★★★★★/★★★★★ The Child Thief by Brom.
An even darker than the original retelling of “Peter Pan.” That is all you need to know, it is also filled with triggers so be careful.
OH Peter, you wonderful antihero, taking children away, keeping secrets beyond our understanding, so hide your kids because he is coming for them. This is a fantasy, but it has so much folklore mixed in. I am a fan of Arthurian legend, and honestly who isn’t? So Brom took Arthurian legend and mixed it with Peter Pan, and some Celtic myth and just created a brilliant piece of literature, and horror.
Peter takes the children that have been forgotten, abused, by their parents and promises them a better life in a world that is better : “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.” In this new land we have flesh-eaters, witches, other humans, faeries, and probably more beasts/monsters. SO to be fair, it is an extremely dark book, and must be approached with caution, THIS IS NOT THE PETER PAN OF THE DISNEY FILM, NO, THIS IS DARKER THAN THE ORIGINAL STORY.
Peter is a bit different to the original. J. M. Barrie’s Peter is a trickster, Brom’s Peter is a sociopath, delusional, a child soldier that wants more blood. Brom shows us everything that shaped Peter into the monster he is today, by giving us some humanizing characteristics.
But the other characters, oh jeezzz. They are so dynamic I want to cry. They don’t just do what they do for the sake of plot, but rather because that’s who they are, they are not idiots, they have their reasons.
“Men who fear demons see demons everywhere.”
We get three main things: Humans as the feared monsters, the actual monsters (being both fighting sides), and child-soldiers, so let’s discuss that. A bit spoilery, read with caution.
“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.”
Humans are called “flesh-eaters,” and they were Christians looking for a place where they could hold their beliefs without anyone contradicting them. That did not turn out so well as their reverend, known through the book as “The Reverend,” becomes twisted and begins torturing children, while his people become lost within the magic of the land (Avalon, like in Arthurian legend). Brom gives us their backstory so we can guess what it is that they desire most now above all else, since their whole running away from the world didn’t work out for them.
Now the “real monsters” of the story are these pagan creatures that worship deities that live among them, and all they truly want is for the flesh eaters to piss off and never come back. I am gong to include Lady Modron aka The Lady of the Lake, who uses her powers to keep her people passive and with unconditional love towards her.
And then the children soldiers. Due to civil war, Kony, and a bunch of different factors, child soldiers are not a thing of the past, but a very current one, and it should scare you, and the way Brom depicts them should too. They are bloodthirsty, and savage, and just horrid, being depicted and called “the devils”. Sad and terrifying to think that children can be turned into killing machines.
But Brom doesn’t stop here, no. He makes this book beautiful, not only with the amazing writing, but with the drawings. Like these: