I like Brom a lot so I was very excited to get an ARC of “The Child Thief” to review. For those new to Brom, he started doing awesome artwork. Then he did a phenominal picture book called “Plucker” and then he did another pretty cool book called “The Devil’s Rose”. So when I heard he had a full length novel I was like, really, how cool is that! This was actually an really great book; less artwork than other books but the writing was really good. This is definitely not a book for children; the violence and language would be too much even for an older child.
This book follows the stories of two boys. The first is Peter a half-elven child that rescues children who have no hope; he takes them to a new place, Avalon. The second child is Nick, a boy in a hopeless situation who runs from his problems, but is rescued by Peter. Peter takes Nick to Avalon to join the Devil’s Children. The Devil’s Children is a society of children warriors who have been in a centuries long battle with the Flesh Eaters and the scourge; both which threaten the existence of Avalon and it’s Lady. In the beginning the story jumps between present time with Nick and Peter and the past where the story of Peter’s past it told.
This is a re-telling of Peter Pan, but it owes more to the original story and surrounding mythology than to any Disney version. Brom describes horrific scenes in a beautiful yet brutal way, in a way his writing style reminds me a bit of Stephan King’s Dark Tower series. The difference is that Brom also takes time to intricately describe scenes of intense beauty; although they are less frequent than the horrific scenes. This story is more of an epic than I thought it would be. We are talking about a battle that has gone on through the ages and about enemies whose fight has extended for generations.
This was not a quick read, it is not really a fun and happy read; the pace is deliberate and the writing a bit dense. The description and action is written in such a way that it takes time to read it all, but it is worth the time. I loved the description and the action scenes. The plot was not super fast, but went forward at a steady rate that built up the dread you felt for Avalon, Nick, Peter, and the Devils. This book was written like a piece of fine literature, a story that can really span time; but as such it takes some time and work to read.
Brom did an excellent job of making all the characters both likable and un-likable. All of the characters, even the heroes, had flaws that made you dislike them somewhat. All of the characters also had a past that made you sympathize with them; including the villains. This character building was masterfully done, but for me also contributed to the only downside of the book; I didn’t really like any of the characters and I had some trouble getting really engaged in their stories.
Brom also did an excellent job of interweaving the tale of Peter Pan with mythology from a number of different origins. At the end of the book there is blurb telling his mythological sources for different aspects of “The Child Thief”. It showed how much research really went into telling this tale and provided some interesting background.
This was a great tale. I strongly recommend it. People who like dark fantasy or dark fairy tale retellings will get a kick out of it. I pleasantly surprised out how well written this book was and I look forward to more full length novels from Brom.