The Thief of Always: A delightful children’s horror story

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The Thief of Always by Clive BarkerThe Thief of Always by Clive Barker children's horror reviewThe Thief of Always by Clive Barker

It’s summer and Harvey Swick, a ten year old with an active imagination, is bored. That’s how he gets lured into Mr. Hood’s Holiday House. It’s a wonderful place that’s fun and exciting, where Harvey gets everything his heart desires, and where he and the other kids who live there can play all day every day and eat delicious food whenever they want. As the seasons fly by, Harvey is happy at Mr. Hood’s house until things start to get a little spooky and it starts to dawn on Harvey that the place seems unnatural. When Harvey tries to leave, the Holiday House gets downright scary.

I was thoroughly entertained by Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always and I suspect that most children and teens will easily identify with Harvey and, perhaps, will come away from the story with a new appreciation for the slow pace of what seems like their never-ending childhood. For that is the “moral” of the story: cherish your family and appreciate the time you have with them. Don’t be so eager for excitement and fun that you forget to savor the down-time you have with people you love.

The Thief of Always is a beautifully written short novel. The print versions are less than 300 pages and the audio version I listened to (Crossroad Press) is 4.3 hours long. Adam Verner does a nice job with the narration. I’d recommend this for all ages, but it’d be especially nice for a family to listen to together. There are horror elements (vampires and other frightening things), but any child who can handle Harry Potter can handle The Thief of Always.

Published in 1992. 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 rounds of treats and seasons, where every childhood whim may be satisfied… There is a price to be paid, of course, but young Harvey Swick, bored with his life and beguiled by Mr. Hood’s wonders, does not stop to consider the consequences. It is only when the House shows it’s darker face — when Harvey discovers the pitiful creatures that dwell in its shadows — that he comes to doubt Mr. Hood’s philanthropy. The House and its mysterious architect are not about to release their captive without a battle, however. Mr. Hood has ambitious for his new guest, for Harvey’s soul burns brighter than any soul he has encountered in a thousand years…

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. Reading Links 8/14/17 – Where Genres Collide - […] http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/the-thief-of-always/ You can never leave the Holiday House. […]

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