Mike Reviews: The Fantasy Novel, The Child Thief, By Gerald Brom

I came away from this one feeling like I had just finished one of the best fantasy novels I’d ever read.

I felt like I was actually right there in this fascinating far-away world. Before I give my opinion of the plot, which I’ll try to do without dropping significant spoilers, I should say that Brom writes exceptionally well. He has a way with words, it’s not just the compelling plot he’s created, but I also like his writing style (at least as I have heard it read on Audible, which is the way I consume most of my books nowadays).

The plot itself was really fun, and also, sometimes a little hard to read. Unlike most of the popular retellings of the tale of Peter Pan, this isn’t a story made for children. There are some seriously disturbing moments throughout the book.

I have been a big fan of Peter Pan for as long as I can remember. I am also keenly interested in the author, JM. Barrie’s real life personal journey, from the death of his brother, when they were both children, which lead his mother to both neglect and resent him. And later on, his friendship with the Davies Brothers, the boys who helped inspire Barrie to create Peter Pan (I’ve written a piece on this before, for the magazine. See the link attched at the bottom). So I am familiar with the darker origins of the character, before Disney retold it. Barrie and the Davies boys had originally created Pan as a darker character, in fact he was the original villain, stealing children from their beds in the middle of the night. This story is much closer to that Peter, than the modern Disney version.

Although this novel takes some of the source material, and adds in some ancient British fairy tales too, so it’s different enough from the Peter Pan story most people know. The best way to sum it up, is a bit like the story of Peter Pan meets The Wizard Of Oz and Oliver Twist

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I also didn’t see the ending coming, which I always like in a good story, when I can’t predict how it’s going to go.

The narrator also provided a great reading. Twenty hours and no complaints. I think he’s American, but some of the non-American accents he pulled off quite well. His skills for reading in different tones (for women, and different men), are less impressive, but still good enough for the task.

I only had one mild negative reaction, and that was some of the characters (and I felt like they were the opinions of the author) commenting on the other main character, 14 year old American, Nick (our version of ‘Wendy’ in this re-telling), and his decision to leave home. That he was ‘wrong’ to leave a broken home. And while I won’t mention the details (spoilers), I thought he was absolutely right to leave.

He’s a child. He’s owed a safe place to live, and a parent’s job is to provide that. And if the child can’t get that, then I don’t blame them one bit for leaving to find safety elsewhere. That’s all I can say about that without spoiling anything.

So if you’re in the mood for a lengthy dark fantasy, with a big splash of Peter Pan and some other ancient myths blended into one to make a great story, I highly recommend this.

This review was written about a story I read a while ago, so my recollection isn’t fresh. I chose this book because it remains one of my favourite works of fiction, and I’d like to recommend it to others who might enjoy it.

At the moment I’m book one into a five book series, and while I might review the series when I’ve finished it, I wouldn’t want to review each book separately.

You can also find a piece I wrote on the Peter Pan creator, J.M Barrie’s personal life, and the inspiration behind Peter Pan on the link below.

https://imagine-magazine.org/releases/volume-27/the-true-and-tragic-life-behind-the-real-life-peter-pan/

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