I walked into the world of The Child Thief with a lot of expectations. It might be that the cover art was fantastic, and the synopsis was intriguing; but the biggest part was the time between when I saw it and when I bought it.
It took me a long time to remember the name of the book (or even the name of the author) and even longer before I found a copy of it again. In the time between when I saw it for the first time, and when I finally found it, the book had become a sort of white whale for me. Of course, in the true sense of the Melville analogy, it only led to heartbreak.
The Child Thief has all of the workings of an excellent story with none of the hard work that actually goes into making a story something more than print on paper. I honestly felt myself taking more out of the pictures at the beginning of each chapter than the actual story itself. This is no big surprise as Brom is primarily an artist and this was, to my knowledge, his only available foray into writing. But even so, there are so many issues with the book, I hardly know where to begin.
As anyone who has read the first part of this review knows: The Child Thief is a revamped version of the Peter Pan mythos. Peter, a wild, immortal, and mostly immoral, perpetual child is gathering children to take back to Avalon, promising to take them away from the horrible lives in the real world. Once there, they are trained to be warriors to fight in Peter's war against Flesh-Eaters, who are explained to be Pilgrims who mistakenly landed on Avalon three-hundred years ago. Nick is Peter's newest lost-boy, and isn't falling for any of Peter's idealism and simply wants to return home.
To start, the biggest problem I have with The Child Thief, is the perspective shifts. I know I rant about it enough, but seriously, who cares about Ulfger, the snotty, cowardly Godling who is a minor antagonist through the story. I understand that he is supposed to be a counterpoint to Peter: Ulfger being the boy who had to grow up too fast. But honestly, half the time you see him you just want to read ahead because you know he's just going to do something to make you dislike him even more.
It's the same with the captain. The Captain in The Child Thief is not the pirate as portrayed in the original Peter Pan, but a simple captain of one of the pilgrim ships stranded in Avalon. His was a refreshing take, as mostly he's not a bad guy, just misinformed and powerless to the church who really rules the Flesh-Eaters. But even that takes away from the true driving forces of the book. The only real perspectives needed in the book might have been Nick and Peters'.
One other problem with the book is that it takes a few chapters to explain the origins of Peter and how he came to be the way he is. The only problem is that it stops way too soon and doesn't carry on the same theme for a good half of the book. Don't get me wrong, I love hearing how the original Wendy came to Avalon, and Peter's meeting the goddesses of Avalon was interesting, but there were just so many other stories I would have loved to hear that never got told, and those that did get retold by Peter had the classical embellished feel that Peter's stories always get, while the ones that gave actual flashbacks to had a raw, gritty feeling that made them so much more sympathetic.
I know I'm being picky on this part, but the part when the Flesh-Eaters, 300 year old Pilgrims, go to modern New York was humorous, but it was the same situation with the Goddesses of Avalon 1400 years ago insulting each other using the C word. One second they are inwardly marveling at the flame-less lights and towering structures, then actually using the word escalator, and then marveling at horseless carriages. Or how about 16 year old foul mouthed brats speaking eloquently one second and then saying the F word several times in a row. It just doesn't have a feeling of continuity and realism.
I just can't help thinking that there is a really excellent story here, waiting in the depths of The Child Thief. I was riveted at certain points, and I read it all the way through, but it was certainly missing a lot of excellent points that would have made it a lot more than a bargain book in a used book store. The ending in particular was enough to make it a book I'm sure I'll never re-read, or perhaps find a friend who doesn't know any better and hope he never returns it