Navigating the modern business of book publishing

Graphic Novels for December: THE CHILD THIEF and PETER & MAX

The Child Thief - exploring the dark side of Peter Pan



You have never seen the Peter Pan story like this. Surprised by the underlying darkness of J.M Barrie’s original Peter Pan stories, Brom was struck by this line in particular:

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; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.

This was no Disney cartoon. Yes, Peter was daring and full of mischief, he was an adventurer, quick to smile and always ready to play — but Peter’s games often end in blood. He targets children — the broken, the hopeless and the sexually abused — and offers them another life. Tempted through the mists, faerie boys like fourteen-year-old Nick, discover there is always more to lose.

The Child Thief is a haunting and confronting re-working of a childhood classic we all think we know so well. It is an exhilarating illustrated novel, full of monsters, both human and other, both in faerie and in the real world, both adult and child.

Peter & Max - The Pied Piper: Shafted musician or vindictive sibling?


Bill Willingham

Peter & Max is a publishing first for comic book publisher Vertigo — an illustrated novel. Bill Willingham is the author of the monthly Fables series, one of the most critically successful comic book series of the last decade. The series takes its characters from fairy tales, nursery rhymes and other sources and forces them into the real world.

Peter & Max is a stand alone novel set within the Fables world but easily accessed by readers unfamiliar with the comic books. It is the story of the Piper brothers, Peter, the pickled pepper picker, and his older brother Max. Sons in a musical troupe, Peter is the more naturally gifted musician, a fact that Max can never accept. When their father gives the magical family heirloom, a flute named Frost, to Peter, Max goes mad with jealousy and seeks out black magic in his attempt to steal the flute for himself. Descending into madness, he becomes the Pied Piper and Peter is forced to pursue him as he brings death and destruction wherever he goes.

With the black and white illustrations by experienced Fables inker Steve Leialoha adding to the fairy tale charm of the story, Willingham has done a great job transitioning from the shorter comic book medium to the longer, more sustained novel format. If there is any criticism it is only that the first two chapters are blatantly expositional as Willingham tries to bring new readers up to date with his Fables world before launching into the story proper. Don’t be put off by this clunky beginning — it’s like the safety drill before a parachute jump — just push through it and enjoy the adventure.

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Categorised in: All Posts, Book Reviews, Fiction, SF & Fantasy

3 Responses »

  1. The Child Thief sounds interesting and dark. Taking peter Pan to its logical conclusion.

    • It’s a return to the original, pre-Disneyfied version in a lot of ways, although Brom takes it even further than Barrie would have ever considered. At least, Brom is far more explicit than Barrie about the darker side of the boy who never grows up.

      I shudder to think what Brom would do with “Lord of the Flies” – children really can be the most terrifying monsters when given free reign.

  2. I just finished reading The Child Thief.

    Wow! Just… wow!

    I was already a fan of Brom through his illustrated novels (The Plucker and The Devil’s Rose), but his first full-length novel, The Child Thief succeeded in completely blowing my mind.

    Looking at the darker undercurrents of the Peter Pan story, Brom has worked his twisted magic and woven a tale that melts folklore, myth and legend into the story of the boy who never grew up, and the result is nothing short of stunning.

    Brom has a rare talent with both words and pictures, and although there are fewer examples of the latter in this novel, those that appear are breathtakingly beautiful and perfectly suited to this retelling of one of the world’s best-loved pieces of children’s literature. And this version is strictly for the grown-ups! The pages are drenched in mayhem as Brom’s sociopathic Peter “steals” children from our world to take to Avalon and fight with him in a quest that seems unwinable. But their battles aren’t just with the Flesheaters – they’re with each other and with themselves as the children (in particular, Nick) try to work through their own adolescent problems.

    This is perhaps the most accessible of Brom’s written works, and will hopefully entice people who don’t usually read graphic or illustrated novels, as once a reader has seen Brom’s artwork and read his flowing prose, they will surely fall completely in love and will spill over to his other works.

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About Richard

Richard Bilkey has been selling, marketing and distributing books for over ten years, managing independent bookshops, a major online retailer and, most recently, one of Australia's largest Independent Book Distributors, Brumby Books.

Contact Richard directly at
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