Book Review: The Child Thief

Title:  The Child Thief

Author:  Brom

Rating:  5 Stars

Genres:  Dark Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling

Nick runs away. But he doesn’t get very far before his neighborhood drug dealers catch up to him, fully intended on murder. Peter is watching this carefully and steps in to save the boy. As they run off, Peter tells Nick of his refuge—a place where kids are safe, they can do what they want, go on adventures, and experience magic.

Reluctant, Nick follows him away from his unsafe life in New York City to an expected safe haven, only to find a wild, grey land bursting with danger. Creatures roam the night eating anything living, witches capture young boys for dinner, pirates kill the “Devils” in the woods, and the elves have orders to kill Peter.

Peter’s lost and stolen children have been hardened by an endless war. They happily kill the pirates and creatures they come across, both for defense and dinner. Nick sees the madness. These aren’t games; it isn’t fun. And as the forest slowly dies, Peter’s Devils are running out of food and options.
Desperate to save Avalon and its magic, Peter is doing everything he can think of, and won’t let anyone get in his way—even his own Devils.

My Thoughts:
This is not the Disney Peter Pan that so many people grew up with. This is a dark retelling, filled with realistic motives, violent and bloody deaths, twisted magic, and Celtic mythology.

Even though it is dark, The Child Thief is immensely lyric and beautiful. Brom brings magic to life. He also poses serious thoughts and questions about violence, war, familial relationships, friendships, survival, and cultural conflicts. This depth made The Child Thief much more than I could’ve expected.

I felt a level of sympathy to almost every character, even those that were ‘bad guys.’ The Captain isn’t just out to ruin Peter’s day. He fights for a reason, same as the other characters. The couple characters I felt little sympathy for, still had a reason to be ‘evil’—it isn’t really their choice. This overall sympathy caught me off guard. Fairy tale characters are supposed to be good or bad, not in between. It felt all the more real and engaging because of this.

The level of depth brought to Peter’s character was also unexpected. My Disney upbringing left him as always part of Neverland—for eternity, never a before or after. The movie Hook gives us a glimpse of a possible before and after, but it just never stuck for me. The Child Thief's version of Peter’s life has completely uprooted that 20 year belief. Peter is fae. His sometimes sociopathic tendencies stem from a ridiculously rough upbringing in old-world Ireland and among the dangerous magic of Avallach. I loved reading about Peter’s early years, learning why he only wants play and never grow up.

This hefty tome also comes with an illustrated section. Brom, who has lent his artistic vision to RPGs, World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, has beautifully drawn his characters. They fully embody the darkness, magic, and brutality of Avallach and the mortal world.

I highly recommend The Child Thief to fans of fantasy, Peter Pan, fairy tale retellings, and adventure. Even if you don’t particularly fall into those camps, I urge everyone to give this novel a chance; you may be surprised!

Find Brom online:
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