The Thief of Always

The Thief of Always

by Clive Barker

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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...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785727392
Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date: 10/28/1993
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 6.94(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Clive Barker is the bestselling author of twenty-two books, including the New York Times bestsellers Abarat; Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War; and The Thief of Always. He is also an acclaimed painter, film producer, and director. For twelve years Mr. Barker has been working on a vast array of paintings to illuminate the text of The Books of Abarat, more than one hundred and twenty-five of which can be found within this volume.

Mr. Barker lives in California. He shares his house with seven dogs, three cockatiels, several undomesticated geckoes, an African gray parrot called Smokey, and a yellow-headed Amazon parrot called Malingo.


Los Angeles

Date of Birth:

October 5, 1952

Place of Birth:

Liverpool, England


Liverpool University

Read an Excerpt

The Thief of Always

Chapter One

Harvey Half-Devoured

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.

He didn't think much of his chances. More than likely he'd become so bored as the hours crawled by that one day he'd simply forget to breathe. Then maybe people would get to wondering why such a fine young lad had perished in his prime. It would become a celebrated mystery, which wouldn't be solved until some great detective decided to re-create a day in Harvey's life.

Then, and only then, would the grim truth be discovered. The detective would first follow Harvey's route to school every morning, trekking through the dismal streets. Then he'd sit at Harvey's desk, and listen to the pitiful drone of the history teacher and the science teacher, and wonder how the heroic boy had managed to keep his eyes open. And finally, as the wasted day dwindled to dusk, he'd trace the homeward trek, and as he set foot on the step from which he had departed that morning, and people asked him—as they would—why such a sweet soul as Harvey had died, he would shake his head and say: "It's very simple."

"Oh?" the curious crowd would say. "Do tell."

And, brushing away a tear, the detective would reply: "Harvey Swick was eaten by the great gray beast February."

It was a monstrous month, that was for sure; a dire and dreary month. The pleasures of Christmas, both sharp and sweet, were already dimming in Harvey's memory, and the promise of summer was soremote as to be mythical. There'd be a spring break, of course, but how far off was that? Five weeks? Six? Mathematics wasn't his strong point, so he didn't irritate himself further by attempting—and failing—to calculate the days. He simply knew that long before the sun came to save him he would have withered away in the belly of the beast.

"You shouldn't waste your time sitting up here," his mom said when she came in and found him watching the raindrops chase each other down the glass of his bedroom window.

"I've got nothing better to do," Harvey said, without looking around.

"Well then, you can make yourself useful," his mom said.

Harvey shuddered. Useful? That was another word for hard labor. He sprang up, marshaling his excuses—he hadn't done this; he hadn't done that—but it was too late.

"You can start by tidying up this room," his mom said.

"But —"

"Don't sit wishing the days away, honey. Life's too short."

"But —"

"That's a good boy."

And with that she left him to it. Muttering to himself, he stared around the room. It wasn't even untidy. There were one or two games scattered around; a couple of drawers open; a few clothes hanging out: It looked just fine.

"I am ten," he said to himself (having no brothers and sisters, he talked to himself a good deal). "I mean, it's not like I'm a kid. I don't have to tidy up just because she says so. It's boring."

He wasn't just muttering now, he was talking out loud.

"I want to...I want to..."He went to the mirror, and quizzed it. "What do I want?" The strawhaired, 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!"

As he spoke, the window rattled. A gust of wind blew hard against it—then a second; then a third—and even though Harvey didn't remember the window being so much as an inch ajar, it was suddenly thrown open. Cold rain spattered his face. Half closing his eyes, he crossed to the window and fumbled to slam it, making sure that the latch was in place this time.

The wind had started his lamp moving, and when he turned back the whole room seemed to be swinging around. One moment the fight was blazing in his eyes, the next it was flooding the opposite wall. But in between the blaze and the flood it lit the middle of his room, and standing there—shaking the rain off his hat—was a stranger.

He looked harmless enough. He was no more than six inches taller than Harvey, his frame scrawny, his skin distinctly yellowish in color. He was wearing a fancy suit, a pair of spectacles and a lavish smile.

"Who are you?" Harvey demanded, wondering how he could get past this interloper to the door.

"Don't be nervous," the man replied, teasing off one of his suede gloves, taking Harvey's hand and shaking it. "My name's Rictus. You are Harvey Swick, aren't you?"


"I thought for a moment I'd got the wrong house."

Harvey couldn't take his eyes off Rictus's grin. It was wide enough to shame a shark, with two perfect rows of gleaming teeth.

Rictus took off his spectacles, pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of his waterlogged jacket, then started to mop off the raindrops. Either he or the handkerchief gave off an odor that was far from fragrant. The smell, in truth, was flatulent.

"You've got questions, I can see that," Rictus said to Harvey.


"Ask away. I've got nothing to hide."

"Well, how did you get in, for one thing?"

"Through the window, of course."

"It's a long way up from the street."

"Not if you're flying."


"Of course. How else was I going to get around on a foul night like this?

The Thief of Always. Copyright © by Clive Barker. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

I. Harvey, Half-Devoured
II. The Hidden Way
III. Pleasure and the Worm
IV. A Death Between Seasons
V. The Prisoners
VI. Seen and Unseen
VII. A Present From the Past
VIII. Hungry Waters
IX. What Do You Dream?
X. Falling From Grace
XI. Turnabout
XII. What the Flood Gave Up (And What It Took)
XIII. The Fourth Part of Darkness
XIV. Time Was
XV. New Nightmares
XVI. Back to the Happy Land
XVII. Cook, Cat and Coffin
XVIII. The Bitter Truth
XIX. Dust to Dust
XX. The Thieves Meet
XXI. Tricks and Temptations
XXII. Appetite
XXIII. The War of Seasons
XXIV. A Fledgling Thief
XXV. The Vortex
XXVI. Living Proof

Customer Reviews

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Thief of Always 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 126 reviews.
MaGicAllyGeNuisJ More than 1 year ago
Thief of Always is a book about a boy who is ten years old name Harvey Swick.He is uniterested in school,teachers and homework just like any typical kid.Then he meets a man name Rictus,who to tell's him about a kid¿s paradise called The Holiday House. When he gets there he notice that Holiday House has everything a kid ever wanted or dreamed of. But as the days and weeks pass. Harvey begins to notice something odd about this so called PARADISE.Its a catch to this whole experience, and its something your never see coming.

I will stop there with that, and tell you if you would like to know more. Buy the book, this book is so great. Your never want to put it down. I read this great book in 2 days!!!!I L.O.V.E this book it is by far one of my best books by Clive Barker.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its like a fantasy gone wrong. My 5th grade teacher showed it to me and I absolutely loved it! I was sad when it ended, its a very quick read. Disturbing at times but not in a bad way. The book is kind of hard to explain, but its amazing with its twists and the mystery of the Holiday House and the fish in the lake. Not many people know about this book but I highly recommend it. I cant say its the best book in the whole world, but it is to me the best without a series.
Blue13 More than 1 year ago
I first read this book in middle school and found it an exciting tell of getting what you wished for only to learn there is always a price to pay. I have since read the book several more times. It seems every time I read it I notice something new. There are some good lessons the author is able to get across while still entertaining you. This book has it all: mysterious flying guys, ladies with cats, kids getting whatever they want, scary monsters, heros. But don't take my word for it read it for yourself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is actually my first Clive Barker story, and when I picked it up in my library, I did not know what to expect. What I got was a beautifully written fable woven by a very subtle master of the written word. The Thief of Always is a story I would have liked to have been read to when I was younger. I highly recommend it to classes fifth grade and up, and for older readers who would like a quick read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I read this, I loved it. And I remember that when I read it once, my tablet shut off and I was so upset.
Janus More than 1 year ago
I could sit here and write about how excellent Clive Barker is at composing words (neither too poetic nor too simple), or how imaginative and inventive he is; but that would just be pretentious. This was my first Clive Barker book and it has reminded me how much fun reading can be. I am officially classifying this as one of my favorites. If you're thinking, "All of Janus' favorites are probably similar types of books," then I invite you to look over my B&N profile to see what other types of stories I am ranking The Thief of Always alongside.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book provides a milestone in literary history...the stars only let me go to five but i give this book 15 stars...i have recommended this book to ppl who HATE to read and so do i but me and my frineds agree this is by far the BEST book in the world!
mdemock on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is easy to read, entertaining, but has a darker way about it. There are a few illustrations throughout the book that only add to this book's creepiness.
Jenson_AKA_DL on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My son started reading this one in school and kept telling me how much he was enjoying it. When he was done he absolutely insisted I read it. So, I did. This was a much darker book than what I would have thought would have appealed to my 10 year old son...although what can you expect from this author.For myself, I found the book to be well written, thrilling and easy to read. It certainly doesn't talk down to the younger reader which I think must be part of its appeal. In this story 10 year old Harvey is bored with his life and when a strange character appears and tells him that he can take Harvey to a wondrous place full of sunshine and wishes Harvey jumps at the chance. At the same time the story never assumes that Harvey has a horrible home life or hates his parents, in fact, the story always emphasizes how much Harvey cares for his family which is an attribute I really liked.This is a great story for grownups appreciative of horror-light (like me) and obviously appealing to the older elementary/middle school child as well, as evidenced by my son's love of the book. He was particularly struck by the first line, which he quoted to me when he kept telling me about the story, ¿The great gray beast of February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.¿
danconsiglio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books when I was a kid. Still good when I read it now. Should be a staple of all classroom and school libraries. I'm going to try not to read too far into my desire to get children to read books that are likely to give them horrible nightmares . . .
ursa_diana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A vampiric house steals the souls of bored and lonely children- until one soul shines brighter...
Delightful! Clive is a master of my favorite genre -urban fantasy/ horror. Nobody does it better= this is a twisted fairy tale - a fable - complete with moral, though you have to figure that out for yourself.
gbartlett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Harvey Swick is bored with life when a monster named Rictus presents him with the possibility of a visit to Holiday House, where your every wish comes true. It's spring in the morning, summer in the afternoon, Halloween at dusk, and Christmas at bedtime, every day. Your favorite foods are always ready, there's no school, and presents every night. Whatever you wish for is available for you. Harvey finds out however, that everything is not perfect at Holiday House and when he tries to leave, there's no way out. Finding his way out and then back in to destroy Holiday House and rescue his friends becomes his goal. Using his wits and the magic of hope, happiness, magic, and love, he succeeds.
oapostrophe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my first Clive Barker book, and now I really will read Abarat. What a wonderful, scary story and cautionary tale. Young Harvey Swick is bored. A man suddenly flies into his bedroom with an offer of a 'vacation'. I will only say that all is not as it seems at Holiday House, and Harvey finds himself dealing with much more than he could possibly have imagined. A very exciting and scary adventure follows. Young readers will keep on to see what will be the next strange turn of events.
TiffGabler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Barker's not my favorite but this book is the one that started me reading AGAIN. It is a great way to save your children from living a life without literature. It made me want more ideas like the Holiday House in my life.
nkmunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would give this story 3.5 stars if I could! A Five for the illustrations (Barker's own), a Three for the story itself. I love the personfication of evil as a illusory house. I liked the structure of the story. What let me down was the atmosphere of fear. The protagonist and a few of the supporting characters should have been very scared and the text says they were, but they don't act like they are! Well illustrated: Yes! Entertaining: Pretty Much. Scary: No. Unusual setting well drawn: Yes. Truly Evil Bad Guys? Sort of, Sort of Not. Lump in your throat dangerous situtations: No because it is hard to fear for these characters as they don't act very scared!
harpua on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a great story. I literally read this in about two hours. It was so good I couldn't put it down. I've read some of Barker's work in the past and they've been pretty heavy works. This was different. I almost want to say it was written with the teen or young adult in mind, as it was a very quick and easy read. Despite that, the story was great. Mr. Hood's house had stood for a thousand years tempting children bored with their lives and looking for excitement. There is a price to pay for the bliss that the children receive. Harvey is different however, he sees through the charade and eventually sees the dark side of the house. He was the will power and courage to fight back against the house.Some things seemed a bit stretched, but I'll forgive these minor issues because of the quality of this novel. I wish Clive would write more novels like this one. Great stuff.
4sarad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like most horror books, I wasn't too impressed with this one. I'm not a big fan of the genre and I'm not young enough to be in the target audience for this book. I'm having some of my students read it and I'll be interested to see what they think of it. Overall my biggest complaint was believability. Harvey was too dumb and the house (the creatures especially) were too easy to defeat. Not a fan!
sirfurboy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't read a lot of horror and am not often impressed by the genre, but this book is wonderful. It is beautifully written - and even now, a good many years since I read this book - "The great grey beast of february" sticks in my mind. This book is not so much written as crafted.The story is not terribly complex, the cast of characters not terribly long - but that is not what makes this book great. What makes it great is the quality of the writing, and the way the author transports you into the world he has created, making you care about the characters.This book is highly recommended.
Black_samvara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Darkly wonderful story about Harvey who enters a magical house but realises it is taking just as much from him as he is taking from it.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Awesome, creepy, cool read! totally recommend this one. I just gave it to my daughter to borrow and then I'm going to read it again, nice and slow this time so I can really scare my pants off. If you like Coraline, this would be one you would enjoy.
snapplechick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was okay, but if I didn't have to read it I wouldn't. I read for a Summer Book Project and I found it kind of dumb.
banshea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This wonderfully creepy book was a major influence on my childhood, but it's not just for kids. Its story is accessible to all ages, but it's as dark and deep as a certain lake, in which giant, unhappy fish circle eternally, never seeing the sun...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really extremely good book by far my favorite book ever