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The Child Thief

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Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is not Neverland. Fourteen-year-old Nick would have been murdered by the drug dealers preying on his family had Peter not saved him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive and you never grow old. Even though he is wary of Peter's crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, New York City is no longer safe for him, and what more could he possibly lose?

There is always more to lose.

Accompanying Peter to a gray and ravished island that was once a lush, enchanted paradise, Nick finds himself unwittingly recruited for a war that has raged for centuries—one where he must learn to fight or die among the "Devils," Peter's savage tribe of lost and stolen children.

There, Peter's dark past is revealed: left to wolves as an infant, despised and hunted, Peter moves restlessly between the worlds of faerie and man. The Child Thief is a leader of bloodthirsty children, a brave friend, and a creature driven to do whatever he must to stop the "Flesh-eaters" and save the last, wild magic in this dying land.

483 pages, Hardcover

First published August 25, 2009

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About the author


53 books2,963 followers
Born in the deep dark south in the mid-sixties. Brom, an army brat, spent his entire youth on the move and unabashedly blames living in such places as Japan, Hawaii, Germany, and Alabama for all his afflictions. From his earliest memories Brom has been obsessed with the creation of the weird, the monstrous, and the beautiful.

At age twenty, Brom began working full-time as a commercial illustrator in Atlanta, Georgia. Three years later he entered the field of fantastic art he’d loved his whole life, making his mark developing and illustrating for TSR’s best selling role-playing worlds.

He has since gone on to lend his distinctive vision to all facets of the creative industries, from novels and games, to comics and film, receiving numerous awards such as the Spectrum Fantastic Art Grand Master award and the Chesley Lifetime Achievement award. He is also the author of a series of award-winning illustrated horror novels: Slewfoot, Lost Gods, Krampus the Yule Lord, The Child Thief, The Plucker, and The Devil’s Rose. Brom is currently kept in a dank cellar somewhere just outside of Seattle.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,599 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
July 12, 2015
If the girl could only have spoken to the other boys and girls, the ones that had followed the golden-eyed boy before her, she would have known that there is always something left to lose.

This is a story you know - in a way. You remember how it goes, right? A boy called Peter appears to children and promises to take them to a better place, a place where they will never grow up and never get old. Of course we all know this story. But... what if it wasn't all that it seemed? What if Peter held back dark secrets about the place he takes the children? What if there was a more sinister reason those children never got to grow up?

What I find most surprising is that I never realised how creepy and frightening the basic premise of Peter Pan could be when twisted ever so slightly. Think about it. A mysterious boy of unknown origin creeps through the windows of children's bedrooms and lures them away in the middle of the night. Why was I never completely freaked out by this? Well, now I'm terrified.

The Child Thief is a lengthy, complex, but extremely compelling fantasy that weaves in elements of multiple folklore retellings, Arthurian mythology, historical fact and gorgeously creepy artwork. It should not be mistaken for a young adult novel, it's extremely graphic and disturbing in parts, but beautifully written and tinged with that inescapable sadness reminiscent of the original Peter Pan stories. It's at once a bloody horror story and a lesson in growing up - even the eponymous protagonist of the novel is simultaneously horrifying and endearing.

We are the lost, the wild, the untamable.

In this story, Peter seduces the children who are lost, abused and forgotten - the ones who have nothing left to lose and gladly follow the golden-eyed boy who makes enticing promises. At its core, this is a heartbreaking tale about the abandoned and unloved, and those who don't realise they're loved until it's too late. There are a lot of lessons floating around in this novel, plenty of philosophical musings on life and death. Those who believe this is vastly different from the original Peter Pan have clearly forgotten the darkness of Barrie's stories before the sugar-coated Disney version. I always remember the haunting line Peter says: "To die will be an awfully big adventure."

It is a wonderful retelling for old fans, but it also stands on its own as an intricately-woven fantasy world full of wonder and danger. The characters face multiple threats from faeries, witches, pixies, flesh eaters and - perhaps the most bloodthirsty creatures of all - humans. The ending was sad in the perfect kind of way. I love that Brom has managed to create a main character that is some parts monster and some parts hero, you will probably find yourself wondering at times which he is and deciding that he is in many ways both.

Given the powerful effect this novel had on me and the way that it is completely unlike anything I've ever read before, how could I not give it five stars?

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Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
December 8, 2011

This is a MUST...READ...ALERT fellow Goodreaders. Not only is this a gorgeously imagined and supertastically crafted retelling/reimagining/expansion of Peter Pan, but it's also hands down, down, down the BEST version I have ever experienced…which, no offense to James Barrie, includes the original.

This is a fantasy master-piece and has earned a prominent place on my list of all time favorite novels. This is not to be missed.

Before I stumble further into the puddle of gush I’m dripping, you should know that this tale is extremely dark, and I mean dark like black ink, and much of the narrative is steeped in pain, sadness, anger and loss that can suck the mood right out of you. I don’t think anything I say could do a better job of highlighting this point than the opening of the novel itself, which begins as follows:
It would happen again tonight: the really bad thing. The girl had no doubt. It had started a few months ago, around the time her breasts had begun to develop, and now, with her mother gone, there was no one to stop him.
From her bedroom she could hear him…He was in one of his fits, muttering to himself, cursing the television, his boss, Jesus, but mostly cursing her mother for taking all those pills...There came the sharp snap of a beer tab, then another, and another. Her hands began to tremble and she clutched them to her chest. She wished she could fall asleep…but she knew there’d be no sleep for her tonight.
...After a few pages of tension, darkness and [censored] followed, the prologue ends with the arrival of the titular character and the following ominous passage:
The boy came and knelt beside her. While she cried into her hands, he told her of an enchanted island where no grown-ups were allowed. Where there were other kids like her, who loved to laugh and play. Where there were great adventures to be had…What else did she have to lose?…If the girl could only have spoken to the other boys and girls, the ones that had followed the golden-eyes boy before her, she would have known that there is always something left to lose.
How’s that for an emotional wedgie to open things up? Reading the opening prologue was like a shot in the gut and I think Brom handled it perfectly. He let the reader know immediately that this was not the Peter Pan from the Disney stories and they were preparing to embark on a journey that was dark and dangerous and different from what they have experienced before.

In the Afterward for this book, Brom mentions a line from James Barrie’s original story that you don’t find in the watered down version. It goes: “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out”. According to Brom, that one sentence and the suggestion that Peter actually kills the children that he takes forever changed Brom’s perception of Peter Pan as a innocent. From that single, brutal image, this version was born.

However, even those that have read the original Barrie stories, the ones not watered down by convention and propriety, will find a much different Peter here. Every shred of the game-playing trickster has been transformed into a wounded, traumatized solider child whose pain has hardened him into a borderline sociopath. In his recruitment of children, he gives no thought to preying on their weaknesses in order to win them to his cause.

I thought it was fascinating and I was mesmerized from the very first page until the very last words…which are perfect, but I won’t spoil them.


However, this story is so, SO much more than just a retelling of Peter Pan. Brom tells the story of Peter Pan’s birth and the horrendous early years that shaped him into the legendary figure that his becomes. By doing so, he humanizes all that Peter does and it adds a depth to his character that no other adaptation has ever come close to equaling. As a character, Peter is amazing and I can not adequately express the praise Brom should receive for taking such a well known figure and completely fleshing him out.


In addition, Brom deftly combines the story with elements of English and Celtic myth and the Arthurian legend and weaves these threads seamlessly into the story. Neverland is recast as Avalon, the home of the faery folk ruled over by The Horned King and The Lady of the Lake.

By incorporating this mythology, Brom transforms the central conflict of the story into a larger tale of humanity’s science and religion against the ancient world of faery.
Men-kind shared this world for but a blink, then, sadly, they became enlightened, found science and religion. The new world of men left little room for magic or the magical creatures of old. Earth’s first children were driven into the shadows by flame and cold iron, by man’s insatiable need of conquest.
There are so many nooks and crannies to this world to explore that my head feels like it is going to burst trying to distill it down in this review. Let me just say that this is an epic story with a large cast painted against a wonderfully crafted setting that is perfectly realized by Brom.


Before I finish this review love letter to Brom, I want to make special mention of the characters. Richly drawn and well rounded does not begin to cover it. The characters in this story feel real and genuine. As such, they don’t always do what we want them to, but we always understand at some level, why they do it. None of Brom’s characters are stupid. They don’t take a wrong turn just to help the narrative along. The conflicts and problems the characters face arise organically and feel like life.


One final thing that I need to mention because it shocked the hell out of me. You won’t understand this until you read the novel, but Leroy is the biggest asshole of the entire story. He is a central thorn in the side of main character, Nick. Leroy does some absolutely despicable things during the story. Yet, for all of that scumbaggery, when late in the book Leroy tells his back story to Nick…my eyes welled up with tears…Brom needs some serious kudos for that, although some of the credit for this needs to go the audio narrator who was trying for an Oscar with his reading.

Anyway, this is an amazing novel and on the short list of my favorites of all time. You should read it right away.


P.S. The audio narration by Kirby Heyborne was as good as it gets and I strongly recommend checking it out if you listen to audio books.

P.P.S. In all my slobbering praise, I didn't even mention the artwork (examples above) which was stellar. Just an added perk in already overflowing bag of awesome.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
June 8, 2023
Like so many before me, I am fascinated by the tale of Peter Pan, the romantic idea of an endless childhood amongst the magical playground of Neverland. But, like so many, my mind’s image of Peter Pan had always been that of an endearing, puckish prankster, the undue influence of too many Disney films and peanut-butter commercials.
That is, until I read the original Peter Pan, not the watered-down version you’ll find in the children’s bookshops these days, but James Barrie’s original and politically uncorrected version, and then I began to see the dark undertones and to appreciate just what a wonderfully bloodthirsty, dangerous, and at times cruel character Peter Pan truly is.
- from the author’s site
This is not your father’s Peter Pan. Brom found some rather un-Disney-like mayhem tucked into this supposedly children’s novel. In The Child Thief he explores those darker regions. Mixing a stew of old-world mythologies, which he very nicely sources for us at the end of the book, Brom has created a very dark view of a childhood lost. What manner of creature is Peter? How did he become the way he is, violent, sociopathic, with some serious mother issues, yet supremely charismatic, deft, and fun? A history is offered.

Peter – from the author’s site

One thing making the book a fun read is that it is a sort of Where’s Waldo of literary and mythological references. One battle might have been taken from C.S. Lewis, replete with diverse species joining forces. Our Virgil into this inferno is Nick, a Brooklyn kid beset by drug dealers who have taken over his single-mother’s home. Peter, on an ongoing mission to recruit fresh blood for this tale’s version of Lost Boys (and Girls), The Devils, is ever on the lookout for kids with nowhere else to turn. He saves Nick from deadly peril and leads him through the Mist to Avalon, a decaying former paradise, resonant with the many such darkening worlds in children’s literature. A Wrinkle in Time pops to mind, The NeverEnding Story. The darkness here touches some contemporary issues, as the nasty flesh-eaters, degraded Puritans who were trapped in the Mist of Avalon centuries ago, have been dredging up oil from beneath the surface and using it to burn supposedly inflammable, sentient trees in an attempt to push back the magic folk and gain control of the place for their own, and in so doing obliterating the magic to be found in nature, as embodied by Peter and The Lady. Their evil leader is familiar, the completely irrational, sadistic Torquemada type.

The Captain and The Reverend - from the author’s site

Characters are not all so simplistic as the evil preacher. A Captain of the flesh-eaters (the local magic folk are decidedly vegetarian) turns out to be more than he appears. Nick struggles with his attraction to Avalon and the uber-mother, Lady of the Mist, while struggling to come to terms with his actions back in the real world.


There is considerable violence in this story, a body count that would be right at home in any contemporary video game (and yes, there is frequent mention of gameboys) and a chilling numbness on the part of most of the characters to the carnage. Arms, legs, and heads are chopped with enough frequency to carpet what remains of Avalon. It is a very male story, sort of a 300 for the pre-and-early-adolescent set. Far too much rah-rah-let’s-go-kill-some-flesh-eaters sort of speechifying. Can we zip up now and move along with the story?

There is a climactic big battle that I found a bit too much, even for this. But that is a quibble. Brom has wrought an interesting look at a classic character who has not seen much treatment of this sort before. Root questions are asked, and possible answers offered.

In addition, Brom has created beautiful black-and-white illustrations for the beginning of each chapter, and a set of full color paintings for the principal characters.

Published August 25, 2009

Review first posted - 2009

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,029 reviews17.7k followers
July 16, 2023
Tonight, as I sit in my old rocker in our warm kitchen (the wind chill outdoors stands at Minus 15 C) I wrestle with my conflicting negative reactions to the random acts of abject violence in this story.

Anyway, the rocking of my chair has lulled my nerves. My mental scenery dissolves as I drift into a fitful slumber...

I awoke (in my dream) to find myself in Heaven.

There to greet me, lo and behold, was my earthly Literary Spirit Guide - T.S. Eliot.

He smiled warmly and said, “Welcome to Heaven, my good and faithful fan -

“Before I show you the ropes, I’m permitted to answer any questions you may have.”

“Well, maestro,” I said, “I have only one: whatever did you think of that recent novel, The Child Thief? Everyone knows the angels and saints get advance copies of our bestsellers!”

“Shall I tell you what I think? Can you read between the lines?”

Nodding my head affably, I let him speak...

“In the juvescence of the year
Came Christ the Tiger.
Us he devours...
After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
Are fathered by our virtues.”

I awoke with a start. My hero’s words echoing thus in my mind, I closed the book.

DNF’d this one.

Even though, being a forgetful old timer, I forget who begat whom in the Bible, I’ll never forget the jarring fact that here, random acts of violence on one side beget more and more outrageous acts of violence on the other.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!

Do we really want to go back to the Stone Age, folks?

If so, I’ll just respectfully PASS.

(Thanks, Tom Eliot, for your heads-up!)
Profile Image for Nicole.
750 reviews1,937 followers
July 5, 2021
This book is loosely based on Peter Pan story. It reimagines many aspects of the story such as Peter's motives, Nevernever, and the Captian. This will be a very short review.

Our Peter in this book is more like an anti-hero. I loved him. He’s not perfect, he made many mistakes, and certainly did questionable things but Peter's smile is a most contagious thing.

This is not YA. It’s grim, gory, and has sensitive content such as rape, abuse, sexual act. our heroes are children lured by Peter’s promise to escape their violent world. But little they know, there’s always something to lose regardless of what they’ve went through.

We follow the story from Peter’s eyes and a boy named Nick. While other children adore Peter, Nick is not convinced. He’s not in awe of his speech and action. In his opinion, Peter tricked him. He wants out. however, things aren’t so simple and life in Avalon, even if not by a conscious choice, still has its magic and wonder.

I enjoyed reading this book and seeing things unfold. It’s not predictable and definitely one of the darkest retellings I’ll ever read. It also features some beautiful illustrations of the characters and creatures in the story!
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
July 29, 2019
Very, very good.

The postmodern Peter Pan; more Pan than Peter.

Brom’s 2009 retelling of Peter Pan was enthralling. From the first few pages describing the mean streets of New York City and some excruciatingly graphic scenes of drug dealing cruelty and violence, the reader is held, shocked and awed, by his weird and unforgiving vision of J.M. Barrie’s characters told from the vantage of the 21st century.

Brom’s dark prophecy is as much Jack Vance and Michael Moorcock as it is early 1900s prose, with a modern gamer perspective on rated M for mature violence, enough to make Anthony Burgess start gibbering in Nadsat. In an afterward by the author, as I was decompressing from the onslaught of HAVEATYOU!! Brom threw my way, he explained that he was actually inspired more by Barrie’s original story, which was far, far darker than anything Disney or Hollywood has tried to sell us over the years.

And his explanation is so on the money that he made me rethink my ideas of Disney’s Pan. Here is a fairy trickster god who kidnaps children from this world, takes them to another dimension where dismemberment and torture are par for the course, and places them in such insurmountable danger that he is required to again and again, for centuries, replace his ever-dwindling stock of lost boys. Think about it and Brom is right – if this were a happy frolicking Disney adventure, why does Peter need Wendy and her brothers? Where are all the previous lost boys? Where’d they go?

What makes this tribute to Peter Pan so mind bogglingly spicy to read is Brom’s portrayal of Captain Hook. Brom’s “The Captain” is not the insidious but charming villain portrayed by Disney, who sings ballads while playing a talented one-handed piano, this is a balanced and thoughtful leader of men who has been caught up in an ages long struggle between man and faery.

Blending elements of Gaimanesque mythology with traditional folklore and all under the rubric of an urban fantasy retooling of Peter Pan, writer and illustrator Brom has given us a dark but charismatic new world order for Neverland.

Profile Image for Kat (Lost in Neverland).
445 reviews711 followers
May 1, 2013
When you think of Peter Pan, you think of;


Or maybe;


The Child Thief has none of that. None at all.

Upon finishing The Child Thief, I had an overwhelming urge, as if by magic, to go outside and play.

So outside I ran, no shoes, completely barefoot, ran around in the grass, jumped high on the trampoline, feeling invigorated. My hair flew like it had a mind of its own, I could feel my hands and feet getting dirtier by the second; but I didn't care. Out of breath, I collapsed onto the trampoline, hair splayed around my head, and gazed into the overcast sky, tiny droplets of rain coming down. And I thought.
I imagined myself as a Lost Child, running with Peter in Avalon, bloodlust in my veins, a knife in my hand, a grin on my face. I leaped out of trees to attack the evil Flesh-Eaters and howled like the demon I was, hungry for blood to be spilled and metal to meet flesh. Peter grinned at me, and I grinned back, for Peter's smile is the most contagious thing.

Sadly, we must all return to the world of reality, in a world of normal people with normal lives. People who don't see the magic around them, in the air in even the most darkest and most horrible of places. But Peter does. The Lost Children do. They always will.
Take it from Peter; who grew up feeling unloved and abandoned. Who stole children and taught them to kill, to crave blood and murder. He lives in a world of monsters and grey, yet still has magic in him...especially when he's slashing people's head off.
But don't, in any way, think this book is about magic. It's a different kind of magic; a freaky and possessed twin of magic that shows the cruelty of humans and the utter hypocrisy of Christians and God.
Now when I think back, The Lady was almost like God, in the way she seduced Peter with her words and made him think nothing other than her. That so many will die for her, for The Lady, and risk their lives saving her and doing her biding.

Poetic in so many ways, Brom brings together a twisted and insane version of Peter Pan, with blood and gore and swearing and death. Lots of death.
The bitter truth behind (Let me rephrase that, it was more like; look at that, it's right in front of your face!) his words are blunt and honest, his characters are amazingly complex and diverse, and makes me want to follow Peter into the Mist, forever his as a Devil...

I ran with Peter today....and I played.

Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,978 reviews1,988 followers
August 18, 2020
Rating: 5* of five

I can't praise THE CHILD THIEF highly enough. I read it several Christmases ago at the behest of a graphic-novel loving friend and, in spite of hating comic books and disliking the work necessary to decode them, I took a chance on this book.

1) Not a graphic novel.
3) Read the revised review at my blog.

Why make money for people who don't respect my data, except as they can profit from it?
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
February 23, 2011
A runaway named Nick is fleeing the wrath of a drug dealer when he runs into an odd boy named Peter. Peter saves Nick and takes him to Avalon, recruiting him into gang of nearly feral boys called The Devils. With Nick's help, can the Devils overcome the Flesh Eaters, the transformed men who defile and destroy Avalon?

I picked this up because I'm interested in the unsanitized versions of familiar fairy tales. It turns out Brom is, too. Like a lot of people, I was familiar with Brom's art when I picked this up. It turns out he can write, too.

The Child Thief is one hell of a grim retelling of Peter Pan. He's not prancing pixie in this, that's for sure. Peter is an amoral hero for the most part, as are the Sidhe, much more like Michael Moorcock's Melniboneans than Tolkien's elves. The Devils are more like the kids from Lord of the Flies than how the Lost Boys are normally depicted. For much of the book, two stories are told in parallel. One of Peter's birth and early days in Avalon, trying to fit in with Modron and the Sidhe, and one of Nick trying to fit in with the Devils.

I didn't think the writing would be as good as it was since Brom is normally known as an artist. His prose is much better than I expected and the characters are well developed. I was particularly impressed with Peter and The Captain. You know the captain I mean...

If you like your fantasy dark, this is your book. It should appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton alike. Now go out and get it!
Profile Image for Chantal .
343 reviews832 followers
November 6, 2015
"The darkness is calling. A little danger, a little risk. Feel your heart race. Listen to it. That’s the sound of being alive. It’s your time, Nick. Your one chance to have fun before it’s all stolen by them, the adults, with their cruelty and endless rules, their can’t-do-this, and can’t-do-that’s, their have-tos, and better-dos, their little boxes and cages all designed to break your spirit, to kill your magic".

Buddy read with Nina (Click for her review).

I loved it. I loved it. I loved it.
I seriously struggled writing this review because every time I think of this book I become a gushing, ineloquent mess. This book reminded me of what it means to be a total fangirl.

I know that no book is ever perfect. But in my opinion, The Child Thief comes pretty close. Brom hasn’t just written a novel, he has created a masterpiece.

You know that feeling when you read a book and you feel like it was written just for you? Tailor-made? That was how I felt while reading this Peter Pan retelling.

Why, you ask? Well, this book has…
- An antihero. In case you don’t know, there is NOTHING I love quite as much as a realistic, consistent antihero.
- A kick-ass female character. Brom’s version of Tiger Lily, loved her.
- A complex, well-developed fantasy world.
- An infusion of all kinds of different mythology, folklore and fairy tales. From Celtic mythology and Arthurian legend all the way to pagan myths. Is there anything better?
- An eclectic cast of characters who are flawed and complex. All intriguing in their own right.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s try to break this down (even though my words will never be able to make this book justice).

Peter Pan is one of my favorite classics and there is so much potential for Peter Pan retellings to be incredible because they offer so much room for originality, creativity and imagination. Still I was hesitant, having read Tiger Lily earlier this year, I wasn’t sure if any retelling could ever compare. And really, the two don’t compare. They couldn’t be more different from one another.

This book is so strange and peculiar yet manages to instill in the reader a sense of realism that is awe-inspiring. I believed everything. Nothing felt constructed or contrived, the whole story made so much sense once I could see the whole picture. The plot development felt organic. It was tragic and heartbreaking but also filled with action and suspense.

In this version of the Peter Pan story, Peter is portrayed as a seducer: he preys on the abused, mistreated, enslaved. He seeks out children who fit these categories – the children who themselves believe they have nothing left to lose – and essentially promises them a better life, a life in Avalon, a mysterious magical island where faeries and monsters are routine. Fourteen-year-old Nick is one of those boys and he follows Peter through the Mist. Nick quickly realizes however, that things aren’t the way he hoped them to be.

The Child Thief is a very dark book. From the first couple of sentences you can gather that this is not a book for children, or even a young adults. It is often disturbing and violent, the writing is gory and the whole novel screams sadness, pain, fury, loss and guilt. It contains many heavy issues such as child abuse, rape and torture and although it’s not about those things, they play a significant role in the story. Generally, I feel pretty neutral about books that are excessively gory and violent; it doesn’t bother me but I also won’t seek them out actively. More often than not, I found that authors use these descriptions to replace plot and worldbuilding, which makes me feel like they are only trying to appall or disgust me instead of telling me a story. This isn’t the case here: Brom uses bloody and horrifying passages where they serve the story, where they enhance, where they add realism. Never did the descriptions overpower the plot.

The writing itself is hauntingly beautiful. Poetic where it needed to be, simple where it should have been. Easy to read yet reminiscent of the original Peter Pan. Perfectly suited to the story being told.

Then there is the issue of pacing. The Child Thief is quite a lengthy novel and yet I wasn’t bored a single second. This book did not drag. Ever. I was at the edge of my seat the entire time and sometimes I even had to put the book down because I was getting so excited I actually had trouble breathing, something that barely ever happens. After finishing it I felt drained and physically exhausted, as if I’d been the one to go through all these events.

The worldbuilding was amazing. Avalon was a fascinating and well-constructed place but what I loved even more was the relation between Avalon and the “real” world. It was so interesting to see how the magic worked and how different people reacted to it; the internal logic was fantastic.

Best of all were the characters. Brom managed the elusive feat of creating a cast of characters that were simultaneously unlikable and endearing. There is no hero and no villain. The characters are just people, real and genuine, and it worked perfectly. I loved almost all of them, and those I couldn’t love because they are just too despicable, I understood.

Peter himself was such a deliciously ambiguous character. Part hero, part monster, he is self-centered and delusional, sadistic and foolhardy. In fact, he borders on being a sociopath; stealing away children for his own gain and satisfaction without thought to what is might do to them. He doesn’t hesitate to use their own weaknesses against them.
Everything comes with a price. Everything. Some things just cost more than others.

And despite all his flaws, I couldn’t help but love him. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for antiheroes, but I found Peter to be an amazing character. The way Brom slowly presents his backstory to the reader greatly humanizes him and I felt so much empathy for this traumatized, lonely boy who was just trying to live the best life he knew how. A truly complex and layered character who will doubtlessly leave the reader intrigued.

We also have Nick, the second main character besides Peter. I was so fond of him. I admit, when Nick was first introduced I was a little worried because I was scared he’d fall prey to special snowflake syndrome. BUT Brom completely turned it around, making Nick into an incredibly realistic character I could totally root for. His bravery was admirable.

All the Devils were great. They were distinct and fleshed-out. None of them stupid; they made mistakes but not the kind that were just put in to help move the story along. These were real mistakes, understandable mistakes. It might be frustrating, but never annoying.

There were characters like Leroy, Ulfger and the Reverend that I despised with a fiery passion and yet…I could understand where they were coming from. This book seriously messed with my mind and made me question everyone.
When I come to rule I will put an end to their debauchery. Faerie shall become a force to be feared. Ulfger, a name spoken in frightful whispers. We will make men-kind remember their place and will hide behind the Lady’s Mist no longer.

So much complexity.

And then there are the themes. This book is just teeming with interesting philosophical questions about morality, life and death, and what it means to do the right thing. Brom comments on religious fanaticism and its consequences, colonialism, war and sacrifice. If there was ever a book that perfectly portrays the meaning behind “there are two sides to every story” The Child Thief is it.
Both sides so blinded by their fear and hate of each other that they couldn't see they were all fighting for the same thing.

It’s also a book about loneliness and what neglect can do us. I found it to be both extremely compelling and very meaningful.

When I thought the book couldn’t get any better, there were sentences like this:
I’m…I am a god!

Oh Brom, you were just trying to make my mouth water, weren’t you?

To sum up, I cannot praise this book highly enough. For obvious reasons it isn’t a book for everyone, but if you can handle darker topics, I suggest you pick this one up. A novel that is horrifying and enchanting, beautifully written and different from anything I’ve read.

A serious contender for my favorite book of the year.

P.S. I recommend getting the physical copy if you can. There are GORGEOUS illustrations by Brom himself that you don’t want to miss out on.
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
851 reviews3,882 followers
February 15, 2021

This retelling brilliantly succeeds in going to the very core of what gives this heartbreaking feeling to Peter Pan : The raw loneliness of the Lost Boys, and the ambiguity of Peter : a hero, you think? Really?

Well now. There's no such thing as a hero in this book, and it was fantastic. What is it with anti-heroes that captivates me so much?

"The thief saw the fear, the confusion, and he smiled.
What had led this child here : abuse, neglect, molestation? All of the above perhaps? It really didn't matter to the thief."

Indeed in my opinion - and I'm weighing my words here - Brom's Peter is the most interesting and above that, realistic Peter Pan whom I had the pleasure of meeting. Selfish. Delusional. Reckless. Driven. Deadly. So, so lonely. In a word, it seems impossible to describe him since his layers are so hard to unravel. Oh, man, how he is fleshed-out!

So, what did I think? I thought he was fascinating, and despite his flaws, I couldn't bring myself to hate him, even if damn, how he's begging for it sometimes! I resented him, yes, but hated him? I couldn't. How to hate him when we know what he went through? How not to be moved by the heart-wrenching flashbacks in his childhood, full of betrayals and loneliness? When he's rejected on all sides? Actually I'm pretty sure that we're not meant to love Peter, who is lost in all his contradictions, who loves his island and his Devils fiercely but who doesn't hesitate to sacrifice them. Frankly, Peter shares many traits with sociopaths, as his aims justify any means in his head -

I cared about him anyway. Sue me.

And then, there're the Lost Boys, some crazy, some brave, some cowards, all loyal to death to Peter. All of them... but Nick.

Oh, Nick. How full of heartbreak his story is! He is the second main character besides Peter, and as it is, we get to follow his first weeks - months? - after Peter brought him in the Island. Nick isn't like the other Lost Boys. Nick doubts. Nick complains. Nick questions. Now, how could we not understand it? The guy's just been deceived into coming there under false pretends for crying out loud!

"Ask them their story. Peter finds the lost, the left-behind, the abused. Is that not why you are here? Did Peter not save you?"
"Peter tricked me."

As usual, a book which manages to make me care deeply about the characters is a win. These characters? They made my heartbeat increase, I was frightened, mad for them. I even cried, for Pete's sake! In a word, they never, ever left me indifferent.

"Men who fear demons see demons everywhere."

Danger is everywhere in Avalon. From the horrible creatures to the Witch and her cringe-worthy (but somehow hilarious) daughters, not to mention the sluaghs who took hold of the Mists, Peter and his Devils must always stay on the defensive, because every path can lead to death.

"It didn't make it okay. It didn't make the hurt any less painful later, but it got him through. And right now he just needed to get through. "

God it was frightening at times - like, cringe-worthy frightening. Brom succeeded in bringing to life so many magical beings from Scottish fairy stories and other folklores that I couldn't help but feel both horrified and enchanted.

Avalon is dying, suffering from the curse that the Flesh-eaters brought with them. Remember The Captain? Well, don't expect pirates here, but bloodthirsty creatures whose goal is to chase all of the life out of the Island they call their home. Or are they, really? Nothing is never as simple as it seems.

Avalon is dying, and Peter must save it. Will he be able to find allies in the Elves and other trolls who inhabit the island? How far will he go to fulfill what he considers as his mission? As I said, there's no hero here. No right choice. But war. War and its sacrifices.

Don't forget, though : there's two sides to every story, and nothing is Manichean in The Child Thief. NOTHING.

Of course I found this wonderful.

Let me tell you something : this book was dark, so dark. That's why it seems important to point that it is not a children book, far from it. Indeed we come across many disturbing scenes. There is religious fanaticism. There is child abuse. There is violence. There is torture. I couldn't breathe.

Once again, as painful as it was at times, the darkness oozing from the book offers us a more realistic tale in my opinion. Avalon isn't a place where we go to live adventures, no. Avalon is a place where we go when we're so hurting from our life that we can't make any other decision. Life is unfair, you know. And I hurt for them.

To sum up, here's an outstanding dark retelling whose writing, beautiful and awe-inspiring, serves the story admirably. Obviously I loved it - hence my 5 stars rating - but if I had to point something that could bother some readers, it would be the pacing. Indeed although I was never bored, I can't deny that I felt the need to stop several times. Remember the feeling we get when we're forced to pause a book and that it loosens the tension? Well, here, it was the opposite. I needed to stop to keep the tension alive, and wasn't able to read it in one sitting, or two, for that matter.

Now, if you're used to fantasy, or want to try it, I'd say go for it, because in the end, following these characters is an incredible experience you won't soon forget.

PS. Just look at the art - Isn't it wonderful?

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Kristalia .
394 reviews615 followers
March 21, 2016
Final rating: 6/5 stars

“Don't let them win. Don't let them beat you. Don't let them steal your magic.”

Oh my god. What a book.

What a fantastic-twisted-sadistic-manipulative story of Peter Pan....But it's nothing like the Peter Pan i knew.

This story is so dark, very very dark, and even though i read some dark books, they were nothing like this. Some may even want to throw something out of the window (like i did with poor pencil) after they finish the book.

And i have to say one thing - my childhood PP will never be the same (because i will be traumatized for life because of this Peter xD).

Oh, and the artwork! IT WAS FANTASTIC!!!!

Oh, and there were pixies!!! Little, cute, but sadistic as hell xD


Once, there was a boy called Nick. He has a hard and difficult life. His family got involved with drug dealers and he got into problems. He would have been murdered or worse if not for his mysterious savior.

“The boy planted his hands on his hips and a broad smile lit his face. "My name's Peter. Can I play too?”

Peter is not of this world and he has come to find children. He found one. And he saved him. So, he showed him a way into another world.

Nick thought he didn't have anything to loose, so why not....


There is always more to lose.


It's fantastic, and it's quite enjoyable and so addicting. Also, the writing style is gorgeous. I just couldn't put the book down and go do the usual stuff in my life (ifyouknowwhatimean?.jpg). Prepare to have your emotions wracked, maybe you will feel a hand gripping your heart, but the end, end was wtf all the way. Also, the book is quite psychological.

Never had i expected that a book could end with such a plot twist O_O... Oh, some may even say this book is disturbing...Of course it is, it was the point! Because in a way, this is perfect horror. When I, for example, finished the book, i just sat, and thought hours about it....And i still think a lot about it... Oh yes, and i cried like a baby.

Anyway, the book is simply, a masterpiece. And it's hell of a unique, even though the story is actually mix of Celtic myths, of Avalon, of Peter Pan (not the disney version, but the original - which had hints of darkness in Peter, which readers usually miss - though i haven't read original, the quotes Brom put in afterword were quite disturbing), and it all makes even more sense when you read what author wrote in the end of the book.

Oh, the most important thing of them all: there is no Tinkerbell and Peter doesn't fly.


Also, the characters were all unique in every way, they struggle, they fight, they have fun, they suffer and they die. He made the characters understandable and very very real.

And here i wonder how it is possible to hate and love the same character in the same time? This is the case with Peter .

He is seductive manipulating sociopath, and can be cruel, very very cruel, and horrible like a monster. But he also cares, he loves,he is great leader and has natural charisma. But he doesn't understand everything, and it confuses him, and he.....goes insane. He saves children from cruel fates, the abused, tortured, the ones with nowhere to go and takes them to Avalon to fight war, but not for him, but for Lady of the lake. After i read Afterword left by author, i truly understood him.
He is just so...weird and he made me what all the way (usually wtf)...


Nick, on the other hand, is complete opposite, and is the only one who truly understands what is going on. That is why i loved him a lot, for in the end, he was more mature than any other lost child in Avalon. The only one who actually understood.


Other character were complex as hell as well - some of them are quite easy to understand, and some were quite difficult to figure out, until the very end. Well, to put it this way, some are tyrants, some sadistic, horrible, disgusting, cute, hugable, likeable, bullies, insane, manipulative, and many many more.... I just noticed something! There was no alligator in the story xD!!!

Fantastic book, but its quite dark - some may like it, but some may not. But in a way it is and it always will be, a masterpiece for me :)

“Go and play. Run around. Build something. Break something. Climb a tree. Get dirty. Get in some trouble. Have some fun.”

This review can be found on my blog: infinity-of-time.blogspot.com also known as...

August 5, 2021

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Like most American children, Disney's Peter Pan was a part of my video library (we watched it on VHS, and waiting for the tape to rewind is an exercise in patience that few children these days know). Because my mother was a firm believer in reading, we also had the book, as well - a lovely illustrated edition of J.M. Barrie's classic tale. They're very different stories, though. Even as a child, I remember picking up the book and thinking to myself, "this is wrong" as I flipped through it. That's because 9 times out of 10, you know that all of your favorite characters are going to be safe and sound in the Disney movie (with a few notable exceptions), but in Barrie's book, death was very much present and very much real, and the morality of the characters is far more ambiguous.

Brom wrote THE CHILD THIEF with this initial version of the story in mind. Peter Pan is kind of creepy when you think about him too hard. I mean, he floats around outside nurseries, waiting for the parents to go to sleep before sneaking in and seducing children away and he has a markedly cavalier attitude when it comes to rules and the well being of himself and his lost boys.

THE CHILD THIEF opens in New York. We're introduced to a handful of children who have been forced to grow up before their time, either because of sexual abuse, drugs, crime, or neglect. Peter looks for these children specifically, because these are the children who are willing to leave their old lives behind and risk everything to follow him into the Mist to Avalon. One of these boys is Nick, who is facing persecution from a drug gang because he tried to make off with their stash when he ran away. Peter saves him from a slow and painful death and takes him through the Mist...but "Neverland" isn't like the stories, at all. It's actually incredibly dangerous...and terrifying.

I wasn't really prepared for the sexual and physical violence, the language, and the viciousness of the children and monsters in this story. It reads kind of like LORD OF THE FLIES, in the sense that the children gradually become more and more "wild" as the magic of Avalon infects them and they lose sight of their old lives in their blind following of Peter and his mission. Psychologically, it's very interesting, but it doesn't make for comfortable reading, either. I was expecting something along the lines of Clive Barker's ABARAT, I think - dark and brutal, but also fanciful and charming and morally sound. As convoluted as it can sometimes be, you can still recognize "good" in Barker's work. Here, "good" is much more ambiguous.

Despite all that, I was still mostly on board with Brom's reimagining of Peter Pan. Yes, it was darker and a bit bleaker than I'd anticipated, but it was an interesting story, and the use of Celtic folklore to explain both Peter's origins and the world he came from was inspired. The problem happens in the third act, when THE CHILD THIEF jumps the shark. There's too many things going on at once, with fight scenes that go on for way too long, and then a couple things happen that had me squinting at the book and going, "Wait, did that really happen?" And I started having flashbacks to the first, traumatic time that I watched the Super Mario Bros. movie and found out that the Mushroom Kingdom is actually a dystopian world forcibly torn from ours by the same comet that killed the dinosaurs.

I only paid $1.99 for this ebook, so I'm not as annoyed as I would have been had I paid the full $12.99 for it. For $1.99 it was solidly entertaining. I did enjoy the author's art, too. His style reminded me of the art work you see on old Magic: The Gathering trading cards. I also liked the idea behind the story and the use of Celtic mythology. The story did not live up to my expectations, however, and I thought the pacing and writing quality were both way off, with some passages being beautifully written and others reminiscent of the trashy indie pulp sci-fi serials that go for $0.99 a chapter. Some tighter editing could have made a huge difference. Ultimately, given the choice between ABARAT and CHILD THIEF, I'd pick ABARAT every time, although just between you and me, I like Brom's illustrations better. Maybe the two of them can work together on a new book. I'd definitely buy that...

2 to 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
595 reviews3,587 followers
April 11, 2015
"In a small corner of Prospect Park, in the borough of Brooklyn, New York, a thief lay hidden in the trees. This thief wasn't searching for an unattended purse, cell phone, or camera. This thief was looking for a child."

THIS. This is how you start a book. This is how you grab my attention, keep me reading through lectures, ignore my duties, and instill a burning need to search up The Child Thief fanfiction ASAP. Because I have to know what happens next. And once writers grab you by the have-to, it's all over.

The Child Thief is a gothic retelling of Peter Pan that would bring Stephen King to his knees.

You're used to cute little Disney Peter or the slightly hotter one from the live-action reboot. Once Upon A Time has a Peter Pan too, I hear. This Peter is nowhere near sweet.

"His eyes gleamed at the thought. Hell, and it'd be fun too. Watching their faces as they juggled their guts."

He's an antihero of the likes of Tyrion Lannister. A changeling, he was abandoned by his mother and left to the wolves. Goll the cannibal raised him before he got slaughtered by grown-ups. So when he walks into a mysterious mist and emerges in a tropical wonderland, you can hardly blame him for wanting to stay.

But Avalon (Neverland) is dying. The Lady of the Lake, guardian of Avalon, is withering away. So what does our brave hero do? Kidnap some abused kids, ones who have nothing to stay on earth for anyway and train them to fight his war.

"It's at a secret place. An enchanted island. No grown-ups allowed. It's full of faeries, goblins and trolls. We can stay up as late as we want. No teachers or parents to tell us what to do. We don't have to take baths, brush our teeth or make our beds."

Peter Pan reminds me of Puck from The Iron King, but on steroids. Vicious, playful, and a streak of loyalty that stretches as far as his interests.

And I fucking love him. I want to take him in my arms, give him a cookie, then do nasty, nasty things to him on my bed.

My copy contains a mini-interview, where the author says his Peter Pan was, in fact, inspired by Robin Goodfellow, which in turn stems from pagan wilderness gods. Brom mixes fey folklore and pagan myths really well here and tosses a dash of horror in for kicks. Because Peter Pan, if you really think about it, is hella disturbing.

There's this other character Nick, who I pegged for a special snowflake at first since Peter noted his resolve in the Mist and said no kid had ever found him again after he strayed from the path.

“Nick,” Peter said, his words quick and urgent. “No matter what you hear, no matter what you see, ignore them. Avoid their eyes. And whatever you do, don’t dare speak to them.” Peter glanced into the fog. “If you lose the path Nick, your bones will never leave the Mist.”

He's brave, stout of heart and does handy stuff with a spear, blah, blah, blah. Plus, he got mad at his mom for not buying him expensive skater sneakers when she had to rent their house out to drug-dealers to make ends meet.

Then because Brom is awesome, Nick changes. He becomes a well-rounded, complex character I could root for.

Honestly, I don't think there's a character I actually hate. Not Leroy the bully or the fanatic Reverend. The Captain Hook is supposed to be the enemy and man, my heart aches for him.

Yup, that guy. He's not the fiendish, mustachioed man Disney makes him out to be. He's a father to two boys and just wants to get home. Them fighting to leave Avalon like Peter wants them to would almost be funny if it wasn't so tragic.

Slight sexism aside (there are few prominent female characters), The Child Thief is the most awesome thing I've read in a long time. Last time I gave a book five stars without hesitation was in 2014 for A World Without Princes. That should give you an idea of its brilliance.
Profile Image for Vanessa J..
347 reviews605 followers
August 31, 2015

This review was also posted on Books With Chemistry.

In a small corner of Prospect Park, in the borough of Brooklyn, New York, a thief lay hidden in the trees. This thief wasn’t searching for an unattended purse, cell phone, or camera. This thief was looking for a child.

I think you all know I’m a girl with a twisted mind. The dark, gory, pessimistic and disturbing things fascinate me to no end. That is not something new. Since a kid, I was pretty cynic. It is no surprise then to say I always saw Peter Pan as a child thief. Think about it: A kid who lures other children into leaving their houses at the most remote hours of the night without telling their parents. Sounds suspicious, doesn’t it?

So, when I found this book and saw many people were disturbed by the way Peter was portrayed in this, I couldn’t help but get curious. Besides, it’s a retelling of Peter Pan! Just think about all the potential it could have to be original and fantastic!

This takes concepts from the original tale, but it’s not a simple retelling. It gets more imaginative and dark, and I kind of love it. We have Avalon, an island where no grown-ups are allowed and people don’t age, there are lost kids, faeries, trolls, flesh-eaters. Peter is one of its inhabitants and he’s looking for people to help him save his land. Thus, he becomes a child thief – but not of any kids: He looks for the desolate ones.

The story starts with Nick, a 14-year-old who’s in trouble because his mother got in some mess with some drug-dealers. Peter comes to save the day and convinces Nick to leave New York and go with him to a land of magic – Avalon.

When they get there, Nick realised things were not as he imagined to be – and that everything is perhaps worse than his life in the “real” world. There are bloodthirsty children – all of them with reasons for leaving their respecting homes and joining Peter. Plus, there is darkness in the isle and there are threats that must be eliminated.

The plot alone is not a factor that will make me fall completely in love with a book. The characters are actually the most influential aspect. Here, they’re all well developed and they’re flawed. There are kids who do stupid, reckless things, they curse, they can let their emotions overcome them, they can ruin things because of their bad decisions, they fuck up, etc. Peter is perhaps the best example.

Even when he’s the “child thief,” he does what he does because he has good intentions in mind. Of course his way of doing things is not the best one: He can kill, mock, bully, just as he can comfort.

Nick was great as well. He decides to go to Avalon to save himself – a selfish action from his part, but when he gets there and starts to know the place, he changes his way of looking at things and he realises his actions are not necessarily the best.

Since those are the main characters, those are the ones I decided to talk about, but every character is realistic. As I said, all the kids in there (and the adults too) commit mistakes, they fuck up, they regret and they get tougher.

Along with the characters, another important aspects come: Writing and world building. For a fantasy, this latter one is essential. A fantasy world has to make sense and since it’s not set in the real world, then there must be some descriptions as to how things work there. This book did not lack of world building.

It helped too the fact that the writing was beautiful. It was atmospheric and kind of melancholic sometimes, and it suited perfectly the entire tone of the novel. Plus, it didn’t shy away the dark stuff, which as I said, was the original reason why I let my curiosity win.

There were also illustrations that did complete justice to the book. These illustrations could get a little creepy at times, but they were great and they made me get even more invested because I could have a clearer picture of Avalon and the characters in my mind.

I cannot complain about a single thing because everything worked for me. Besides, there were some underlying messages about loneliness and humans that only made me love this book better. If you’re looking for a retelling that shows the darkest aspects of humanity while also telling a sad but beautiful story with good writing and realistic characters, then this is for you and I do not hesitate in recommending this.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,473 reviews1,085 followers
May 9, 2022
4.5 stars

“If you don't learn to laugh at life it'll surely kill you, that I know.”

Was a group read with Novel Books and Reading Challenges

The most curious question is, how could I have not heard about this book before it was announced as a group read? Apparently it's well liked, artful, tastefully twisted, a modern day play on the old lore of Peter Pan (which I already find fascinating). It's almost a criminal shame this hadn't hit my radar until recently.

It's clear to see from the blurb and diving into the first chapter that this is not a childlike, glorified version of Peter Pan, some fun recapturing of youth for the grownup folks. The author explains in the afterword the inspiration of this telling, that unspoken suggestions in the original tale gave him pause and morbid inspiration. This was especially true when he mentally finished the lines Pan spoke in the original fairy tale, that once kids reached a certain age he didn't 'keep them anymore.' What did this mean, the author wondered? Since they couldn't return home, what happened to the boys when they aged? He wondered if Peter actually killed them or something else bizarre, and an idea was born for this story.

This definitely isn't just a retelling and re-imagining of the fairy tale - it only takes bare inspiration and the original heart of the story, but gives it entirely new life. There's a complicated world invented that makes Neverland seem tiny, an expansion of the politics that wage wars in the land and with its various peoples. A queen, betrayers, enemies among families, witches, and of course Peter and 'lost children.'

Immediately I was sucked into the beginning. Finding children in the middle of their reality hells, then convincing them to follow their savior into the fog and new land? The opening was a girl with a sadistic father. You couldn't help but cheer Peter on as he wreaked vengeance and had a mischievous mind. Fascinating lead ups to the actual land they're going to. And that dark walk...creepy. It reminded me of the dark bridge in Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. They were quite similar, for if you paid attention to sounds and things that touched you in the darkness, you could be lost forever in the dark and with whatever was out there waiting.

Peter is no villain, but neither is he a hero. There does exist a certain type of hero, but he is not in black or white. The obsessing with 'the Lady' shows that Peter himself falls prey to the same thing that draws in and consoles children everywhere, the yearning to be loved by another and felt to be the center of their world. All the children stand on their own feet as unique beacons of intriguing characterization. Adults are shown to be feared for good reason, but for the children it can be said the same.

Captain Hook gets a makeover also, absorbed into a town of demented, puritanical paranoia where the wand of evil is waved by the detestable Reverend. Creepy guy!

Brom's writing style comes across beautifully seductive. I can still hear the three demented sisters singing and picture the hidden world hiding and waiting over the water.

The Child Thief brings us back a beloved fairy tale but not only transforms it for an adult audience, it digs deeper into the original wording and symbolism. Brom's artwork suits it, deepening the depth of a story which was already buried beneath mounds of flourishing creativity . I can't recommend the story highly enough for fans of dark fantasy.

“Don't let them win. Don't let them beat you. Don't let them steal your magic.”
Profile Image for Shannon .
1,221 reviews2,214 followers
October 19, 2009
In the seedy underbelly of New York and Boston, children are being neglected, abused, molested, beaten up and forced to run away from home. These vulnerable, unloved children are not entirely alone. Watching from the trees and shadows and fire escapes is a wild, charismatic half-fae boy called Peter. He rescues them from abusive parents, from street gangs and from the hardships of their world, and offers them the chance to live in paradise, to play games with other children and never have to grow up into a hateful adult.

Fourteen-year-old Nick is one such child, bullied and physically abused and threatened by the drug dealers who have moved into his grandmother's house to help them cover the bills. Feeling betrayed by his mother, he takes the dealer Marko's stash and runs off into the night, only to find it harder than he thought to avoid Marko's drug pushing street gang. It is only the sudden appearance of Peter that saves Nick's life, and while it takes a little extra convincing for Peter to lure Nick to the island, he succeeds.

The island is Avalon, home of the Lady whom we know of as the Lady of the Lake. Once nestled in Britain, the death of the old ways and the rise of Christianity saw the faerie folk, the elves and trolls and other creatures, threatened, persecuted, executed. The Lady let the island drift across the ocean, until eventually it settled off the coast of what is now Manhattan, where friendly trading with the indigenous people occurred.

But then their old foes arrived at the continent, and two big ships of Puritans accidentally landed on the shores of Avalon. Death and cries of "demon!" quickly resulted; the ships' canons proved too great for the faery folk, who retreated to the northern stretches of the island. To protect Avalon, the Lady created the mist, which hides Avalon and also detaches it from time and space. Time passes more slowly on Avalon, and humans are unaware of its existence. But it is there, and only Peter, being half-human, can navigate the treacherous, magical path back to the human world, where he finds more children to bring home with him.

Altered by the magic of the island, the children become fast and fleet of foot, they stop ageing and become just as wild as Peter. And Peter needs them, needs them all, to fight an endless war with the Flesh-eaters who are slowly devouring the island, killing and burning the trees and searching for the Lady - and a way off a land they consider Purgatory.

The children live and die for Peter, as Nick quickly realises, but things are even more dire for him: he is too old for Avalon, and the magic is twisting him into something dark and monstrous - into a Flesh-eater, the enemy.

This is a dark, violent and grisly re-telling of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and as a large-format, almost square and very heavy hardcover, it's worth the price and the aching arms to get this edition. It is beautifully illustrated by the author, Brom, who has worked on World of Warcraft, comics such as Batman, Diablo and Doom as well as Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. This is his third book, and it's a thing of beauty and wonder and horror.

I fully respect the author's copyright on his illustrations, but I really wanted to show you some and there were a couple floating around the internet that are from his promotional website (http://www.bromart.com/childthief.html):

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An image of Peter in the tree. These gorgeous sketches herald the start of each new chapter, while between pages 278 and 279 are full colour illustrations like these, of Peter, the Lady and one of Peter's Devils, Sekeu:

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Even if you hold out for the paperback, at the very least take the book off the shelf at the book shop and flip through it, to see these drawings.

The story is highly detailed but the prose is - not stark or colourless, but almost factual, lacking pretension or frivolous adjectives. A taste:
"He snuck several sidelong glances at the pointy-eared boy. There was something captivating about him, something about his strangeness, the wildness in his eyes that Nick found exciting. From his gestures to the odd way he was dressed, even in the way he bopped down the street so light on his toes, like some real cool cat -- bold as brass, as though daring anyone to challenge his right to be there. Nothing escaped his attention, not a flittering gum wrapper, a cooing pigeon, or a falling leaf. And he was ever glancing up at the stars, as though making sure they were still there." (p.25)

At times (the quote isn't an example of this), it can become too slow as the almost toneless narrator methodically describes everything, but that is my only problem with the story.

I've actually never read the original, but I have an old ex-Deloraine Primary School Library edition from the 60s (that's my primary school). I don't remember why I got it, because the story of Peter Pan never really interested me. I'm not even sure why. After reading about Brom's inspiration for this re-telling, though, I'm quite keen to read it. Brom talks about reading the original story again as an adult, and noticing all the dark stuff, the disturbing things about Peter, and one line in particular about the fate of Peter's Lost Boys, that "when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out..." I have to agree: there is something incredibly ominous about this thins them out line. Creating the Child Thief is no far stretch, since Barrie's Peter Pan did in effect kidnap children; creating a Child Thief who thought of lost children as "new blood", fodder for the war against the Flesh-eaters in order to save his Lady, fits perfectly.

Interwoven in the story of Nick and the other Devils and their fight with the Flesh-eaters, parallel even, is the story of Peter - his origins, how he came to Avalon, how he came to have a band of wild children called Devils. Inherent in Peter's story is his own tale of neglect and abuse, as well as the chance to see Avalon in its glory, before the Scourge began to kill the forest and the magical creatures were forced to flee to the furthest corners to escape the Flesh-eaters. It's an engaging story, this story-within-a-story, at times heart-breaking, but when you come out the other side Peter is a tangible, known entity, a boy you can understand and sympathise, while at the same time being unalterably Other.

The dark tones of the novel, the grittiness, the vivid descriptions of things right out of horror movies - it all creates a very real, vivid, believable world that has begun to go mad. More than that, it very clearly represents a kind of fairy tale rendering of the clash of pagan and Church, the death of magic in the hands of the pious, the death of the imagination in adults. Fantasy, as one theory goes, is often frowned upon as a genre because it encapsulates Play - and play is a childish thing, something you are supposed to outgrow. It is the perfect genre, then, in which to capture this and mourn it. And who better than Peter Pan, the boy who didn't want to grow up, to be the figurehead?

Things aren't as simplistic as all that. To hear the Flesh-eater's side of the story is just as horrible, and I actually felt sympathy for the Captain who only ever wanted to get off the cursed island and see his little boys again. This is another theme: how miscommunication, and misunderstandings, can lead to bloodshed and lifelong hatred. It has happened time and again throughout our history - squeeze it onto a small island and you have it play out in microcosm, with no way to ignore the high cost.

This is one of the things I love about Fantasy, the genre - and something most fans deny that it does: it's ability to explore our shared histories, examine and shine light on the good and the bad, reminding us of how repetitive history can be, how we don't learn, and showing us that there can be another way; or at least, showing us the consequences if we follow the same, well-worn path as before. With history so old and boring to most of us, Fantasy can play a pivotal role in bringing things to life. Because our history and culture influences us so much when we write, even authors who aim for nothing more than to tell a good story end up saying so much more. (Then there are the ones who can't even tell a good story: we learn nothing much about ourselves from them!)

The Child Thief shines a light on a great many aspects of our culture and society and history, both past and present, and the open ending helps add to the mythological nature of the character Peter Pan. Far from detracting from the original story, this feels like the real thing. Read for its own sake, you'll never look at Peter Pan in quite the same way again.
Profile Image for Steve.
962 reviews95 followers
October 4, 2016
Okay, it’s unpopular opinion time, as I go against the 5-star flow for this book.

3 stars, and I’m being generous.

"The Child Thief" is an original take on the Peter Pan story, complete with outstanding illustrations by the author (who is also an artist, apparently) at the start of every chapter. The story itself is very dark and brooding; even early on, somehow I knew not to expect a happy ending.

I’m not going to reiterate the plot; read the blurb for yourself. But just know ahead of time that this isn’t Disney. In fact, I would say it’s closer to Lord of the Flies. There really isn’t anything “nice” about these lost boys. They’re vicious, ruthless killers. Even the adults are ruthless, especially those that are fighting the battle near the end of the book. And then there’s Peter. Peter isn’t the small happy-go-lucky “boy” we are used to seeing. No, he’s truly a “pan”, a young man more akin to the Greek mythological demon-like demigod. I would say that Peter is more evil than any of his antagonists, willing to sacrifice anything, including the lives of children, to achieve his own ends in his battle against authority.

The book starts off in exciting manner, but lags severely the further it goes, losing a lot of momentum along the way. It’s almost as if the author got bored with it and resorted to several overused plotlines and tropes found in most fantasy novels: big magical battle that goes on way too long, torturing in God’s name, and ending an impossible quest.

The biggest letdown was the tragic ending that came too abruptly and seemed to have no real purpose. It provided nothing to the story, and really goes counter to what was expected. It was ultimately very confusing and unsatisfying, and left me wondering, “Why did I just read this?”
Profile Image for Jenny.
237 reviews345 followers
January 11, 2016
"And the stars winked back, for Peter's smile is a most contagious thing.”

Peter Pan's story is one of my favorites,so I was really excited to read this book. I was looking forward to see how the author had created the whole story of Peter Pan into something very dark,because after reading the first few pages,I knew that this book wasn't like the original version.

I was surprised with how a fairy tale could turn so creepy and horrifying,because believe me,this book was terrifying.There were a lot of gory scenes,murders,and many other disturbing scenes. And when I thought it couldn't get scarier,something more creepier thing would happen. And it doesn't end to just the scary scenes,there are also many cool illustrations in this book!

In this version,Peter targets the children who have ran away from their home,who are lost,abused,and promises to take them to a better place.And all the children goes willingly,because they think that they have nothing to lose.And when they realize what is happening and what they have lost,there is no going back.

The story is very intense with darker issues,and the worst part is that I just couldn't decided whether to feel sad for the hero or hate him;I probably did both. While reading Peter's past,I really felt bad for him.But I also couldn't forget his sadistic behavior and how easily he could kill anyone.I must say that the author has done a great job in creating Peter's character.

Then there is Nick,who is also one of the children who agreed to go with Peter.I liked Nick from the beginning,and the thing I loved about him is that he knew what was happening around him even when he was supporting Peter.Where other kids worshiped Peter,Nick saw his real face. I love that he never gave up,because he knew that this world-which was filled with monsters-wasn't for him. There were also many other characters which I won't forget: Ulfger,Leroy,Cricket,Sekeu,Danny,and all those monsters and flesh-eaters.

The author has created a world which is very complex and dangerous, where unbelievable things happens and which is far away from reality.But the author has also merged this whole fantasy world to the real world in the end,and that was actually very interesting to read.

The ending was so sad,but also quite fitting with the story. It was like I just couldn't believe what was happening! Even though this book really creeped me out all the time,I loved it!
I would definitely recommend this book if you like darker stuff.
Profile Image for Paul.
308 reviews73 followers
July 1, 2018
just between 3 and 3.5 stars

i really loved Brom's Lost Gods and after reading the synopsis for this title had to give it a go hehe. however while Brom is almost as illustrative in his prose as in his illustrations i found this book a lot less compelling. additionally although it didnt put me off i feel i should warn portions of the story can be quite graphic. overall i would say this was about a 6.5 out of 10 star read.
Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,235 followers
January 19, 2012
I don't know how I feel about this book.

As a child fairy tales creeped me out. Who wouldn't be with wolves killing and eating grandmas, people being shoved in ovens, talking pigs.....wooden boys.....eek. I wasn't even fond of Santa.

So it shouldn't have been any surprise to me that I wasn't all that in love with this book. It was well written and I understood the concept, but I just couldn't bring myself to like it. This part , so creepy!

Peter Pan, usually happy go lucky perpetual boy in green tights (see, already eww), story is told in a dark, sinister way (not so different from the original). Peter is saving abused and battered children by bringing them to Avalon, where they are trained as warriors and are constantly in danger of death. I don't see how this is better for them and neither does Nick, a boy Peter "rescues" from bad shit going down in Brooklyn NY.

After crossing the Mist, a zone of the in-betweens, between our world and Avalon in which Nick encounters a myriad of crazy creatures trying to kill him. Then experiencing life as one of the Devils (that is what the pack of Peter's of stolen kids are called) he really wants to go home.

That proves to be difficult.

I didn't hate this book. I found it interesting enough to finish, and many love this book, I just could have went without it.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 96 books11.1k followers
November 19, 2009
I deeply admire this book. It is brilliant, dark, stunning, imaginative . . . all those adjectives people throw around when reviewing great books. And this is a great book. Absolutely wonderful.
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,097 reviews7 followers
April 26, 2018
What a wickedly dark and twisted re-imagining of the classic Peter Pan story. Don’t expect the Disney version of cute Tinkerbell and ever friendly playful Peter. This tale will show you the dark side of every single character and all the shades in between.

The story interweaves the tale of Peter Pan with some mythology of other origins (as the author notes explains at the end) and initially shows Peter Pan as the character portrayed in the Disney version who “saves” kids from abusive homes, runaways and general outcasts promising them a place where there are no grown ups, a magical place but it is by no means Neverland.

However in this new place, Captain Hook is a trapped man; the pirates are misguided souls just trying to get home. Peter himself is more evil than any of the traditional villains, willing to sacrifice countless young lives to achieve his own ends and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

If you won't be offended by the violence and some profanity, and if you won't be upset by the characterization of a beloved childhood story character as something much less perfect and much more human, then "The Child Thief" is definitely worth looking into.

Oh and the artwork was spectacular – it doesn’t render very well on Kindle so I actually went online to the author’s site to view the full splendor of each drawing.

Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
September 25, 2009
6.0 stars. This one goes on my "select" list of 6.0 star books and my list of all-time favorites. See my expanded review here. I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end. Dark, disturbing and beautifully written with breath-taking pictures that truly enhance the reading experience. Highest possible recommendation.

Revised, expanded review

Profile Image for Kate.
1,243 reviews2,225 followers
February 4, 2018

February 4, 2018 update: I've decided to lower my rating for this book. It simply didn't stick with me at all and I get comments pretty often saying people picked it up because of me, and I kinda cringe being like "eh... that wasn't actually that good" but my review does not reflect that. I'm putting this one down to 3.5 stars simply because, again, it didn't stick with me at all and looking back the writing really was awful and the book much more mediocre than I originally felt after the emotional whirl-wind of reading it. End Update.

Not gonna lie, this was a 4 star for most of the book, but the ending put it over the edge.

WOWEEE was this a ride! For people who don't know, "The Child Thief" is an epic Peter Pan retelling that delves much further into the high fantasy side of things than any other retelling I've seen before. We follow Peter who goes to the Other World to bring back children to fight in a war, because Neverland/Avalon has gone to shit and everything is dead. Nick is one of these children, though, he sees everything that's wrong with the place.

This was seriously epic. It was much more of a high fantasy than I was expecting, and I LOVED the full page illustrations - they really did add to the story!

Though this book was awesome, had great characters, and a fucking amazing ending, the writing was not good. I'm not going to beat around the bush, the writing was very juvenile - it sometimes felt like a young kid was writing it. Rather than showing anger by saying "he said angrily" or "he shouted" or something, they would all just BE SCREAMING IN ALL CAPITALS AND ITALICS. To me this made it feel very juvenile and honestly even besides this, everything just simply wasn't that greatly written. Though I got a great feel for the world, I think it was more the illustrations than the descriptions. Also, characters were kind of all over the place, and several felt VERY similar because of the writing. There were also SO MANY characters.

But, besides that, I would highly recommend this book - I loved it!!

I just got my edition of this in the mail and HOLY SHIT IS IT COOL. It's a MASSIVE book with full page illustrations and full color illustrations that are honestly so creepy looking - the characters drawn sort of remind me of WoW characters tbh. I'm PUMPED to read this - it's now on the top of my TBR
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews1,014 followers
May 10, 2021
“Go and play. Run around. Build something. Break something. Climb a tree. Get dirty. Get in some trouble. Have some fun.”

The Child Thief is a very peculiar book. It does not mean it's a bad book; just not for everyone. I seem to be in the minority because a lot of my friends enjoyed it. So definitely go ahead and read it if it was on your TBR!

If I were trying to characterize this book I'd definitely call it a dark retelling of Peter Pan. It's not horror but it has twisted fae folk and mankind alike. There are blood and deaths. This Peter Pan kidnaps kids for his own gain, not to save them. But also he is not the villain, I'd say he is a victim along with these kids.
“The darkness is calling. A little danger, a little risk. Feel your heart race. Listen to it. That’s the sound of being alive. It’s your time, Nick. Your one chance to have fun before it’s all stolen by them, the adults, with their cruelty and endless rules, their can’t-do-this, and can’t-do-that’s, their have-tos, and better-dos, their little boxes and cages all designed to break your spirit, to kill your magic.”

Why didn't I enjoy the book if I liked the idea? Well, I just did not feel connected to Peter or his lost boys. Sure thing, there was drama, I sympathized but that's it: I wasn't interested. I sincerely hoped to like this book but maybe I wasn't in the mood for frolicking in the Fae Land. Who knows.
Profile Image for Cindy Newton.
660 reviews129 followers
May 6, 2019
It was awesome! Talk about fractured fairy tales! It took the Disney-ized tale we grew up with and gave it a wicked set of teeth! The Lost Boys are no longer adorable waifs wrapped in teddy-bearish outfits, and life in Neverland is not a romp in an enchanted realm, but a savage struggle for survival against creatures of unbelievable viciousness. This book is definitely not for children. It was still a very absorbing story, and Brom does a great job of fleshing his characters out from the cartoonish images we know and love. No one is completely good or bad--every character has compelling reasons for his actions, even "the bad guys." I give it an R rating for language as well as violence, so I will not be recommending it to my students. Adults, however, may enjoy having this pastel story from their childhood re-presented in vivid colors and gory detail!
Profile Image for Jen - The Tolkien Gal.
458 reviews4,464 followers
December 25, 2019
I finally finished this one! Thanks to retail (ironically in a bookstore) holding me back from getting this completed faster.

I didn't enjoy this as much as Lost Gods but it was still a great journey with wonderful mythology.

Image result for peter pan fan art dark

Profile Image for Mark.
393 reviews306 followers
May 24, 2013
Having listened to 'Little White bird ' on the radio a few weeks ago I realized that Mr Barrie was not a gentlemen i would have allowed anywhere near any of my children if i had any. One very weird and odd man. This book takes his character of Peter Pan and wraps around him an incredible tale running back and forth through history sweeping up in his wake ancient druidic struggles against 'modern' belief, legend and myth, history and the modern day. We follow the Child Thief in his 'collecting ' of the discarded and maltreated children he encounters and 'befriends' and his bringing them to Avalon the magical land of myth and legend hidden from view by a mist enfested with the souls of the dead and those who hunger for the living. This island is situated just off the great city of New York but is unseen by those who pass it. they are totally unaware of its existence. It is Hogwarts with attitude.

Once in this land Nick, the modern day lad we see being 'saved ' by Peter, begins his discovery of the place and community in which he now lives. It is a place of magic and wonder but also of incredibly brutal violence and cruelty. Warring factions of magical creatures battle back and forth as if maintaining some sort of bizarre status quo. Elves and goblins and nightmarish demonic witches and cannibalistic faery folk litter the pages and that is an appropriate word as their dismembered corpses and crushed souls blow about in the aftermath of some quite appalling blood-letting.

The magical land is maintained by' The Lady ' and her powers but these, for all sorts of reasons we begin to uncover, are waning and humans who had stumbled on to the land many centuries ago seek the total eradication of the faery folk. This involves quite graphic descriptions of violence and death and the images given of the 'murder' of the forest is quite astonishing. If you grew up with the destruction of the magical woods of Narnia in 'the Last Battle' that is the equivalent of a pin prick being comparable to the action of the guillotine.

The thing I found amazing about this whole extraordinary creation was the way Brom creates a wonderful ebb and flow of sympathy. The reader, or at least this one, flitted back and forth as new developments or discoveries or explantions came forth. Nothing was as clear as it seemed and because of the way Brom told the story you did not have all the information needed to make a real decision about guilt or innocence or blame or freedom until a long way into the story. The character of Nick we see growing and changing and by that I do not mean puberty wise but a more profound sense of his own responsibilities and opportunties. We see courage and affection and infatuation and betrayal linking and unlinking arms throughout the story.

With whom should our sympathies lie ? What should our opinion be of the varying characters' decisions ? Brom doesn't tell us. He sets the story going and sits back and waits for the fireworks. There are all sorts of questions asked; about faith, about religion, (and they are of course often quite seperate), about the relationship between growing up and growing crueller, there are fantastic descriptions of idyllic scenes of beauty and then just as suddenly horrific scrawls of ruined landscapes and arid charnel houses.

This is a really shocking story of violence and death and wasted opportunities and disaapointment and hope and redemption but also a brilliantly imagined world which could so easily exist just beyond that patch of fog over there. It is bleak and dark and terrible and wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed my venturing through the mist.

Each chapter is headed with a black and white pencil drawing; they are excellent. In the centre of my copy are eight coloured paintings of some of the main characters. These are the things from which nightmares are made but they are fabulous
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