Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Child Thief by Brom

This may be stereotypical of me, but I love fairy tales, and I especially love new twists on fairy tales. This particular novel is a much darker version of Peter Pan than the one you see in Disney movies, although the original tale hints at some darkness as well.
Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is not Neverland.
Fourteen-year-old Nick would have been murdered by the drug dealers preying on his family had Peter not saved him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive and you never grow old. Even though he is wary of Peter's crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, New York City is no longer safe for him, and what more could he possibly lose? 

There is always more to lose. 

Accompanying Peter to a gray and ravished island that was once a lush, enchanted paradise, Nick finds himself unwittingly recruited for a war that has raged for centuries—one where he must learn to fight or die among the "Devils," Peter's savage tribe of lost and stolen children. 

There, Peter's dark past is revealed: left to wolves as an infant, despised and hunted, Peter moves restlessly between the worlds of faerie and man. The Child Thief is a leader of bloodthirsty children, a brave friend, and a creature driven to do whatever he must to stop the "Flesh-eaters" and save the last, wild magic in this dying land.

I don't think I've ever read a book written by an illustrator before, and The Child Thief has several of Brom's illustrations throughout the book, including the cover art. They're beautiful, and really help the reader picture the characters.

That said, the prose does not suffer at all. When I first heard that Brom was an artist first, I was somewhat skeptical about his writing ability. Oh how wrong I was. This book was a page-turner without having a simplistic writing style, and moved along without skimping on description. Without the illustrations, I still had a good idea what characters and places looked like and I was never bored.

The characters and the plot were where Brom shone, I think. The plot twisted and turned until I wasn't sure who to cheer for. By the end, it's unclear who is the "good guy" and who is the "bad guy." Everyone (for the most part) thinks they're doing the right thing...but who really is? I love authors that are unafraid to deal with the sometimes ambiguous nature of morality. 

The world Brom opens up to the reader is dark, there's no question about that. From the beginning, the dregs of society are the center of our outside world. Peter brings children into Avalon from horrible situations, but that's not even the worst, most graphic part of the book. People are flayed alive, intestines are eaten out of live people, there are horrible descriptions of rape, torture, and one character is crucified. This book is not for the faint of heart, and this is not an uplifting book for the most part. Be prepared for main characters to be killed.

The book ends on a relatively good note though, though it may not be a happily ever after ending. I didn't walk away feeling depressed though...that's a pet peeve of mine with novels.

While the book was dark and gruesome, to the point where I thought about throwing in the towel a few times, it is definitely worth the read. I am so glad I kept reading. Brom's exploration of a tale that was already sort of creepy was amazing. I enjoyed the fact that I had to think about the subjective nature of right and wrong.

Bottom Line
Overall Rating: 4 / 5
Buy or Try? Try, merely because of the violence
Plot: 5 / 5
Setting: 4 / 5
Characters: 4 / 5
Pace: Fast 
Descriptiveness: Middlin'
Fantasy factor: Magical Realism to Low Fantasy link


Clare said...

Hmm. We've got a copy of this at my local library–it looks fantastic, but I hadn't realized it was a grimdark retelling of Peter Pan. Interesting…

Midnyte Reader said...

This sounds cool. I love the story of Peter Pan also. I also really like how you sum up things at the end of your reviews.

Escapist said...

Clare, yup it was pretty cool :)

Midnyte, thank you! I'm thinking of trying to sum it up in one sentence in the bottom line as well.

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