The Child Thief by Brom
Finished: Oct. 2, 2009
First Published: Aug. 25, 2009
Genre: urban fantasy
It would happen again tonight: the really bad thing.
Reason for Reading: I was very interested in a retelling of Peter Pan from an author known previously for horror books. I received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.
Summary: This is a modern re-telling of the Peter Pan story. If you've read the original you'll know that Peter is rather an arrogant, self-centered boy and the author takes that Peter and creates a very dark urban fantasy. Amazingly, the basic plot line is very similar to the original. Peter comes to the real world to find runaway kids and steals them by tricking them into following him back to his world, Avalon. There he has created a group of children who fight against the evil Flesh-eaters who are out to destroy them and the island, headed by the fearful, Captain. Peter has his mother figure in the woman who is the lifeblood of Avalon, the one who keeps the magic alive and Avalon hidden, Modron, the Lady of the Lake.
Comments: This was a fantastic read! First off though, the book itself is beautiful. Brom also illustrates the book with full page b/w drawings which are very dark and haunting, several of them remind me of the artist Hans Holbein's woodcuts which feature Death. Plus in the middle of the book are full colour paintings of the major characters!
The book is both enchanting and disturbing at the same time. I love the folklore connections of Avalon and the Lady of the Lake. Avalon itself is inhabited by pixies and elves and all manner of creatures; while the mythos behind it all is fascinating. In the Author's Note at the end, Brom goes into detail where he found his inspiration, which in itself is interesting. Peter and his gang of runaways, The Lost Ones, The Devils (they call themselves) are disturbing. A handful of them become major characters who the reader becomes emotionally involved with (one way or the other). The writing and characterization is brilliant. One can never forget that these are children and so it becomes a dreaded but compelling read that can't be put down as they brutally kill and slay their enemies and swear like gangsters. Among themselves The Devils form a group that reminds one of The Lord of the Flies. And yet through it all, there is one runaway, Nick, whom we meet near the beginning, who never quite falls under the spells of the magic, Avalon, Peter, who knows that Avalon is not all there is to fight for. A truly, splendid, wonderfully crafted story. Very dark and haunting, not for those with weak stomachs (heads fly frequently), but both urban fantasy fans and fans of fairytale and classic book retellings will not want to miss out on this one. I will most certainly go back and read Brom's two previous horror books and be on the lookout for his next offering.
I don't want to post an illustration here and infringe on copyrights but going to this link will take you to a lot of pictures featured in the book. Unfortunately, the creepiest one that especially gave me a Hans Holbein vibe is not shown but scroll down about halfway for the woman with the monster head things, that will give you an idea! Most of the colour illustrations are shown, though again not my favourite.
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