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The Thief of Always

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Master storyteller and bestselling novelist Clive Barker creates an enchanting tale for both children and adults to cherish and retell. The Thief of Always tells the haunting story of Harvey, a bright 10-year-old who is suffering from the winter doldrums, and of a creature who takes him to a place where every day is filled with fun, and Christmas comes every night. Illustrated.

225 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1992

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About the author

Clive Barker

702 books13.3k followers
Clive Barker was born in Liverpool, England, the son of Joan Rubie (née Revill), a painter and school welfare officer, and Leonard Barker, a personnel director for an industrial relations firm. Educated at Dovedale Primary School and Quarry Bank High School, he studied English and Philosophy at Liverpool University and his picture now hangs in the entrance hallway to the Philosophy Department. It was in Liverpool in 1975 that he met his first partner, John Gregson, with whom he lived until 1986. Barker's second long-term relationship, with photographer David Armstrong, ended in 2009.

In 2003, Clive Barker received The Davidson/Valentini Award at the 15th GLAAD Media Awards. This award is presented "to an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individual who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for any of those communities". While Barker is critical of organized religion, he has stated that he is a believer in both God and the afterlife, and that the Bible influences his work.

Fans have noticed of late that Barker's voice has become gravelly and coarse. He says in a December 2008 online interview that this is due to polyps in his throat which were so severe that a doctor told him he was taking in ten percent of the air he was supposed to have been getting. He has had two surgeries to remove them and believes his resultant voice is an improvement over how it was prior to the surgeries. He said he did not have cancer and has given up cigars. On August 27, 2010, Barker underwent surgery yet again to remove new polyp growths from his throat. In early February 2012 Barker fell into a coma after a dentist visit led to blood poisoning. Barker remained in a coma for eleven days but eventually came out of it. Fans were notified on his Twitter page about some of the experience and that Barker was recovering after the ordeal, but left with many strange visions.

Barker is one of the leading authors of contemporary horror/fantasy, writing in the horror genre early in his career, mostly in the form of short stories (collected in Books of Blood 1 – 6), and the Faustian novel The Damnation Game (1985). Later he moved towards modern-day fantasy and urban fantasy with horror elements in Weaveworld (1987), The Great and Secret Show (1989), the world-spanning Imajica (1991) and Sacrament (1996), bringing in the deeper, richer concepts of reality, the nature of the mind and dreams, and the power of words and memories.

Barker has a keen interest in movie production, although his films have received mixed receptions. He wrote the screenplays for Underworld (aka Transmutations – 1985) and Rawhead Rex (1986), both directed by George Pavlou. Displeased by how his material was handled, he moved to directing with Hellraiser (1987), based on his novella The Hellbound Heart. His early movies, the shorts The Forbidden and Salome, are experimental art movies with surrealist elements, which have been re-released together to moderate critical acclaim. After his film Nightbreed (Cabal), which was widely considered to be a flop, Barker returned to write and direct Lord of Illusions. Barker was an executive producer of the film Gods and Monsters, which received major critical acclaim.

Barker is a prolific visual artist working in a variety of media, often illustrating his own books. His paintings have been seen first on the covers of his official fan club magazine, Dread, published by Fantaco in the early Nineties, as well on the covers of the collections of his plays, Incarnations (1995) and Forms of Heaven (1996), as well as on the second printing of the original UK publications of his Books of Blood series.

A longtime comics fan, Barker achieved his dream of publishing his own superhero books when Marvel Comics launched the Razorline imprint in 1993. Based on detailed premises, titles and lead characters he created specifically for this, the four interrelated titles — set outside the Marvel universe — were Ectokid,

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,357 reviews
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
672 reviews4,298 followers
February 23, 2020
"The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive."

Harvey Swick is a 10-year-old boy who is bored with his life - he's tired of school, homework and the winter months. That is, until a creature tells him all about a place called the Holiday House, where you can have anything you wish for and it is Christmas every evening.

It's not very often that I read a book that completely changes my outlook on life. It happens once in a blue moon, but when I do find these books they are extra special. Recently I've found myself to be one of those people who are always waiting for and looking towards something in the future, whether that is the weekend or the Easter holidays or my next vacation away somewhere exotic. I'm waiting for "better" days and "better" times. However, once I closed this book I was left with an overwhelming realisation that THESE are those days. Life is now, time is finite. Something exciting and enjoyable can be found in each day, even if it's something small. It can be that the barista made your latte JUST the way you like it, or it could be getting to spend quality time with your parents, or even be something as minuscule as getting bookmail (who am I kidding, getting bookmail is THE BEST). These are the books that burrow into your heart and leave their mark on you. The books that you lend or recommend to a friend, feeling as if you're sharing some innermost part of yourself.

Now that I've got the sentimental part out of the way... THE FANGIRLING CAN COMMENCE. I can wholeheartedly say that I have loved everything Barker that I have devoured so far. He is right up there in my top 3 authors now. His writing, his world-building, his imagination... it all blows me away. I'm a huge fan of his horror - I love the fucked-up shit he thinks up, I love the gore, the way he manages to make it terrifying and fucking weird, yet beautiful. And then he comes along and knocks me out with this stunningly beautiful, touching CHILDREN'S book. I had a number of messages from people on instagram not knowing that Barker wrote anything beyond horror. Well, he does, and if you are put off by his horror, he has other sights to show you... *smug face* Like this book - THIS ONE! Get it!

The illustrations are gorgeous and they are, of course, done by Barker himself, enhancing the entire reading experience. It's such a magical, wonderful story and I want everyone to experience it (but don't tell me if you hate it, cos I don't think my heart could take it!). Upon starting the book there were so many comments from people who said this book changed their life or that it was the gateway book into the wonderful world of reading... I GOT YOU, GUYS. I get it. I wish I had experienced this book when I was young, but I am equally happy to find it in adulthood where I could maybe appreciate the different themes a bit more. However I look forward to reading this to my kids someday - or any kids - hell, maybe I'll just start reading it to random kids on the street.

It's so amazing to me that children's books are often the ones that teach you the most valuable lessons. My other favourite childhood book is The Hobbit, which taught me to not be afraid to step outside your front door and go on an adventure - it really could be the making of you!

So I implore anyone and everyone to pick up this book. There's so much to found within this story and the last paragraph alone had me in tears. AMAZING. 5 stars from me!

Reread: February 2020. A hundred billion stars. Still an all-time favourite.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
701 reviews3,355 followers
August 14, 2017
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Ten-year-old Harvey Swick is invited to Mr. Hood’s Holiday House, a thousand-year-old dwelling that welcomes children to enjoy its rapidly changing seasons, explore its grounds filled with mythical creatures, and partake of the delicious meals prepared by the house cook, Mrs. Griffin. At first, Harvey thinks Holiday House is the best thing that’s ever happened to him, but he soon discovers not all is as it seems. By the time he realizes he wants to leave, there may be no way out.

Though promising in premise, Harvey’s adventure is one of low stakes. He suffers from lack of want and, in the book’s opening pages, his greatest problem is that he suffers from boredom.

“I’ve got nothing better to do,” Harvey said, without looking around. [. . .] “I want to . . . I want to . . .” He went to the mirror, and quizzed it. “What do I want?” The straw-haired, snub-nosed, brown-eyed boy he saw before him shook his head. “I don’t know what I want,” he said. “I just know I’ll die if I don’t have some fun. I will! I’ll die!”

Upon being escorted to Holiday House, Harvey immediately recognizes the dwelling as a “place built for games, chases and adventures.” He spends a considerable amount of time at the house being perfectly content; there’s a painful lack of conflict. What’s more puzzling, however, is how Barker never seems to settle on what the house is, precisely.

Further, the plot jumps around with characters starting one task and being completely derailed for trivial reasons. For example, Harvey and his friends set out on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating, but are postponed by an incident where This is all it takes to make Harvey cancel his plans for the night. No ten-year-old would let something like that stop him from trick-or-treating.

The Thief of Always suffers from an inability to determine what story it wants to tell and what form its characters take.
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,135 followers
March 29, 2015

Sooooooooo, I mentioned that I had sworn off Mr. Clive Barker yeeeeeeeears ago- due to squeamishness- Ms. Stepheny called me on it- and said, "PLEASE... PLEASE...PLEASE- read THE THIEF OF ALWAYS before making your final judgement on allllllllll of his work".

Okay, Stepheny, I stand corrected- not all of his work is GROSS. In fact I quite enjoyed this blood-less tale.

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10-year-old Harvey Swick is bored...bored, bored with school. Bored with the dreary weather, and bored with his day-to-day life. BORED bore...boooooooriiiiiing...great grey beast of February. Just as Harvey is wallowing in his dull, cruel, childhood- a man named Rictus flies up to his window and offers him an exciting alternative.

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The Holiday House!!! Where all dreams are possible...four seasons in a day- Halloween every evening, Thanksgiving...Christmas...any gift you can imagine- anything you could ask for. Never a dull moment. Harvey accepts- and is shown a whole new world...

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...but the longer Harvey stays...the more he misses what he has left behind...because sometimes perfection comes at a cost...

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THE THIEF OF ALWAYS- An enjoyable story for both young and old. I have no problem admitting when I am w...w...rrrr...oooon...g...from time to time...but don't expect it very often. ;)

Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 81 books168k followers
January 23, 2023
I did not realize this was a middle grade novel when I received the recommendation, and probably youthful library rat Maggie would have read this end to end—she read EVERYTHING end to end—but this was not for Current Maggie and was a DNF.

Note: I tackled this book as part of my 2023 reading challenge to read books from this crowd-sourced list of recommended standalone novels published between 1985-2007: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/...

I am a brittle and crotchety reader, so please don't take my opinions on these novels as universal.
Profile Image for Eloy Cryptkeeper.
296 reviews197 followers
March 20, 2021
"De ahora en adelante, el tiempo sería precioso. Desde luego, haría tic-tac, como siempre, pero Harvey estaba convencido de que no lo malgastaría en suspiros y quejas. Llenaría cada momento con las estaciones que encontrara en su corazón. Esperanzas como pájaros en una rama de primavera; felicidad como el sol de un verano caliente; magia como las nieblas de otoño; y, sobre todo, amor.
Amor suficiente para mil Navidades."

Una muy buena premisa. Una narrativa que te transporta a la infancia. Y a un universo mágico y siniestro.
considero, que con este libro, Barker nos mueve el piso y nos da algunos "tirones de oreja"... Diciéndonos que deberíamos aprovechar el tiempo. Valorar las cosas que tenemos y no estar siempre añorando lo que no poseemos. Porque el tiempo pasa muy rápido y la vida se va en un suspiro...
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 21 books4,833 followers
November 13, 2017
Always a no spoiler/no plot detail review...
I wish I would have read this book when I was like 12 or 13, what a very powerful book this would have been to me. But, sadly I only just read it now at age 41 but since I'm still a huge lover of children's fiction (especially dark children's fiction) I still found this story to be every bit as magical and scary as it intended to be.
This is my first Clive Barker book that I've finished. I started previous works (Mister B. Gone and The Great and Secret Show but didn't finish either of them--not for me).
But wow, I love this book. Clive Barker wrote this in such a way that the naivete of the young characters is your top layer of narration but as you read it, this subtle feeling of insidiousness grows and festers like a clogged pore.
I recommend it to anyone! Anyone who loves magic, creepy illustrations and dark creatures. Good vs. evil and friendship and a morally sound protagonist fighting his inner compass to do the right thing. Who wouldn't love THAT??
Read this at Halloween, Christmas or when it's a dark and stormy night. You'll mark it as an instant classic too. And if you have read it, I'm joining you now at the Holiday House!
December 9, 2019
“...I'm in love with a fairytale
Even though it hurts
Cause I don't care if
I lose my mind
I'm already cursed”

Άπειρες φορές και ατελείωτους καιρούς πριν και μετά υπήρχαν μαγεμένες αποδράσεις απο την καθημερινή ζωή και τη ρουτίνα της πραγματικότητας μέσα σε ατέλειωτους κόσμους θαυμάτων. Κόσμους άχρονους, απεριόριστους,μοναδικά φτιαγμένους απο τις παιδικές φαντασιώσεις που σαρώνουν μυαλό, πνεύμα, ψυχή, καρδιά και σώμα, μέσα σε μια πλάνη τόσο όμορφη και απερίγραπτη όπως η αγάπη που σου δίνουν μόνο τα γέλια και τα δάκρυα απο τα μάτια των παιδιών και των ζώων.
Ο Κλέφτης του Πάντοτε ασχολείται με την δημιουργία εκπληκτικών και διορατικών μύθων που χαϊδεύουν την ανθρώπινη ψυχή και γαντζώνονται χωρίς οίκτο απο τον φρικιαστικό τρόμο που ματώνει κάθε σκέψη αναζήτησης, που γεμίζει με σκοτεινές σκιές αλόγιστης λήθης κάθε ερώτηση περιέργειας, ενδιαφέροντος και σοκαριστικού δέους.

Ελάτε! ? !
Μπείτε στο σπίτι των γιορτών.

Στον εξαίσιο κόσμο του πάντοτε όπου κυριαρχούν οι αληθινές ψευδαισθήσεις.
Όμως όλα είναι διττά μου λένε και μαζί με το καλό θα φορτωθώ και το κακό.

Και ποιος νοιάζεται ;

Θα κάνουμε και το κακό να Κλαιει απο καλοσύνη καθώς θα δει την ψυχή των αιρετικά αντίθετων στην θλίψη.

Μπείτε και στο δικό μου σπίτι του ποτέ και του πάντοτε.

Έχει και μονόκερους και νεράιδες και δάση ευτυχίας και καρδιές απο ζάχαρη άχνη
και ατέλειωτες θάλασσες σοκολάτας και πολλά χαμόγελα και απέραντη καλοσύνη
και είναι πάντα καλοκαίρι
και ο έρωτας διαρκεί για πάντα
και υπάρχει το πάντα αλλά δεν υπάρχει το ποτέ.

Και δεν χάνεις τίποτα αγαπημένο και όλοι τα έχουν όλα...
Ο πόνος ειναι σε ισόβια κάθειρξη. Ο θάνατος πάνε χρονια που έχει πεθάνει.
Η θλίψη θάφτηκε μέσα στα χρώματα της χαράς. Το μίσος έλιωσε. Η ζήλεια τρελάθηκε και το παίζει συμπόνοια. Ο πόλεμος νυμφεύθηκε την ειρήνη και κάνει ότι του λεει η σύζυγος.
Η αρρώστεια κόλλησε τον ιό της υγείας και δεν μπορεί να γιατρευτεί. Τα χρήματα ειναι φιλιά.
Οι νόμοι καταρρίφθηκαν απο δυο αγκαλιές ημερησίως. Απαγορεύεται αυστηρά το κλάμα,εκτός αν είναι κλάμα ευδαιμονίας. Και αλλα τέτοια.

Δεν μπορώ άλλο σουρεαλισμό για σήμερα.

Παραείναι αληθινά για μένα όλα
όσα θα ήθελα και δεν υπάρχουν.

Και έτσι,αφού υπάρχει το πάντα υπάρχει και το ποτέ. Και θέλει να με πείσει πως τα παραμύθια είναι μυθεύματα και η φαντασία μου απλά διαπρέπει στον κλάδο της φιλολογίας.

Πιστέψτε με όσοι καταλαβαίνετε πως οι στιγμές είναι θαύματα και ζήστε σαν ήρωες, κάποτε θα με ευχαριστήσετε.

Για τους υπόλοιπους που με θεωρούν φαντασιόπληκτη και ανεύθυνη πριγκίπισσα της ακόλαστης ευδαιμονίας.
Αυτό ήταν.
Καλώ την αστυνομία !!!

Σε αγαπώ Clive Barker.

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Michael || TheNeverendingTBR.
479 reviews190 followers
January 5, 2021
“The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”

From the opening line we're quickly transported into a tale that's equally parts horror, fantasy and fairy tale.

The main character Harvey is suffering with dissatisfaction and boredom with his life and is tricked into becoming a visitor to Mr. Hood’s Holiday House a seemingly magical house where bored children can go to take a break from their normal lives, but obviously - things aren't what they seem.

This was an easy read with short chapters, cool illustrations drawn by the author himself which added to the overall feel of it and it just all flowed so well.

I didnt really like how it ended, it ended on a sad note and I'd have preferred something different, but I guess that's just the way some stories go.

Profile Image for Stepheny.
381 reviews545 followers
October 20, 2014
Oh, you’re a horror fan? Read Clive Barker.

Steph, check out Clive Barker. You’ll love him.

Have you read any Barker? He’s brilliant!

These are all things that were being said to me for the last few years. I took note. Then I saw Stephen King saying that Clive Barker is the future of the horror genre. Well, if I am going to listen to anyone I am going to listen to Stephen King.

Everyone knows this.

I took the encouragement of some of my goodreads friends and went with it. I decided to go with the Thief of Always as it was one of the ones that was being recommended by the ones who know me best. Let me just tell you- I was not disappointed.

The Thief of Always is about a boy who is very bored one day and a guy flies into his window and promises him adventure. Seems legit, right? Right. Of course, the kid questions a few things along the way but there’s an answer for all of his questions and he has friends to play with. It’s Christmas every night and a beautiful summer day every morning.

Harvey soon begins to question more and more about the house that he is staying in, the pond out back and the behavior of the people around him. He sets up an escape plan only to be horribly dismayed with the outcome.

This book was truly a delight to read. It reads like a favorite children’s book blended with horror and gore. I loved it and cannot wait to read more of Clive Barker. I have a list of recommendations from all of his fans that I am ready to dive into. This was such a quick and easy read. It kind of reminded me of Coraline in the sense that while it is a “children’s book”, it is pretty damn terrifying too.

Pick it up, you will not be disappointed.

Ps. The Kindle version contains some pretty creepy artwork that is well worth viewing!
Profile Image for Trish.
2,018 reviews3,436 followers
October 22, 2021
This story felt ... old. Not in a bad way (like a story that aged badly) but as in how the story was structured, what it was about etc. It felt like a classic children's story. Maybe it should be.

One dreary February day, there is Harvey, a boy bored half out of his mind - which explains why he isn't the brightest candle on the cake. You see, just when he's sure he'll have to die of boredom, someone comes a-flying (no, not Mary Poppins) and offers him a trip to the Holiday House / the House of Always where the weather is always nice, Spring passes in the course of a day and it's Halloween every night. There is also mud cake and other yummy food for all the children flocking to the place. You can do whatever you want all day, the only rules being that questions are forbidden and that you should smile. And if you're worried about what your parents will say about you coming home late or missing school, just call them and they'll tell you that it's no problem at all.

If this sounds like a dangerous and creepy place where something is afoot, you'd be absolutely right. As is no surprise to attentive readers, things turn dark very soon.

The author did a great job at incorporating elements from all kinds of children's stories where we travel to magical places and blend those elements with other well-known but still lovely tropes such as and more. The atmosphere was positively zizzling with magic and foreboding.

Truth be told, I wasn't too much a fan of Harvey's. I mean, he must have known that that phone call home was bogus, but he didn't care. This level of stupidity just means that you deserve what is coming, no matter how steep the price for your own stupidity is (no, the age is no excuse either). *lol* But he certainly did make up for it and show some cleverness at the end. ;)

Honestly, I was kinda surprised to read this type of story from this author. But he pulled it off very well and I was greatly entertained, chuckling darkly to myself a number of times (yes, I wanted the brat to be taught a lesson).
Profile Image for Mario.
Author 1 book193 followers
March 29, 2015
Great book to read on a rainy day.

What I liked the most (apart from story) are the illustrations. They were really creepy, and reminded me of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, which is one of my favorite books. The story is also similar to Coraline, but it does have its twists.

Really fun and fast read, and looking forward to reading more books from this author. The guy knows how to tell a good story.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,384 reviews1,650 followers
September 19, 2015
I remember being a kid and being bored, and it is THE WORST. It wasn't just the boredom, it was the feeling of needing something but having no idea what. Awful. It will ruin your life.

And that is how you become me.

I don't really have much to say about this book. It's my second Barker, and vastly different than the first of his that I'd read (The Hellbound Heart). I liked this one well enough, and it's a quick read (or would have been if I didn't have this need to make new levels in Mario Maker, anyway). The illustrations were great, a nice sketchy style that I really liked a lot. But the story was only just good. It felt a little too message-y for me.

Appreciate the time you have with your family, even when it's lame, because you never know when it might be taken away from you.

So... That's all. I probably would have liked this a bit more had I read it when I was in the target age range, but still, it's a good story.

Oh, wait! It did annoy me that the cats behaved like humans though. Yeah yeah yeah, they are MAGIC cats, but they don't talk or do anything but be cats (which is what they were created to be) so when they're all "Timmy fell down the well!" leading someone to where they need to be, it just irks me. If they're magic, make them magic. If they're not, then they're not. Gah.

Anyway. That's all, for realsies this time.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,103 followers
October 22, 2021
This is my second read, but I'm doing it decades apart. It's really strange. I kinda feel like I'm Harvey.

Not bored. Definitely not as bored as him, or nearly as gullible or enticed by a house of holidays, myth, or changed children. But I do really feel the underscored notion that you really can't go home again.

But you sure can wish for it.

And if you can pay the price...

Ah, honestly, I was always really surprised by how this particular Clive Barker book subverted all my expectations. I mean, the guy gave me Pinhead. Books of Blood. Some of the best, most horrific monsters of the related horror genres. But out of the blue, here I am, reading a YA bursting with a mild but very creative mythos, lost children's souls, and such sweet promises.

I loved it back then, utterly shocked by the conflict I was faced with, and I loved it now, thinking fondly of all the most gorgeous epic coming-of-age horror novels of the '80s. You know, the big ones, the epic ones. Like It, or A Boy's Life. Or even better, and through a side-eye, at the space where Neil Gaiman would take in my heart with Sandman. And yes, the similarities are very much there. So lovely!

Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews692 followers
November 4, 2014
Harvey Swick is ten years old and bored out of his skull. It's that dreary month of February, Christmas is over and summer is too far in the future for a small boy to contemplate. He just wants to have some fun. Through an open window flies a man in black by the name of Rictus. His smile is all sharp teeth and is as wide as his face, but he has a glib tongue and promises Harvey all kinds of fun. Plenty of playmates, the coolest treehouse ever, and a house that is almost too good to be true await Harvey. He's too young to know that something like this will come at a price.

A magical story aimed toward the kiddos, but that managed to keep this oldster's interest with no trouble at all. Illustrations drawn by the author are a great addition to a fine story.
Profile Image for Chris.
341 reviews974 followers
February 9, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Gianfranco Mancini.
2,210 reviews793 followers
February 3, 2021

Febbraio, la grande bestia grigia, si era mangiato vivo Harvey Swick. E lui ora era lì, sepolto nello stomaco di quel mese opprimente, e si chiedeva se avrebbe mai trovato una via d'uscita tra le fredde viscere che si estendevano da lì a Pasqua.
Non aveva molta fiducia nelle sue possibilità. Era più probabile che, trascinandosi lungo le ore di quella giornata, finisse per annoiarsi tanto da dimenticarsi di respirare.

Una più che gradevole rilettura orrorifica per bambini cresciutelli ed adulti bambinelli di Hansel e Gretel, L'Albero di Halloween di Bradbury ed il Paese dei Balocchi collodiano, Harvey e Wendell sono praticamente Pinocchio e Lucignolo, ed è stato bello scoprire che il Barker kid-friendly, qui anche eccellente illustratore, è altrettanto bravo di quello feroce e sanguinario che tutti ben conosciamo.

«È perfetto!» mormorò tra sé Harvey.
Mrs Griffin colse al volo il suo sussurro e «Nulla è perfetto» replicò.
«Perché no?»
«Perché il tempo passa» rispose osservando i fiori che aveva reciso, «e lo scarabeo e il verme penetrano, prima o poi, in ogni cosa.»
A queste parole, Harvey si chiese quali dolori dovesse aver conosciuto Mrs Griffin per
diventare tanto amara.

Vorrei averla letta quando ero più giovane, le avrei dato probabilmente cinque e passa stelle.

«Mi hai rubato trent'anni di vita con la mia mamma e il mio papà!» gridò Harvey. «Se restassi ancora qui continueresti a derubarmi.»
«Ti ho preso soltanto i giorni che non volevi» protestò Hood. «I giorni di pioggia, i giorni grigi. Quelli che volevi passassero in fretta. Cosa c'è di male in tutto questo?»
«Non sapevo che cosa stavo perdendo» ribatté Harvey.
Profile Image for Julie.
2,014 reviews38 followers
May 14, 2022
A marvelously clever fable that is a fantastic adventure of Clive Barker's imagination and can be applied to our lives. I missed reading this book as a child, however as an adult, there is a lot to unpack and take away and I am glad my GR friends brought it to my attention, as I might not have discovered it otherwise. Once I picked it up I could not put it down and read it all the way through.

As a questioning person who can't let things be and always seeks to understand, it resonated with me when Harvey wondered, "Wouldn't he be happier here if he just stopped questioning what was real and what wasn't?" That feeling of never quite being satisfied can work both for us and against us.

Harvey is determined to get to the bottom of it. "Whoever, or whatever, the haunter was, Harvey could not be content now until he'd seen its face and knew its nature."

The alternative is to "Be content with what you know," which appears to be the philosophy of Wendell and perhaps one of the keys to his friendship with Harvey.

It was quietly satisfying to read that "Evil, however powerful it seemed, could be undone by its own appetite."

Have you ever been on vacation only to return to work and discover how quickly the rosy afterglow diminishes? It was cool to be reminded that the vacation might be over, but we are not indifferent to its long term effects when I read, "He felt different; marked by his adventure."

I loved the warmth of Harvey's greeting when he recognizes a face that he knew "better than any on earth. It was the first face he'd ever loved. It was his mother."

What better can anyone say of you than "wherever I go, I will speak of you with love."
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,808 reviews797 followers
October 11, 2021
To me The Thief of Always is Clive Barker at his absolute best. It comes very close to beating The Hellbound Heart and that’s saying something because that book is one of my all time favourite novels. And this one comes pretty damn fucking close! It’s the most delicious blend of horror and fantasy and coming of age all rolled into one magical package and I ate it right up. Barker truly excels when he writes for a more young adult audience and the proof of it is clear in this story. I was completely captivated from the start and yet I took my time reading it because I just wanted to extend my stay with this dark little story as long as possible. The whole concept of this one is just stunning and different than anything I’ve read by Barker before. I’d truly love a peek inside the mind that came up with this idea, it must be an absolutely fascinating place to be, much like this story.
Profile Image for Timothy Urgest.
529 reviews284 followers
December 22, 2019
The Thief of Always follows Harvey Swick, a boy bored with the mundanity of life and the slow tick of time, as he enters Mr. Hood’s Holiday House. The Holiday House brings every pleasure imaginable to the lives of the children that find it, but at a cost.

Child-friendly Clive Barker is as imaginative as the gore-infested Clive Barker that I love. I wish I had read this as a child.
Profile Image for Pantelis Andreou.
275 reviews58 followers
January 30, 2022
“His possessions had gone into a nightmare place, full of monstrous things, and he felt as though a little part of himself had gone with it, down into the dark.”

For a children’s book, there are so many things an adult can enjoy and appreciate while learning a lesson or two while reading.

Barker did it again.. i loved almost everything i read from him (i say almost because the damnation game really was a miss for me) and he can sure can kill it with a genre like this. The man is a legend. Having a wild imagination and creating memorable and vivid characters and sequences throughout this book (a day that contains every season - genius) this one also reminded me a lot of Coraline and the graveyard book by Neil Gaiman (another perfect example of a perfect writer)

So yeah this is a very enjoyable journey for every age and I’m sure it will be a thousand times better on a reread!

For me it is a very inspiring book that made me get into drawing once again with all the sketchy style art that i found inside its pages!

P.S There is also a comic adaptation, have to find it soon.

Edit: Simply perfection once more!
Profile Image for Ron.
394 reviews97 followers
November 20, 2018
”I know a place where the days are always sunny, and the nights are full of wonders.”
Said the small man who mysteriously appears in Harvey's bedroom on a blustery rainy day. The day is a day in February, the worst of months. The month that swallows the hope of summer. Before the man can fill further promise, he is gone, but with the words, “Watch for me!” Perhaps it had only been a dream.

The man called Rictus does appear again, floating down from a cloud in his puffed-up coat. This time though...this time, his offer is true. So Harvey walks with him to a place Rictus names Holiday House, a walk still within the limits of his small town, but somehow into an area he's never seen before. He says he'll only spend a few hours. Then he'll go home. Because he hadn't told his parents. And yet when he gets to this beautiful house, somehow his parents had known of his plans all along. “Stay as long as you like Harvey. You deserve a little time off.”

My first Clive Barker book. It's no coincidence that I chose the one story he wrote for kids. I've been in that sort of mood. Like The Graveyard Book by Gaiman, I understand this has become a classic - for all ages, not just kids. Horror fans rarely skip the books that take us back to childhood, where initial fear lies. It's like going back in time. And that's the heart of this tale told by Barker. Time. When we're young, we don't stop to think about that little word so much. No time for that. Those days of boredom, days of rain. Gosh, how those got in the way. Through Harvey's story I was reminded, and gratefully so, of the invaluable things that are easily forgotten. I'm far more guilty of that now as an adult, than when a child, but what's good about this book is the way it speaks to the young. An understanding is there. Like Harvey comes to realize at one point, “Time is precious.”
Profile Image for Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods*.
813 reviews138 followers
August 21, 2020
The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.

A 10-year old boy seeks to conquer the monstrous ennui particular to his age, and finds something far more terrifying in this timeless fantasy horror fable. The story doesn't break new ground; it stays rooted in horror tradition and delivers a simple and solid tale. For comparison, Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon is a meatier story, and Neil Gaiman would have inserted endless whimsy. Barker, though, doesn't fancify any of it, sticks to the heart of the matter and invokes a tense childhood experience that could be drawn from any time and Anytown, America.

What really pushes the book over the top is the illustrations, also by Clive Barker. Fascinating images grace the opening of every (short) chapter, sometimes with another at the ends. They perfectly match and greatly enhance the storytelling experience. Clive Barker has always been a visual artist as much as an original and frightening storyteller, and this book seamlessly incorporates these arts.

Young readers who can handle a bit of horror, perhaps even as young as 10 (the protagonist's age), might enjoy this as much as or more than adults will.
June 1, 2023
Absolutely loved this one! - I wish I knew about this book in my early teens.

A brilliant reminder that life is too short and to live every moment as if its your last - remember to appreciate everything you have and not wish for everything you don't! This is always the book I recommend for people who want to get into the horror/fantasy genre. I found this book so influential and it started to shape what I read.

I am always on the look out for books like this one - I don't think I have ever found anything in YA horror/fantasy that I have loved more than this. I also love the cover and the artwork inside it really helps the book come alive on the page. I haven't read a great deal of Clive Barker but I would like to read more especially in the fantasy genre.
Profile Image for Michael Sorbello.
Author 1 book258 followers
August 14, 2022
Harvey Swick is bored out of his mind. Bored of life, bored of school, bored of everything. One day, Harvey makes a wish for things to change. All he wants is a little bit of fun and excitement in his dull life. Little did he know, someone was listening, someone that was willing to grant him his wish. During a dark and stormy night, a mysterious man named Rictus pays Harvey a visit. He tells him of a magical place called the Holiday House, where all his wishes and desires can be brought to life.

I love Clive Barker's ultra gruesome adult horror novels, but after reading this I can see that he can write a very compelling tale for folks of all ages. Though not nearly as explicit or morbid as many of his other works, The Thief of Always doesn't hold back in the horror department or throwing in a few messages that adults can sympathize with.

The Holiday House is a vampire, a false paradise that sucks away time and by the time you realize that your past life is gone, it's already too late. Sometimes we think we want something when really it's just a temporary cure for a much bigger problem or desire. Covering up heartbreak and regret with false joy and superficial pleasures doesn't fix the problem, it just covers them up like a band-aid until they eventually open up again.

After his horrific experiences in the Holiday House and seeing the detrimental effects it has on all the children that have visited it in the past, Harvey learns to never take time or the little moments for granted again.


If you're looking for dark ambient music that's perfect for reading horror, thrillers, dark fantasy and other books like this one, then be sure to check out my YouTube Channel called Nightmarish Compositions: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPPs...
Profile Image for Anna.
581 reviews109 followers
November 1, 2016
Έχετε ευχηθεί ποτέ να ήταν κάθε μέρα γιορτή; Να κάθεστε χαλαρά στο σπίτι, να παίζετε (στα παιδικά σας χρόνια) με όλα τα αγαπημένα σας παιχνίδια, να τρώγατε όλα τα αγαπημένα σας φαγητά και όλα τα σχετικά υπέροχα πράγματα που μόνο στις γιορτές σας άφηναν οι γονείς σας να κάνετε;

Ε, προσέξτε τι εύχεστε γιατί μπορεί να πραγματοποιηθεί.

Γιατί ο τρόπος που κάτι πραγματοποιείται μπορεί να ενέχει πολλούς κινδύνους, και οι δαίμονες, όπως μας έχει μάθει καλά ο Clive Barker, επιμένουν στις λεπτομέρειες!

Βγαλμένο μέσα από τους μεγαλύτερους παιδικούς φόβους αλλά εκφρασμένο με τρόπο που ένας ενήλικος θα θαυμάσει, θα νοσταλγήσει και θα θέλει να αφηγηθεί ο ίδιος, ο μάστερ του φανταστικού τρόμου σε μια από τις καλύτερες δουλειές του!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,615 reviews10.7k followers
December 5, 2022
💚🦇 A modern classic. I loved this. 🦇💚

I picked up The Thief of Always as book #3 for my TBR-Haul Project. I hauled this charming paperback edition in April 2018 and she's been gathering dust ever since.

Clive Barker is well-known as a heavy-hitter in Horror and Dark Fantasy, but this was actually the first thing I have ever picked up from him. I was very excited to check out his work for the first time. It did not disappoint!

This story, fit for all ages, follows a young boy, Harvey Swick, who is bored with his life. Aren't they all sometimes?

One day, as Harvey is contemplating just how boring his life is, a man named Rictus appears to him and offers him the opportunity to travel somewhere exciting, away from his parents and teachers and school, a place called the Holiday House, where every day brings something to celebrate.

Granted, he doesn't sell it to Harvey in exactly those terms, but you get the gist.

Figuring he doesn't have any other enticing options, Harvey agrees and off he goes with Rictus. After arriving at the property he finds other children there already and befriends two of them, Lulu and Wendell.

Through them, the elderly housekeeper, Mrs. Griffin, and good old-fashioned exploration, Harvey begins to the learn the ins-and-outs of the Holiday House and it's mysterious benefactor, Mr. Hood. Suffice it to say, it's not all as holiday happy as they may want you to believe.

As the truth behind the property begins to be exposed, it seems Harvey needs to make a move fast or risk never returning to that boring life he took for granted before.

Y'all, I absolutely adored this story. From the very first chapter, I was completely drawn in. The writing style is lush, fluid and ominous, even when you aren't quite sure why.

For me, that's a characteristic of fiction that I have always been drawn to, even as a child. I would compare it to the tone of say Alice in Wonderland, or even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Where everything engaging, vibrant and beautiful, but you also have the chills for reasons you can't quite put your finger on.

Barker absolutely nailed that tone. I loved the progression of Harvey's story, the way he began to piece together that all wasn't as it appeared at the Holiday House.

The more he figured out, the faster the pace got as well, so it gave me a sort of heart-racing feeling as I made my way to the conclusion. I loved that aspect. There were so many cool elements throughout to enjoy, but those final few chapters really sealed the deal for me.

I am so very happy, after all this time, that I finally made the time for this one. It's an absolute treat. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves a classic-feeling spooky story. Bonus, it's perfect for this time of year.

I am definitely looking forward to reading more of Barker's work!!
Profile Image for Peter (Peer105).
85 reviews22 followers
November 12, 2019
3.5 stars.

Hype is always tricky. In the best cases a book can live up to it, but most often it does not. The Thief of Always was such a case for me. It was good, but it wasn't excellent.

Let's start with the writing. This was my first Barker and I have to say, I adored the writing! I have absolutely nothing negative to say about it. This baby reads as smooth as spreading butter on toast.

The plot I liked, but I also never got the sense I was reading something super original. Barker included handmade drawings as illustrations and that was a very nice addition. They were dark and creepy, but still in a child-friendly sort of way.

Now, onto the characters... I didn't really care for any of them. It didn't help that, besides our protaganist, most felt pretty flat to me. And the reason I cared little for the protaganist is because he didn't really have a dramatic need (besides not being bored anymore...) in over half a book. And that first half is pretty much without major conflict as well. So that didn't help...

And now my main gripe: I really didn't like the ending. And I can't go into it, because spoilers... but there were a couple of choices made that I just didn't like and things that needed some explaining for me. It almost went to a direction I would have applauded, but I kinda always knew it wouldn't go that route. It has to be kid friendly and hopeful, I get it. Still, missed opportunity.

Overall, I really enjoyed it! I just never LOVED it.
Profile Image for Έλσα.
516 reviews106 followers
October 28, 2020
" Ο κλέφτης του Πάντοτε"

Ένα σκοτεινό παραμύθι!
Το σπίτι των γιορτών είναι ένας χώρος όπου πραγματοποιούνται όλες οι επιθυμίες των παιδιών.  Όμως, θα αποδειχτεί πως δεν είναι έτσι. Είναι ένας μέρος γεμάτο οφθαλμαπάτες, ψέματα, με τρομακτικά ζώα κ όντα.

Ο χρόνος σε αυτό το σπίτι σταματά να κυλάει... παίρνει ψυχές τις χαλιναγωγεί, χειραγωγεί τα παιδικά μυαλά κ  προσφέρει μια ζωή σε ένα ουτοπικό κόσμο.

Αναντίρρητα είναι από τα πιο όμορφα παραμύθια τρόμου!!!
Profile Image for Abbie | ab_reads.
603 reviews447 followers
January 19, 2019
I have to thank my bestie @jobis89 for quite literally forcing this book into my hands by getting it for me for Christmas, and THIS EDITION. Gah. It’s almost too beautiful. Clive Barker illustrated it himself, and while I always enjoy a surprise illustration in a book, these were on another level, I swear. They toe the line between truly dark horror and children’s drawings, and admittedly (I’m thinking of Marr here), cross that line occasionally, but who didn’t love reading a book as a kid and getting that thrill of fear every now and again?
The Thief of Always is the magical tale of young Harvey Sweek, who is fed up with the monotony of his every day life and wishes for something more exciting. Enter: a literal demon named Rictus who promises to take him to a house where every afternoon is the perfect summer’s day and every night is Christmas - seems legit, thinks Harvey, and skips off hand in hand with a flying demon. We’ve all been there.
Questionable judgement in trusting demons aside, Harvey is the perfect protagonist for a story like this, being a kind of everyman for kids - good, brave, always willing to be a friend even in extenuating circumstances. But he’s also fundamentally still just a kid, and Barker puts that across so well!
In Books of Blood I was blown away by Barker’s imagination, and The Thief of Always is no different. His mind must be a crazy place to be, but I’m so thankful he puts it all to paper for us to enjoy! I wish I had read this one when I was Harvey’s age, 11 or 12 or so, but I can always give it to my niece to read when she’s old enough (and then not take responsibility for the nightmares about Marr!)
Jo warned me about the tear-jerker of a last page, and she wasn’t wrong! The last page, and especially the last paragraph really struck a chord with me about making the most of each day and not wishing your life away - @wildbonbons it really reminded me of your initiative and you should also read this one!
Profile Image for Matt Rudy.
86 reviews31 followers
July 10, 2023

“However this miraculous place worked, it seemed real enough. The sun was hot, the soda was cold, the sky was blue, the grass was green. What more did he need to know?”

Harvey Swick is a 10 year old boy who wishes to be saved from another boring February day. Later on a creature named Rictus grants his wish, and brings him to the Holiday House. A place where magic is endless and wishes come true. While he is there he meets some other kids. They were also taken from the real world to come to this one. The book starts out with the children having fun. Sadly, the longer Harvey spends in the house the more he discovers the darkness behind it.

I absolutely loved this book! Clive Barker does an amazing job of creating such interesting characters. The Holiday House is described with such detail that I felt like I could picture it in my head. This story reminds me a little of the Brothers Grimm or of The Wayward Children series. It's dark, creepy, but enchanting to read.

The Thief of Always has taught me to not wish my days away and to live in the present. I also need to appreciate what I have because things can be there one minute and gone the next.

I would highly recommend this book to people of all ages. Clive Barker is an amazing storyteller who make you feel so many different emotions.
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