Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Child Thief The Child Thief
by Brom

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

The Child Thief is Brom’s (no first name given) third book, and the first by him I have read. The Child Thief   is an updating of the J.M Barrie classic Peter Pan, a book with which to my regret I am not familiar. Brom is better known for his illustrations and artwork, for which he has an impressive set of credits.

The Child Thief can be read at two levels: firstly and with some difficulty, as a novel in its own right independent of the Peter Pan original; and secondly, as a sequel to that book. As my knowledge of Peter Pan is limited to the Disney cartoon I can only follow the first course of review.

I will declare now that I found this book a most difficult read, although it started with much promise – indeed such promise that I was looking forward to sitting down to a glorious read – and then grand expectation turned to bitter disappointment. How did that disappointment arise? Through the accursed author’s decision to embellish the original work and supply a back story to Peter Pan, his Never Land and its inhabitants, especially Peter’s primary foes the pirates. Not much distance in to the book and I was reading about Peter’s early life in some pagan Britain (where the inhabitants grew potatoes!), his half fairy heritage and his discovery of the courts of fairy Avalon (a quick check on Wikipedia shows that all these arose fresh from Brom’s imagination). At this point I almost threw the book across the room – as I didn’t want to break any of my own windows, and as the copy of the book I had was a beautifully illustrated hard-bound edition such a throw could have wrenched a shoulder muscle – my anger stilled and I read on.

Where Brom is not creating back story he has written and wonderfully illustrated a good novel, with the notable exception of one character. The characters have a depth seldom seen in fantasy novels and grow and change as individuals. The plot unfolds and moves in a well structured manner too. The one character that was out of place was an elf noble named Ulfgar (with a suspiciously Germanic name too). Ulfgar was straight from central casting by way of "Caricatures ‘R’ Us". Ulfgar was every reader’s worst cliché moment personified.

In summary, if you enjoy having back stories to classic tales created for you and can read past historical inaccuracies in fantasy novels with little difficulty then this is the book for you. And did I mention the illustrations?. Me? On the evidence of this work I would very much rather Brom stuck to artwork and illustrations to make his living, for at those he really is very good, because The Child Thief disappointed me so much.

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