Are you a fan of Peter Pan? Great! Are you a fan of the horror genre? Even better. Just expect a bit of a twist on this classic fairy tale, infusing horror–both traditional and psychological–that you’ll find chilling and fairly thought-provoking.
In Brom’s “The Child Thief” we meet Peter, whose mission is to recruit as many kids (Devils) as possible, bringing them to Avalon (a warped version of Never Never Land) to help defeat his pirate adversaries, save his ailing queen, and restore Avalon to the once beautiful place that it was. Of course, Peter doesn’t choose just any children. The book kicks off making it very obvious that he connects with those who have been abused and battered. He saves them, wanting to give them a better life. But is it really better? Where do Peter’s priorities and loyalties really lie? To his Devils, or to his queen?
These question are challenged through Peter’s newest recruit. While we meet a number of children, the second protagonist of this series would be Nick. He’s living in the mean streets of NYC when Peter finds him under attack by a group of thugs who routinely terrorize him and threaten to hurt his drugged out mom. Peter helps do away with them and coaxes Nick to join him for this “better life”. Little did he mention the whole part about that pesky little war going on. Unfortunately for Peter, Nick is not a blind follower. Unfortunately for Nick, all of Peter’s Devils are. How does Nick plan to deal with this?
This book is absolutely not for children. The amount of gore, death, abuse, and torture (which both the adults and children are subjected to) I imagine is even disturbing for many adults. But I for one love the dark and vivid world Brom creates. It just takes everything we knew about the Peter Pan tale and turns it upside down making it familiar, but far removed from everything we thought we knew. The lesson is clear: don’t be tempted by forbidden fruit. No matter how bad things are in your life, switching it for another life may not necessarily be for the better…and there’s no going back.
This book certainly makes you question who is the real villain. I loved that this book gives you the perspective of all sides, the Devils as well as the Pirates and other adversaries. I’ve always said that most of the time, many conflicts would be fixed by a little thing called “communication.” If you really think about it, you will question how necessary this war was at all. Also, expect a lot of dissension among the ranks on all sides, keeping the plot fairly unpredictable. Aside from Peter, the characters themselves aren’t quite as dynamic, but I think that providing different perspectives helps make them more than one-dimensional fodder.
I highly recommend this book as long as you’re prepared for the rough undertones and subject matter. No, this is not the Disney adaptation. It’s not Fox’s either (which was my personal favorite growing up). But I like seeing this tale told.