Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review: "Tigerheart" by Peter David

Peter David, known for his off-kilter take on King Arthur, turns his attention to another popular literary character in "Tigerheart" (Del Rey, $22.)

The star of the tale is a young boy named Paul Dear who is on a quest to please his mother and rebuild his family after the death of his infant sister. Paul has been raised on tales of the Anyplace and its enigmatic hero The Boy by his father. Though you may not recognize the names, the characters will be very familiar to anyone who knows the works of J.M. Barrie or the many adaptations of those works.

So, why not just use Neverland and Peter Pan? According to David, Peter Pan is far too self-centered to allow anyone else to be the star of a book that includes him, and Paul is most certainly the hero in this tale.

Having learned early on that he can speak to animals and being fueled by his father's stories, Paul has glimpsed the Anyplace often. He's also befriended a snow tiger that prowls the imaginary land. After his infant sister's death, Paul's life changes. His mother and father split up, and his mother forbids any talk of the Anyplace or the Boy, even going so far as to have Paul put on prescriptions to keep him from speaking of it. Eventually Paul begins to trick his mother by not taking the pills, and that's when he formulates the plan to follow the pixie Fiddlefix (who has her own reasons for wanting Paul to come) into the Anyplace to find a new little sister and make his mother happy again.

Once there, though, he finds a place that's a little different than what he expects. The Boy, having defeated Captain Hack, has comandeered his pirate ship and, along with Hack's sister, Captain Slash, is terrorizing the Anyplace. It's up to Paul to find out why the Boy has changed and win his help to solve the problem.

David's tale is an interestingly different look at the legend of Peter Pan. Much like the original, it's often fascinating and often quite dark. While it does celebrate the imagination of childhood, David's work also takes a look at the bleaker, less pleasant side of the Boy's refusal to grow up and gives him a crisis of conscience that we could probably never imagine Peter Pan having.

One problem the book does have is in the narrative style. David often breaks the story to address the reader directly. I understand that it's an attempt to recreate Barrie's style and create the feeling of a storyteller spinning the tale. More often than not, though, it took me right out of the flow of the story.

That aside, "Tigerheart" is an imaginative and fun take on a familiar place and characters. It provides a slightly different spin on the classic tale and some food for thought.

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