The title image contains an ambigram.
The books are centred on the realm called the Abarat, a world consisting of twenty-five islands, called Hours, on each of which it is always the same time. For example, on the island of Pyon, it is always 3:00 in the morning. The only exception is the mysterious, magnificent 25th Hour, which is held in fear and reverence by the people of the Abarat. The arrival of Candy Quackenbush from Chickentown, Minnesota sparks a series of remarkable events around the Abarat as Candy journeys about the islands of the land, seemingly at random after a decision ex tempore to enter Abarat. There is reason to belive that the Abarat is an interdimensional version of Earth; that is, occupying the same 'place' as Earth but in a different dimension.
In the Abarat series, there are "Islands of Abarat" which are each based around a time of day (except for the island based on the 25th hour). Below are descriptions based on what the character Samuel Hastrim Klepp, author of the wildly popular Klepp's Almenak, has to say about each of these islands:
There is no quieter place in the Abarat than at One o'Clock in the morning, where the six Pyramids of Xuxux rise out of the dark and uncannily placid waters of the Izabella. Some have suggested that these pyramids and the Ziggurat of Soma Plume at 5:00 p.m. were designed by the same hand and built by the same masons. The writer of Klepp's Almenak, the omnipresent traveller's guide to the Abarat, disagrees. The tombs at Soma Plume are "calm and curiously reassuring places" whereas the six pyramids at Xuxux (perhaps owing to their proximity to Midnight) are "sites of mystery and tragedy". The character Christopher Carrion uses them as a breeding-ground for the ravenous, chaotically diverse, monstrous insects known as the Sacbrood.
Klepp described Idjit as an island of "immense charm", never visited when he was sober. Idjit is an island that "encourages excesses, a kind of happy foolishness". It shares with neighbouring Gorgossium a "spiky, barren topography", while storms rage perpetually about the landscape. It has been calculated that a visitor to Idjit is more likely to be struck by lightning than a man on the roosts of Efreet is to be hit by bird excrement. The result is either (as in the human world) instant death or euphoria.
Pyon is described as having been "once a quiet island, but no longer. The work of an entrepreneur by the name of Rojo Pixler has transformed the island utterly. It was Pixler's dream (some have said folly) to build the biggest city in the archipelago on Pyon, its light so bright that the darkness of the Hour would be a grand irrelevance". Hence, Commexo City; a Las Vegas-like tourists' paradise whose image Pixler seeks to impose on the entire archipelago.
Here lie the Pius Mountains, a range of needle-sharp crags that are the tallest natural phenomenon on the islands. These are the home of peaceful, mountain-dwelling villagers, as well as of passionate revolutionaries. Klepp claims to have "discovered to date two hundred and seventeen explanations for the name [of the island], each contradicting the next. As I cannot distinguish the value of any one explanation over any other, and it seems arbitrary to simply pick one for retelling here, I'd prefer to simply state that nobody knows how the island got its name and leave it at that".
Speckle Frew is geographically an uneventful island; the earth is sandy and covered with fine, sharped-edged grass, while the wind is always howling. Though the terrain is scarcely varied, the island is home to a wide variety of species, most of them dangerous. Three are named: the Naught, the Scab-Faced Snouter, and the Rife. Being the habitat of such animals, Speckle Frew is called "a bestiary" and "not to be trespassed lightly".
Unlike its neighbour Speckle Frew, Efreet was once an island of great sophistication. The city of Koy, considered to have been the most cultured city in the Abarat, was built on the lower steppes of the island. Opinions vary as to how long it stood and why it fell, but what remains of the city - rows of pillars, archways, and frescoes - testifies to a site of elegance and learning.
Autland is joined to Efreet by the Gilholly Bridge. There is a palace on Autland, built for Queen Muzzel McCray, to a design that appeared to her in a dream, or so local legend dictates. The Queen's husband was a creature called Nimbus, Lord of the Tarrie-cats. Nimbus still lives in McCray's palace, inside the dream - so to speak - of the woman he loved.
This is an island of extraordinary flora. Here a visitor will find strange and sometimes aggressive plants growing in virtually inexhaustible profusion. Some have called Obadiah the Elegiac's Garden, and suggested it may have been a kind of laboratory in which the mythic Creators of Abarat, A'zo and Cha, experimented with life-forms.
This is a puzzling place to explore, because it has two distinct faces. At the western edge of the island stands the busy seaport of Tazmagor, where the food is good, the people happy, and the air filled with the din of extemporised songs. Outside the bounds of Tazmagor, toward the eastern end of the island, the land is empty. Nobody builds there, and no one gives a reason for not doing so; this is peculiar, given how crowded Tazmagor has become of late.
This is a splendid, green place, with many cypress trees on its lower slopes. On its heights, above the trees, stands a simple stage, which has been used for performances of every kind - circuses, slapsticks, and High Tragedy - since the beginning of known time. By a consequence of the island's location, Geese and Godkin's Theatre is every three days shrouded in a mist that blows from the southeast, surrounding the hill in a dark blanket. Tiny flames litter this dark fog, and magically illuminate the dramas that are performed on the heights of the hill.
Topographically speaking, the island merits little study, but it is the location of one of the Abarat's most extraordinary buildings: the Repository of Remembrance, which is the Abarat's most famous museum. The toys of emperors, the rag dolls of queens, and other practically useless but historically and sentimentally valuable objects are kept here.
The island of Yzil is a lush and temperate forest. Here lives the Princess Breath, a figure of Abaratian legend who by her exhalations creates live things, which are then wafted through the air until they arrive at some suitable habitat. She is mentioned in the first book, and actually seen in the second book by characters Malingo and Candy.
Hobarookus is a small, rocky and swampy island that swarms with pirates and buccaneers. The food produced there is prepared by the best cooks in the Abarat, because of the hour's use as a lunch time. Kalukwa birds, a curious species of bird whose eggs hatch downy human babies every ninth year, are common throughout the swampy areas, called the Sinks. These babies are commonly taken and raised by the pirates.
Orlando's Cap is a small, ill-favored island. It is here that an insane asylum is located, because the founder believed that the 2:00 hour promotes healing in the soul. Patients are apparently allowed the run of the islands, and have been given permission to follow artistic disciplines, which means that there are many weird and wonderful sculptures and objects created by the patients. It is probably based on the historical Alcatraz Island, which was also the site of an asylum for the insane.
The Nonce is a beautiful, drowsy island. Most people who visit fall asleep quickly, and dream about the beginning of the world. This implies that the Nonce is the site of that event. It is also notable for its torrential rainstorms, which wreak havoc on the native plants before becoming the water supply of new growth. This new growth takes the form of a rainforest so biologically diverse that there is often little separation between plants and animals. The name "nonce" means "the immediate", or "the moment at hand".
This island is riddled with the ruins of temples and Oracles. On many parts of the island, the air is filled with thousands of whispering voices, all sounding at once. It is believed that these are the voices of the ghosts of the inhabitants of Gnomon. There are many roads on the island that lead to nowhere, thus leading to the speculation that Gnomon was once part of the island of Soma Plume. Whether this would violate the accepted correspondence of hours to islands is not revealed.
Soma Plume is a large island, twice the size of Gnomon. It houses the Great Noahic Ziggurat, a place that has been used for burial for many generations.
This island is not the largest in the archepelago; but given the amount of entertainment found on it, it could be many times its size. It consists of a single, immense carnival, encompassing rides, comedic plays, freak shows, and all other manners of entertainment.
Scoriae is the meeting place of night and day, also know as the 'Island of Lengthening Shadows'. It has on it a live volcano known as Galigali, as well as the Twilight Palace, once belonging to King Claus of Day. Galigali has destroyed 3 great cities in its time: Gosh, Divinium, and Mycassius. Not one person survived the eruptions. However, stark ruins of the cities, as well as the Twilight Palace, still remain.
This island, also known as the Great Head, is a sort of informal capital of the islands. It is, in fact, fashioned in the shape of a giant humanoid head, in the likeness of its late owner Gorki Doodat. It is a labyrinth of tunnels on the inside, and the outside is mostly covered by shabby dwellings, save for the half-dozen high towers atop the cranium. Some of these towers are said to contain individuals of immeasurable age. Yebba Dim Day mostly consists of the Abaratian equivalent of government offices. This is Candy's first destination in the Abarat.
Huffaker is a large island, peppered with huge rock formations resembling natural caverns and cathedrals, the largest of which being Hap's Vault. Lydia Hap- after whom this cavern was named- claims that the vault (which she refers to as the Chamber of the Skein) is in fact the origin of the so-called Abaratic Skein, a thread of light which connects literally everything in every world to everything else.
This island has almost no noteworthy characteristics, save for a small town known as High Sladder, which has been taken over by the tribe of Jimothi Tarrie and his feral tarrie-cats. On the northeast side of the island is the wizard Kasper Wolfswinkel's house, which some have mistaken for a giant eye or temple because of the glass observatory in the roof.
Though most of this Island is bare rock, if one looks away from the rock for but a moment, the rock will have changed and flowed to resemble some other shape. Here the rock is fluid, fire is cold, water is like iron, and the air changes any spoken word into complete gibberish, hence the name. Jibarish is a place of paradoxes and confusion. The island is occupied by a tribe of women, who cause the changes. Men are not welcome here.
The island of Midnight is a dark mountain cloaked in red mists. On top is the fortress Iniquisit, a palace of thirteen towers (of which only one is still standing by the end of the second book). The Carrion clan has occupied this Hour long before the emergence of any written record. Rumored features on the island include a forest of gallows and a garden of flesh-eating plants. This island is, until the second book, home to the Prince of Midnight, Christopher Carrion and his grandmother. He is generally known as the cruelest and most evil person in all of the islands of the Abarat, though in reality his cruelty is easily surpassed by that of his grandmother, Mater Motley.
The Twenty-Fifth Hour, commonly referred to as the Time Out of Time, also goes by the name of Odom's Spire. Odom's Spire is the home of Diamanda, Joephi, and Mespa, the three sisters of the Fantomaya. The Fantomaya are three powerful, wise enchantresses, who immerse themselves in the constant stream of memories that permeate the Spire. They are the guardians of this stream of memories, which encompass all histories of the universe. The island is also home to Abraham Hollow, a territorial warden, as well as his assistants Tempus and Julius, referred to as the Fugit Brothers.
Though there are other small landmasses amongst the larger Islands of the archipelago, few of them are large enough to be considered "islands". Few of these landmasses have names. Most notable is the small, desolate collection of boulders known as Vesper's Rock. As the small Rock is near Gorgossium and small enough not to be obvious, it is used by Christopher Carrion to perform various magical acts away from the sight of Mater Motley.
Malingo is a geshrat; an orange-skinned creature with four small horns on the top of his head, yellow eyes, and fan-shaped ears coming out of the sides of his head. He is a good climber and knows a small amount of magic. He was a slave to the magician Kaspar Wolfswinkel-who beat him daily- before Candy arrived on Ninnyhammer and freed him. They fled from Wolfswinkel together, becoming very close friends and companions, and set off for freedom and adventures which are chronicled in the following books.
Publishers Weekly reviewed it as "...The author's imagination runs wild as he conjures some striking imagery ("Dark threads of energy moved through her veins and leaped from her fingertips" says one of the three women in the opening scene) and cooks up a surreal stew of character portraits (rendered in bold colors and brushwork, they resemble some of Van Gogh's later work). But much of the novel feels like a wind-up for the books to follow and, after this rather unwieldy 400-page ride, readers may be disappointed by so many unresolved strands of the plot."
School Library Journal said "...Barker is obviously more comfortable in the Abarat than he is in our more mundane world; the chapters that take place in Chickentown don't seem fully developed. Once Candy is safely in the fantastical realm, however, the story takes off. The rendering of the Abarat's locales, cultures, and mythology, combined with the author's own full-color illustrations and well-realized characters, allows readers to become quickly immersed in this beautiful and frightening world. In spite of a less-than-credible, almost preternatural calm in the face of the bizarre, Candy makes a fine protagonist, displaying strength, vulnerability, and a lack of the forced spunkiness displayed by some adventurous heroines. This first book in a series of four sets the stage nicely for what is sure to be a rollicking, epic ride."