The Child Thief
BROM EOS, HARPER COLLINS, 2009
And again, we see the Pan — savior, scourge, and child-thief. Stealing kids from the mundane realm, he spirits them oﬀ to a world of adventure and death. As J.M. Barrie himself notes in the unexpurgated Peter Pan: “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…” Thins them out. From those words, Gerald Brom conjures up the bloody side of Neverland; in his reinvention of Peter Pan, Brom turns the crowing Lost Boy into an eerie psychopomp.
Like the 80s vampire flick Lost Boys, Brom transplants Pan from upper-crust Victorian London to the crusty streets of modern America. When runaway Nick faces oﬀ against a pack of drug dealers, he knows he’s dead meat… until a mad boy with terrifying skills intervenes and oﬀers Nick an escape. Before long, though, Nick wonders if he’d been safer back with the gang.
Brom’s tale is a grim epic. Wrapped in shades of Celtic and Arthurian myth, Finnish folklore and Decadent poetry, his Child Thief explores the costs of immortality, and his storytelling is sure and muscular. While he employs familiar elements, The Child Thief is an audacious epic of grim ferocity, implacable from start to finish.
If it seems like I’ve used the word “grim” a lot in this review, it’s because The Child Thief really is grim. Brom leaves moral judgments to other minds: his villains are often admirable, his heroes psychotic, his protagonist torn between empathy and self-preservation. Deeply and deliberately Pagan, this novel is Gothic in the old sense, cloaked in echoes of Poe, Byron, and Dorè. True to his Dungeons & Dragons roots, Brom also echoes Howard, Haggard and Burroughs throughout the book — a quality highlighted by the illustrations scattered throughout the book. At times a literally ripping yarn, The Child Thief binds high adventure with mythic gravity. Though by no means an easy read, it’s worth the challenges involved. SATYROS.
Find out more in Witches&Pagans #23 - Law and Chaos