The Child Thief

The Child Thief

4.4 192
by Brom

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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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

The first adult novel by award-winning illustrator Brom is perhaps best described by author Christopher Golden: "Brom has always been an artist who gave us nightmares fully realized, but with The Child Thief, he paints in words…a wonderfully nasty Peter Pan reboot that stands on its own as a dark twisted adventure." This haunting retelling of James Barrie's fairyland story is rendered through the eyes of Nick, a 14-year-old orphan lured into Peter's adolescent brigade. A wickedly poetic retake on a classical magical tale.

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The Child Thief
A Novel

Chapter One

Child Thief

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.

In the dusk of that early-autumn day, the child thief peered out from the shadows and falling leaves to watch the children play. The children scaled the giant green turtle, slid down the bright yellow slide, laughed, yelled, teased, and chased one another round and round. But the child thief wasn't interested in these happy faces. He wasn't looking to steal just any child. He was particular. He was looking for the sad face, the loner... a lost child. And the older the better, preferably a child of thirteen or fourteen, for older children were stronger, had better stamina, tended to stay alive longer.

The thief knew Mother Luck had smiled on him with the girl. She'd been a good catch, too bad about her father. He smiled, remembering the funny face the man had made as the knife slipped into his chest. But where was Mother Luck now? He'd been hunting for two days. Nothing. He'd come close with a boy last night, but close wasn't good enough. Grimacing, the thief reminded himself that he had to take it slow, had to make friends with them first, gain their trust, because you couldn't steal a child without their trust.

Maybe Mother Luck would be with him tonight. The child thief had found city parks to be good hunting grounds. Strays and runaways often camped among the bushes and used the public restrooms to wash, and they were always looking for friends.

As the sun slid slowly behind the cityscape, the shadows crept in—and so did the thief, biding his time, waiting for the falling darkness to sort the children out.

Nick darted into the warehouse entryway, pressed himself flat against the steel door, his breath coming hard and fast. He leaned his cheek against the cold metal and squeezed his eyes shut. "Fuck," he said. "I'm screwed. So screwed." At fourteen, Nick was slender and a bit small for his age. Dark, choppy bangs spilled across his narrow face, emphasizing his pallid complexion. He needed a haircut, but of late his hair was the last thing on his mind.

Nick dropped his pack to the ground, pushed his bangs from his eyes, and carefully rolled up one sleeve of his black denim jacket. He glanced at the burns running along the inside of his forearm and winced. The angry red marks crisscrossing his flesh crudely formed the letter N.

He tried to put the nightmare out of his mind, but it came back to him in heated flashes: the men pinning him to the floor—the floor of his own kitchen. The sour, rancid taste of the dish sponge being crammed into his mouth. Marko, big, thick-necked Marko, with his beastly grin, smirking while he heated the coat hanger against the burner. The wire smoking then turning red then... the pain... red-hot searing pain. God, the smell, but worse, the sound, he'd never forget the sound of his own flesh sizzling. Trying to scream, only to gag and choke on that gritty, soggy sponge while they laughed. Marko right in his face, Marko with his long, straggly chin hairs and bulging, bloodshot eyes. "Wanna know what the N stands for?" he'd spat. "Huh, do you fuckhole? It's for Narc. You ever say anything to anybody again and I'm gonna burn the whole fucking word into your tongue. You got that you little prick?"

Nick opened his eyes. "Need to keep moving." He snatched up his pack and unzipped the top. Inside the pack were some chips, bread, a jar of peanut butter, a pocket knife, two cans of soda, a blue rabbit's foot on a leather cord, and about thirty thousand dollars' worth of methamphetamines.

He dug through the hundreds of small clear plastic bags until he found the blue rabbit's foot. The rabbit's foot had been a gift from his dad, the only thing Nick had left of him now. He kissed it, then slipped it around his neck. He needed all the luck he could come by today.

He leaned out from the entryway, glancing quickly up and down the busy avenue, keeping an eye out for a beat-up green van. He'd hoped for some congestion to slow the traffic down, help him make it to the subway alive, but currently the traffic chugged steadily along. The day waned and soon the van would be just one more pair of gleaming headlights in the night.

Nick slung the pack over his shoulder and ducked out onto the sidewalk, weaving his way between the thin trail of pedestrians as he jogged rapidly up the block. There was a bite to the wind and -people had their collars up and their eyes down. Nick pulled up his own collar, skirted around a cluster of elderly men and women lined up in front of an Italian restaurant, and tried to lose himself among the thin stream of returning commuters.

You fucked up Nicky boy, he thought. Fucked up big. Yet part of him was glad, would do about anything to see the faces of those sons-of-bitches when they found their stash gone. It would be a long time before Marko was back in business.

A horn blew behind him. Nick jumped and spun—heart in his throat. But there was no green van, just someone double-parked. He caught sight of the trees and felt a flood of relief. Prospect Park was just a block away. He'd be hard to spot in the trees. He could cut across the park and come out at the subway station. Nick took off in a run.

The Child Thief
A Novel
. Copyright © by Brom. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Kim Harrison
“Ancient magics combine with feral logic to culminate in Brom’s The Child Thief. A retelling of Peter Pan spanning America’s earliest, magically rich beginnings to today’s bare whispers of belief. Wickedly poetic, The Child Thief makes me want to believe.”
Christopher Golden
“Brom has always been an artist who gave us his nightmares fully realized, but with THE CHILD THIEF, he paints in words. A wonderfully nasty Peter Pan reboot that stands on its own as a dark, twisted adventure.”
Holly Black
“A gruesome and darkly fantastical twist on a classic tale. Brom injects pure horror into fantasy.”

Meet the Author

Over the past few decades, Brom has lent his distinctive vision to all facets of the creative industries, from novels and games to comics and film. He is the author of The Child Thief and the award-winning illustrated horror novels The Plucker and The Devil's Rose. Brom is currently kept in a dank cellar somewhere just outside of Seattle.

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Child Thief 4.4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 192 reviews.
AnaMardoll More than 1 year ago
The Child Thief / 978-0-061-67133-3 I usually save the 'parental warnings' in my reviews until the end, but "The Child Thief", as compelling and fascinating as it is, nonetheless requires some upfront warnings. If you are thinking of buying this novel for a child, perhaps on the grounds that it is a Peter Pan story and therefore child-friendly, be warned that this is an incredibly dark and violent novel. I'm not exaggerating when I say that nine out of every ten pages contains a depiction of rape, child molestation, violence, murder, torture, or several instances of the F-word. I certainly wouldn't say that no child or teenager on earth would be able to appreciate this novel, but I do strongly advise that you read this book yourself, beforehand, to determine whether this level of violence will be disturbing to the intended recipient. With that out of the way, let me say that I am quick to condemn books that rely on violence, sex, and profanity in an attempt to divert the reader's attention from the fact that there is no actual plot. "The Child Thief" is not one such novel - every incidence of violence within this novel acts in service to the plot, and the end result is an incredibly compelling story that is both a re-imagining of the classic Peter Pan tale, but also remarkably true to the original in many of the details (lest we forget that Barrie's version contained quite a bit of death and murder behind the scenes). Brom has taken the premise that Peter Pan steals children away to Neverland and has expanded the concept to fit within our dark reality. Here, Peter Pan does not steal away babies who fall out of their prams - he steals away children who are victims of abuse, neglect, molestation, and all the other such evils of our world that children should never have to endure. But the Neverland that Peter promises to lead these victimized children to is not an escape in the classic sense - it is supremely dangerous, and no longer in the exciting "but-we-always-escape-in-the-end" kind of danger that the Disneyesque Neverland fostered. The neglected children are given a family and an emotionally safe haven, but every moment of their days are spent in training, in the hopes that once they leave the confines of their home they will not die immediately in this hostile world. Brom has woven a masterful tale here, with both the real world and the Neverland/Albion world realistically rendered, with both the good and the bad. There is not a single character in this novel which could be described as flat or two-dimensional; even the most minor and ancillary characters are vivid, complex, and contain their own unique mix of perspectives and motivations. I would deeply recommend "The Child Thief" to anyone who enjoys morally ambiguous tales with complex, three-dimensional characters. If you won't be offended by the incredibly violent and profane nature of the writing, 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. ~ Ana Mardoll
MercedesMud More than 1 year ago
This book is dark, bloody, and nothing like Disney. Did I mention it's also great?! Peter finds the unwanted kids, kids with horrible pasts that need a new life, he takes them home to Avalon. There they join the Devils and are trained as warriors. Little do the kids know they are going to be sent to war with the flesheaters, that's the whole reason Peter brings them home to his strange land. You'll meet several characters you will love, but as this is a dark novel don't expect them to survive the entire story. There isn't really a bad guy in this book, as everyone in it has some dark history. Excellent book and worth the read, and the art is snazzy too
alexia561 More than 1 year ago
This is not only one of the longest books I've read recently, but also one of the most anticipated. I was lusting after this book and really did my best to get my hands on an ARC, but had to settle for borrowing it from the library. Was worried that it might let me down as I was looking forward to it so much, but am happy to report that it was just as good as described! So good that I'm going to buy my own copy, which I rarely do with library reads. The Child Thief is Peter, a wild child who found refuge on the mythical island of Avalon. Found it interesting that Brom combined the Peter Pan myth with Arthurian legend. Variations of the Lost Boys, Captain Hook, and The Lady of the Lake show up, but in a much darker format. Pretty sure that this book is destined to become a classic, as the story is just that good! Brom is an extremely talented storyteller as well as being a gifted artist. During this story, we learn Peter's history as well as follow his struggle to "save" lost children. We also join him on his quest to serve his Lady, try to save Avalon, and defeat Avalon's enemies. Any more details would probably contain spoilers, so I'll leave it at this: Read this book and you will not be disappointed! Gave it a 5 out of 5, as I found the book totally captivating! Go! Now! Get yourself a copy!
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
The Child Thief (2009) is a dark reinterpretation of the world of Peter Pan by writer and illustrator Brom. His adult novel offers a chilling alternative to the Disney version of Peter Pan which, according to the author's note, is more in keeping with the original text of Peter Pan as written by J. M. Barrie. Brom's Peter prowls the streets of New York City each night looking for haunted, lost children that he can lure away to a secret place far away. It's impossible to actually steal a child, the mist won't allow that, but you can lead a child. That's what Peter does. In many ways a lost boy himself, Peter finds children who think they have nothing left to lose; victims of violence, abuse and neglect looking for a way out. What these lost children soon learn is that there is always something else to lose. There have been a lot of comparisons drawn between The Child Thief and Gregory Maguire's Wicked. I can't comment on that having not read the latter novel. What I can say is that The Child Thief will make your skin crawl. Like its cover, the novel is peppered with beautiful, grim illustrations of the characters. The writing is no less bleak. Peppered with violence, cursing, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, I can see why other reviews have said this book is not for the faint of heart. While brilliantly illustrated, the writing often felt less polished. And though certainly innovative, The Child Thief failed to enchant me. The old fairy tales, the original ones by Grimm or Andersen and apparently Barrie, were meant as cautionary tales for young children. Since then the stories have changed into entertainment: light-hearted, sugar-coated stories for boys and girls. I find, without fail, that I prefer the newer version which is probably why I could not fully embrace this novel. However the biggest problem for me is that the world of The Child Thief, possibly unintentionally, seems to be founded on the assumption that all people are amoral, opportunistic, mean and that the world they inhabit runs on violence and brutality--two assumptions I refuse to believe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story. Imaginative. Interesting. A favorite.
countri More than 1 year ago
There are some books that are instant classics this is one of them. It is a version of Peter Pan that I found unable to put down. Some books you have to get through the first couple of chapters to get into it. I have to say this book had me hooked from the first chapter. I felt like I was in one of Brom's paintings.
Blonde_Bombshell More than 1 year ago
Child Theif is probably the best book i have ever read. It was genious and thought provoking the whole way through. Beginning to end the dark portrayol of Peter kept me on the edge of my seat. I would never have thought to put such a well loved character into that context but it worked perfectly. Neverland is like nothing we could have imagined and more. I highly reccomend you read this book, all my friends are begging to borrow it and every single one of them has turned the last page to find that they loved it and wanted more of it! I don't reccomend this book for children though, it does get very violent and gruesome.
Zombielover More than 1 year ago
Lots of action and drama. I would recomend it to anyone with a dark imagination. One of my new favorite books :)
Cephius More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. A very original look at Peter Pan and faeries. There is content of an adult and violent nature so I would recommend parental guidance.
Anonymous 3 months ago
An awesome spin on the classic Peter Pan
Anonymous 6 months ago
Anonymous 8 months ago
An amazing work with a different take on the old tale! What if Pan the Man wasn't a nice immortal, just looking for friends to live with him forever? What would the children he finds be for? You won't be able to put it down, I can almost guarantee it. -Stranger Danger
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like lots and lots of killings and cliches then this is the book for you. Little to do with Peter Pan but every other myth is in there. Soooo the point of fetish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found it to be predictable and over the top gory. About 3/4 of the way through I just remember thinking to myself this is just silly. I am not squeamish in the least, but there was just no finesse to the gore and madness. I know that the dark themes were what he was aiming for but I personally think the book was screaming with it. It was too much. Not to mention the ending was a let down. I can definitely appreciate the artwork however and the underlying story was very interesting to read. A darker and different outlook on a popular children's story (and their origins) is always exciting. I feel a bit let down because I've heard such great things about it and I knew that it was exactly the type of book I would love. I was really hoping it would pick up...but it didn't.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Booklover0080 More than 1 year ago
LOVED THIS BOOK! Everyone I've told about this book has loved it. The drawings are amazing. One of the books I will certainly re-read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My new favorite book and that hasn't changed in years
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing book. Could not put it down. A perfect book for those tired of the sweet innocent happy ever after that so many fairy tales give.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Child Thief is a heavy volume, made heavier by an abundance of violence untempered by any form of morality by the majority of characters presented in the story. The POV skips around frequently, especially in the first 250 pages, disengaging the reader from any form of emotional attachment that might be formed to the primary "lost boy", Nick. It evens out to some degree when the action truly begins, then introduces new POVs at the end that are unnecessary and cumbersome. The author tried to pack too much in, link too many different ideas, through an amalgamation of Arthurian legend, the pilgrims arrival in America, and various mythologies involving fairies and gods. The only place the book really shone is where the author accentuated Peter's separation from emotions that otherwise would have redeemed his character. Peter spends most of the book in observation mode, showing the reader that he feels little for the children he is "saving". What emotion he does display is like that of a person angered that one of his toys has been broken. The ending shows that there could be hope for Peter, but it comes 494 pages too late to make the book interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definetly made it to my favorite book everrrrrrr... Beautifully illustrated, made me feel all sorts of emotions, from loving Peter to hating him, and loving him again. definitely not for the weary hearted.Read it in 3 days because I could not put it down. So soo soo good. MUSt read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt I had to say something here to contrast the extreme reviews I saw about the excessive violence and such. Yes, this novel is for adults (or teens) and contains violence and some sexuality (including one implied, but not described, abusive situation) and cursing, but it's no more violent, etc., than most adult novels which would fall in horror, fantasy or crime genres (and perhaps less than many of those). The amount of cursing is mild and I'd say this is suitable for older teens (would've been fine for me as a teenager). As for the story itself, I quite enjoyed it, as well as the illustrations - it's a bit like a Neil Gaiman dark fairytale. As others have said, there isn't a huge amount of character development (other than Peter), but neither did I find the characters flat and unbelievable as I've experienced elsewhere. They were real characters, mostly troubled children/teens, just a lot of them, so not much time spent on most of them and the story is mostly action and telling Peter's history. It is dark, for sure, but not without mischievous fun - if you like horror-fantasy-adventure, you will enjoy this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago