It took me longer than I expected, but I finally finished The Child Thief by Brom. Just because it took me a while does not mean I did not enjoy the story – because I did, but some of it was finding the time to read, and the other piece was that it took a while to get a grip on what the story was trying to tell. When I did start to see the full picture I definitely wanted to keep reading because I needed to know what would happen.
The biggest thing to remember is this is not the Peter Pan of your childhood. This story is one that takes us to a much darker place where Peter is not just simply a boy and the dreaded Captain is something else entirely.
Part of the reason that Child Thief is so intriguing is due to the fact that it actually combines a couple of different stories that we know and love. One is obviously Peter Pan, which is the most prominent of the stories as Peter is the main protagonist. The other is a little surprising at first and is probably only subtly connected, but it is the Arthurian legends. I will explain more a little bit later, but Brom did a brilliant job of combining these two stories. The other piece is the way they mix the storytelling from Peter to one of the boys that Peter ends up “stealing” away named Nick. We get both of their perspectives, to give us the contrasting viewpoints. This helps give us a connection to someone from the real world that we can understand to help us see what this new world is supposed to be like.
Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma
At the start of the story we end up with a couple of different mysteries that we are trying to figure out. First one is who or what is Peter, the golden eyed boy who seems to be hunting for unwanted children who have run away. He is smart, quick, and obviously not fully human. At the same time there is something contagious about his mannerism. Everything seems to be a game, but everything also seems to be the line between life and death. He is a leader, but one who does not fully understand how to lead. We start out the story in Peter’s perspective as he is searching for a child.
This brings us to another part of the mystery and that is: what does Peter need the children for? Peter in the beginning seems desperate to find another child. When he finds Nick he has to keep himself from pushing too hard because one of the big rules is that the children have to come willingly.
At the beginning of the third chapter we learn that Peter is taking the children to Avalon.
Mists of Avalon
When I found out that the location Peter took the children was Avalon I was very intrigued. I mean Avalon is the place from the Arthurian legends, home to lady of the lake, and a place full of magic. It made me wonder what Avalon was doing along the banks of New York City, how it was remaining hidden, and what kind of place would it really be?
Avalon as a location brings up an idea of wonder and magic and just makes it that much more curious as to why Peter was bringing these children in there. The combination of Avalon with Peter Pan actually makes a lot of sense. Peter took children to a magical place where they would never grow up and instead get to play all day. Avalon itself held a sense of mystery and magic that could function as a Neverland, but a very different sort of Neverland. This is not just a location of play. Avalon is considered where Arthur got the sword Excalibur, which says to me that it understands what true fighting is about.
The great thing about the way the Child Thief tells the story is how many perspectives we get in the story. For the most part we are getting Peter and Nick, but as the story progresses and we get introduced to more characters we get a little of their perspectives as well. Seeing the story from a variety of angles definitely gives us a different view of the story overall than the individual characters.
At the same time Nick is definitely the character that connects us to the real world. He is the one that is fresh to Avalon and is trying to figure out what is going on right along with the audience. At the same time we get a deeper understanding of who Peter is and what he has been through. What is great about the various perspectives is that we get to see through some of the prejudice and ignorance of the characters to see the truth.
I have tried so hard to not spoil anything because part of what is so great about this story is the slow reveal of what is really happening and how it is happening. Every little story and issue brings you closer to the truth. At the same time you cannot make assumptions about what is going on! The way Brom has weaved together the various elements creates an entirely new way to experience Peter Pan.
(The next book I will be reading is Mort by Terry Pratchett)