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In this very, very dark telling of Peter Pan, Peter is abused and unwelcome everywhere he wanders until he stumbles onto the island of Avalon. There, he finally carves out a home for himself, although not without a certain amount of danger. As conditions on the island deteriorate, Peter recruits children from the world of men to come live on his island and help fight the battle to save Avalon and his Lady.
I haven’t read Peter Pan and I only have vague memories of the Disney movie, which I didn’t care for. So I can’t say anything about how this compares to the original source.
I can say that it worked for me.
Peter’s mother is a human and we only get a vague hint that his father is some sort of forest spirit. He lives up to that lineage admirably. He can be serious, playful, deadly dangerous, funny, loyal, and unforgiving in the space of a few heartbeats. His temperament can only be described as mercurial. As such, I was never entirely sure whether I should be rooting for him to succeed or not. I could tell he definitely had an ulterior motive or three but I didn’t know if I should sort him out to be a hero or a villain. It was nice to be kept on my toes! Honestly, I still don’t know what to think of him. I guess he’s more like a force of nature–he just is.
The children he recruits to come to Avalon call themselves Devils. They were heart-breaking. The first chapter is very disturbing, with Peter saving a little girl from another night of being molested by her father. Holy cow. That was not what I expected from Peter Pan! But once I thought about it, those are exactly the children who would give up their homes and follow a strange boy into the mists–the ones who have nothing to live for here, the abused and neglected children, not the ones who have a “Mother Darling” waiting for them and worrying for them at home.
The conflict on Avalon is only slowly revealed so I won’t say much. I did find it to be all too realistic, even if this is a fantasy book. It arises from people who are unyielding in their beliefs and who refuse to really sit down and speak to each other. They even want the same thing to happen, they’re just to stubborn to work it out. How familiar does that sound?
I believe author Brom is primarily known for his artwork. Each chapter opens with a full-page illustration in black-and-white and there’s a center section of color portraits of the main characters. They might be a little dark and disturbing for some people, but I thought they fit the mood of the novel perfectly.
The book has a definite ending that I’m not entirely happy with, but there’s room for a sequel too. After all, the boy who never grows up will always have another big adventure waiting.
Check out some of the artwork from The Child Thief while you’re on his site.
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