The Thief of Always

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The Thief of Always
First edition
Author Clive Barker
Illustrator Clive Barker
Cover artist Clive Barker
Country United States
Language English
Genre Dark fantasy
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
November 1, 1992
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 225 pp (first edition)
ISBN 0-06-017724-1
OCLC 26356764

The Thief of Always is a novel by Clive Barker that was published in 1992. The book is a fable written for children, but intended to be read by adults as well. The book's cover was created by Barker and the book contains several black and white illustrations by the author.


The Thief of Always starts out by introducing the main character, Harvey Swick. Harvey Swick is a 10-year-old boy who finds himself bored with school, uninteresting teachers, homework, and his day-to-day life. In response to a frustrated plea for change, a man named Rictus flies up to Harvey's window and tells him about a kid's paradise, the Holiday House. At the Holiday House, there are all the sweets a person could ask for, four seasons in a day, Halloween every evening, Christmas, with whatever gifts you could wish for, every night, and everything else you could dream of. Harvey reluctantly goes to the house after a week of thinking, and enters the house through a wall of mist. Harvey enjoys the wonders of the Holiday House, and stays there for thirty-one days, becoming friends with Wendell and Lulu, two other kids at the house. There is also a woman, Mrs. Griffin, who cooks all the meals for the children. She is very nice and sweet. However, he eventually starts to suspect that the house is not as perfect as it seems. Upon investigation, Harvey discovers that the house's creator, Mr. Hood, has sucked all of the children's souls away and turned them into fish, imprisoning them in a dark, gloomy lake. After that, Harvey and Wendell are trapped in the house, and escape by following a cat named Blue-Cat through the mist barrier that constantly surrounds the property of the house at night.

When both Harvey and Wendell come home, they soon discover that for every day they spend in the Holiday House, a year has passed in the rest of the world. When Harvey meets his parents, he thinks he went to the wrong house, but he is wrong. The moment he sees his mother he realizes that something is fishy. His parents also realize who he is and invite him in. He takes a long nap and then tells them what happened. At first they don't believe him, but Harvey tells them it's true. They go on the search of the House, but Harvey had forgotten all the roads he took coming home. It seems like everything is different. They try all day, but Harvey and his parents can't find the House.

Harvey's father finally decides to go to the police station. While he is at the police station, Harvey and his mother are at home. Harvey's mother decides to go out shopping and Harvey goes up to his room. When he is in his room, he sees Wendell in the street walking towards Harvey's house. Wendell tells Harvey that Wendell's mother is old, fat, and divorced. Harvey also tells Wendell what happened to him. They both think about what happened in the Holiday House and decide that the only way to regain their lost time is to return to the Holiday House. Upon doing so, Harvey learns that Hood runs the entire house on magic and illusions.

Harvey defeats Hood by tricking him into using up all of his magic by wishing for as many things as he can think of as fast as he can, to drain Hood's power. When an exhausted Hood allows Harvey one more wish, Harvey asks for all the seasons at once, resulting in a furious lightning storm that burns down the house. Hood seems to perish in the fire, but he manages to rebuild a body from the debris of the house, and remarks at Harvey's courage, contrasting Harvey with Wendell, who has succumbed to the House's lures and wishes to stay forever in a trance. Hood then offers Harvey, whom he calls A Thief of Always, the chance to be a vampire with him and be immortal. Harvey refuses, and this final confrontation ends when Hood is knocked into the lake, which has turned into a vortex (or whirlpool) and sucks him in. The children all leave the remains of the house to go back to their respective times.


The Thief of Always while remaining rather obscure has received positive reviews from both critics and casual readers alike. Goodreads' readers give the book an approximate 4.16 out of 5 stars.[1] In one positive review (of which was advertised on some copies of the book) by Publishers Weekly it was stated: "In a tale that manages to be both cute and horrifying, bestselling novelist and screenwriter Barker puts the dark side back into childhood fantasy."


The Thief of Always has been adapted as a bimonthly three-part comic book, published between January 2005 and May 2005 by IDW Publishing.

An animated musical version of the novel was planned in the early 1990s by Paramount Productions. It was to be directed by Robin Budd, and produced by Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. Besides adapting the book for the screen, Barker was to have been one of the four executive producers. The project did not eventuate.

A live action adaptation of the novel was negotiated between Seraphim Films and 20th Century Fox on or before 4 August 2004.[2] The movie was scheduled for release in 2010, but as of 2014, no adaption has been made.


  1. ^ "The Thief of Always." Goodreads. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.
  2. ^ What's New with Clive? Retrieved 3 March 2005.

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