Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Child Thief by Brom

This Review was Written by: C
Received: Purchased
Publication Date of Book: August 2010
Pages (Paperback): 481
Stars: 5/5

Official Summary:
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.

My Thoughts:
First of all, let me just say WOW! When I was first walking through the Barnes & Noble bookstore where I picked up this gem, I wasn't really sure what I was looking for. However, my eyes soon fell upon The Child Thief, which was tucked in between a few small paperbacks in the adult fantasy section. I absolutely loved the cover art and had to see what this book was about. Upon reading the description, I immediately fell in love with the story that Brom presented and had to purchase it, and I am overly ecstatic that I did! Brom truly brought forth a story that fit the legend of Peter Pan!!!

Now that my little introduction is over, let's get to the review. Everyone is probably familiar with Disney's Peter Pan. It's a classic animated film filled with magic, pirates, fairies, flying, and some interesting characters, particularly the infamous Peter Pan. The only problem is the fact that Disney really watered-down J.M. Barrie's original Peter Pan, at least from what I gather after reading Brom's description of the original tale, which can be found at the end of The Child Thief. Peter is not the fun-loving, flying boy that Disney chose to depict. Brom drew from Peter's much darker and sadistic side in order to craft a thrilling and dark retelling of the classic Peter Pan tale, and I loved every second of it!

Brom's version of Peter (he chose to discard the latter half of his name) has quite a tragic backstory. First off, Peter's hundreds of years old. His mother fell in love with a mysterious man in a forest and bore his son out of wedlock. This child was named Peter, and he was a cute little baby with red hair and freckles. However, his family saw him as more of a devil child once he began to speak shortly after his birth. Peter, who thought speaking was normal for a very young baby, had no idea what he had done wrong. His mother pleaded for him to remain with her, but her family insisted he be left in the middle of the woods to be eaten by wolves. In the end, even his mother could not save young Peter and ultimately did little to protect her own flesh and blood from certain death. However, when abandoned in the woods, Peter did not end up as another creature's dinner. Instead, he survives, begins to grow, and kills the wolf that once stalked him.

Eventually Peter is drawn into a strange mist and ends up in Avalon (Brom's version of Neverland), where a strange god once ruled. Now the island is left to his three children: the Witch, the Lady, and the Horned One. The land is filled with forests, swamps, elves, various fantastical creatures, and the dreaded Flesh-eaters. Peter is drawn to the Lady, and he soon enters a terrible feud with the Horned One's heir, Ulfger. Peter eventually ends up back in the mortal world and begins to bring children into Avalon, claiming part of the forest for his "Devils." He trains these kids to fight, pillage, and kill anyone who opposes them.

Peter also uses his Devils to fight the Flesh-eaters, humans who landed upon the island and became distorted from Avalon's magic. Most of these children die in the various battles that Peter fights and soon he is off again to the mortal realm to bring back more child warriors. This is how Peter comes across Nick, who is on the run from some horrific drug dealers who have set up shop in his Grandmother's home. Once in Avalon, Nick has to learn how to navigate a completely new world and survive in order to make it back to save his mother.

I would have to say that Brom did a splendid job weaving a dark fantasy. Peter had so many diverse sides and faces. As an eternal youth, he could behave so childishly, but there were moments in which he was a completely different person. He used his boyish appearance as a mask to lure helpless children away and give them hope of better days. He took the abandoned, abused, and broken. In retrospect, it almost seemed like he was taking those who were like him, children whose families didn't care for them. In this sense, some saw him as their savior, but there was another part of Peter that lurked beneath the surface. He wanted to use these kids to fight battles, and Nick saw Peter as a deceitful user that wanted the children for his own games. Peter was definitely a complicated character and I loved to see what lurked behind his adolescent facade.

This book also had a freaking amazing plot. It was long, but Brom wove it all together magnificently well. There were battles, blood, gore, tragedy, and fierce emotion. I genuinely got drawn in.  Plus, the story didn't feel drawn-out or complicated. Every single aspect contributed to a bigger picture and Brom built a stunning universe, but perhaps one I myself would not relish the thought of living in.

This book definitely contained some mature content, so I should warn those with weak stomachs. Brom doesn't shy away from what happens to the Devils during battles. The fight sequences are filled with blood, guts, gore, and very descriptive accounts of what terrible events transpire. Innocent kids die and there are many tear-worthy moments. I personally think that what transpired made the story come across in great, vivid detail to the point where it felt like it was no longer a fictional reality. You experience all that occurs through the characters' eyes and even empathize with some of them, including the Captain (a Flesh-eater that I believe Brom created from Captain Hook, minus the hooked hand of course). He also shows the destructive power of religion and just how far some fanatics will go.

I wasn't really sure what to think of Nick in the beginning, but he became one of my favorite characters by the end of the book. He acted as Peter's conscience and really brought on the guilt of what Peter did to some of them. On the other hand, the Lady was one of my least favorite characters, as she primarily saw Peter as a replacement for her dead son. He was a slave to her love, and this was most likely one of the root causes to many of the events that occurred in this book.

I still can't throw the ending of the book out of my head. So much happened, and I can easily see some readers absolutely hating The Child Thief's conclusion. I don't want to give anything away, but I considered it to be a fitting outcome. Yes, I will admit that it was despairing, but it severely affected Peter, and a new path was brought forth. Overall, this book is a must read. It's unique, mature, dark, and offers an amazing world for a devilish Peter Pan.


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