Harvey Swick. It’s because of this TEN YEAR-OLD BADASS that I refuse to glance at some YA heroines that have puked their way to the spotlight. Did I mention that he’s fucking ten? Okay. Just making sure.Harvey is a normal kid. He likes to run, likes the summertime, hates being bored, and is always up for an adventure. O ho ho good thing Rictus found ‘im! Harvey grows significantly throughout the tale of the Thief. At first, he loves being away from home, but it’s like someone always said, ‘Once you notice one bad thing, you start seeing them all.” And that’s exactly what happened. Things started getting iffy, and Harvey started sniffin’ around, like ANY MAIN CHARACTER WITH A BRAIN SHOULD.Then he started to judge. He knew he had to get out. SO ALONG COMES WENDELL.Wendell. Little brat Wendell. He was Harvey’s first friend and not the best at that. I didn’t mind him though, because he actually helped Harvey take initiative and become stronger, and I am a-okay with that! Wendell was a lil’ chubster, he’d sell out Harvey in a second, but when times became more terrifying, he stayed loyal to Harvey (view spoiler)[that is, until the Holiday House used its magic on him. CURSE YOU, HOOD. (hide spoiler)].Lulu was a good example of a insta-characterized character. A few sentences from her and I immediately knew the way she was. She was simple-minded and precious, helpful and isolated. Harvey and she knew each other fast enough for Harvey to develop feelings for her. I thought this was fantastic! Lulu has an interesting arc in this book, one that I can’t elaborate on or I’ll spoil horribly and I don’t want to do that. But I grew to like her a lot, and she was the character I remembered all these years (besides Harvey).Mrs. Griffin was nothing short of a sweetheart. She, like the other children, was a prisoner in the House of Hood. Her backstory was fabulous, short, and sweet. She was a precious woman who couldn’t cry and I never wanted anything more than to be friends with her. Harvey was so good to her, my heart melted every time they spoke to one another.Mr. Hood was a good example of an antagonist working behind the scenes. With his lackeys in the Quartet of Horrible-Looking People (I named them myself HAW), Mr. Hood could continue to flood his magic into everything from the grass to the seasons to the food in the kitchen. He was hungry for children’s souls, and I loved the take on the vampiric ways of said hunger. Barker gave him the Vampire King title, and I just thought, “Ohhhhh that makes some sense!”Rictus was also a good antagonist. He was the little bastard who brought Harvey to Mr. Hood in the first place. The dude could fly, but when things got more rough, he constantly tempted Harvey with sweets and gifts and enlightenment. (view spoiler)[He turned on Mr. Hood of course when the House came tumbling down. Serves him right to get his head SNAPPED OFF HIS SHOULDERS HOLY SHIT. (hide spoiler)]The plot behind this story was very simple. Child goes to wonderland, wonderland is a haunted wasteland, child runs away, finds strength, comes back, and FIRES ZEE MISSILES. I’m only summarizing the basic skeleton of course. But because it was simple, Barker said, “I’m just gonna have a field day with this. Pardon me,” and proceeded to make this story excellent and original in his own way.I would also like to point out that plot structure is almost visible in this novel. No seriously. Each climax is basically cut PERFECTLY. You see the start of Harvey’s suspicion, you see his conflict of having to go back to the Holiday House, and you see him be the badass that he is. You get different emotions at different points of the novel and it’s just brilliant! Barker planned this bad boy so well. It makes me giddy to be able to see it as I read it. I missed that feeling. Good books are important to have after a while of snarking.The use of time is used wonderfully here and works as a nice motif. Time is always mentioned and it turns out to be the moral of the story. Time is something to be treasured. You can’t mope around and waste it all the live long day. You have to use it to your benefit. It's a great message to us, old people.Overall, this book was a getaway from reality, but at the same time, Barker gave us the realism of the Holiday House’s nightmares. We are with Harvey all through his adventures. We care about him.There is a very good reason for me to say that this is my ultimate favorite novel in the history of the world. It has all the elements I could ever want: beautiful writing, interesting and accented illustrations, wonderful characters, excellent plot, great antagonists, a not boring as fuck romance, and no need to milk out a sequel.I think this was the first book I ever really sat down with and said, “Whoa. What a story.” This book is my kind of perfection. It may not be yours, but it is most certainly mine, and I beg you all to at least give it a shot.I don’t care if you end up loathing it in the end; as long as you tried, I’m gonna be so happy. I will close this novel of a review with another fabulous quote. I plan to add it to the list of quotes for this book once I figure out how to do it."We're both thieves, Harvey Swick. I take time. You take lives. But in the end we're the same: both Thieves of Always."Edit:WHY IN GOD'S NAME DID THIS LOVELY STORY FAIL TO HIT PRE-PRODUCTION TWICE UNDER THE FILM GODS? That's so heart-wrenching! This story is BRILLIANT and would be such a beautiful film! Oh I'm crying inside.CLIVE BARKER, you're a director!Make. This. Happen.Edit the Second:You know what?I'm a year and a half away from flying to L.A. and begging for animation jobs. I will make it my duty to pitch this will all my heart to Dreamworks/Illumination Entertainment so it can finally be done.And it'll BLOW EVERYONE AWAY.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>


Nichole MarcyYA - HorrorClive Barker’s Thief of Always is a quick read full of mystery and juvenile horror. Harvey is bored at home and finds a magical house that has everything he loves – his favorite toys, foods, even great playmates. Best of all, his parents aren’t there to boss him around. Barker creates a fantasy house that quickly reveals its horrific side: mysterious staff that won’t or can’t talk about the owner, child-like catfish in a murky bubbling pond, a dizzying, mind-bending fog, and shape-shifters. The Thief of Always is a perfect introduction to horror for the younger side of Young Adults or anyone who is a fan of Clive Barker.

Lazy Seagull

Alright, well, here I go!So, I was going along my merry way reading this book, and I found myself being drawn almost completely in. A seemingly childish story, The Thief of Always managed to be both chilling and unbearably cute. Now people were asking me when they saw me with the book in hand: "Do you like it? Why?"The characters were well fleshed out and well-thought out. I loved Harvey. Wendell could be irritating, but, hey, that was him.I loved the House. Hood House. That motherfucking monster of a vacation resort. I just wanted to see and learn...more, I suppose.More about Lulu's enigmatic past. More about Mr. Hood's past. What about Rictus, Jive and the rest of the leetle beasties?That's pretty much why The Thief of Always earned a solid four stars.Recommended to all for a quick, light, and totally-worth-it read.

Tanja Berg

What a marvellous little story! Children's horror of the finest sort. Like "Coralaine" by Neil Gaiman, I wished I would have been able to read this when I was 10 years old. How different my mind could have been with some variation to pony-books and goody-two-shoes Nancy Drew "crime" novels. Oh well - better late than never I suppose.The story is that of Harvey, bored to death with rainy February days. He's lured to a "holiday house" where every day offers the best of each season. Spring in the morning, summer in the afternoon, autumn with Halloween every evening and Christmas every night. Harvey can have anything he wants. There are other children in the house, Wendell and the strange Lulu. There is evidence by shoes and clothes - some in severely outdated fashion - that there once were more. Something isn't right. Finally Wendell has had enough and he and Harvey escapes. It's not easy, but they manage with the help of the sorrowful housekeeper. However, the outside world is not the one Harvey remembers. The neighborhood has changed, the cars are different and his parents have aged thirty years. So no, he won't have that. He's heading back to the House to retrieve his stolen years and end the reign of Mr. Hood of Holiday House.This book was exquisitely easy to read. Fluid text, excellent tension building, belieavable through and through. Absolutely delightful, highly recommendable to anyone with a spark of childhood left in them.

Matthew Hunter

The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive. Here he was, buried in the belly of that smothering month, wondering if he would ever find his way out through the cold coils that lay between here and Easter.That's an awesome opening to a story on ennui, and the desire to live only for holidays and good times. What would happen if we fast-forwarded through all the ordinary times and lived for holidays, birthdays, and vacations? Life would be very short. And we'd miss out on those quieter times where relationships with family and friends have time to deepen, become real.The Church is wise to give the largest portion of the liturgical year to "Ordinary Time". That's where intimacy with God and neighbor thrives, where heroic tales of annunciation, transfiguration, torture, death, and resurrection give way to the more mundane aspects of the spiritual life. I'm not saying Barker has church liturgy in mind as he spins Harvey's and Hood's tale. But he does capture the sense of sadness and diminishment in lives lived only for Easter-times and weekends. I absolutely loved this story, and wish to high heaven that I'd been able to read The Thief of Always as a child.Speaking of children, the picture of 10-year-old Clive at the book's end is wonderful. Such an angelic little boy! To know the grinning bespectacled little boy grows up to create Hellraiser and Books of Blood? Priceless. Don't be fooled by appearances, everyone.Highly recommended!

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