Literature: The Child Thief

The Child Thief is a 2009 novel by the artist and writer known as Brom.

Fourteen-year-old Nick is in trouble. He's on the run from drug dealers with a pack full of stolen meth, and those drug dealers have caught up. He's pretty sure he's going to die. Until Peter shows up. Peter saves his life and promises to take him away to a magical land full of adventure. And Nick follows, through a haunted mist to a strange, magical, dying land full of Devil children, monsters, magic and danger. There he learns he's not been saved so much as recruited, to fight with Peter and his pack of wild, lost children against the Flesh Eaters who are destroying the land of Avalon. As he and the other New Blood find their place in the group, discovering more of the nature of Avalon and of the threat against it, Peter's past is revealed to the reader.

It's basically a grimmer take on the story of Peter Pan, although there's no mention of any of the other characters in the original book by James Barrie.

Provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Most of the Devils' parents fall in this category.
  • Action Girl: Sekeu especially.
  • Affably Evil: The Captain. Verges on Anti-Villain at times, and by the end of the book is a full-blown one if not an Anti-Hero.
  • Anti-Villain: The Flesh-Eaters. All they want is to go home, but being trapped on the island has turned them into monsters.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "How many have died trying to save your precious Lady?"
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: How things are done at Deviltree. Sekeu and Abraham are Peter's lieutenants because they are the oldest, but also because they are the most dangerous. Peter of course, is more dangerous than both of them.
  • Ax-Crazy: Ulfger and Leroy, eventually.
  • Badass Boast: The Devils and especially Peter are fond of this.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A toss-up between this and Downer Ending: Avalon and the Lady are saved... but almost every single other named character is dead. However, Peter has rejected his identity as the Lady's successor, and decides to forge his own destiny as the king of the Wild. Peter then decides to fulfill his promise to Nick, and heads to his house to protect his mother from the drug dealers.
  • Black Best Friend: Abraham to Peter.
  • Blood Knight: All the Devils show shades of this. Nick most of all, though not at first.
  • Child Soldiers: The Devils, who are stolen from the real world to fight a fairy war.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For Nick. Over the course of the story he comes to see things from his mother's point of view and realizes that he's done nothing but make things worse for her. He resolves to return home and help her. He dies and never makes it home or grows up. But his last act is to send Peter to kill the drug dealers terrorizing his family.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Peter, and all the Devils... which is why they became Devils in the first place, as Peter purposefully searches out the most poorly treated and lonely children for his army.
  • Downer Ending: Either this or a Bittersweet Ending, depending on how you look at it.
  • Driven to Suicide: Cricket's mother before the events of the book.
  • End of an Age: Faerie has been fading since humans appeared. During the events of the book, Avalon is on its last legs.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Peter has fault. Peter may even be downright evil. But he adored his mother, and after he finds Avalon he adores Lady Modron like a mother.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Except for Peter and Cricket, and the Captain and Danny. That's right, even the main character dies.
  • Exact Words: Peter tells the the children he steals the truth. He just doesn't tell them the whole truth.
  • The Fair Folk: Most of the book takes place in Faerie after all.
  • The Fisher King: Avalon's health and stability seem to be tied directly to the Lady.
  • Foil: Nick and Leroy. Both boys are New Blood at the beginning of the story, but while Nick is talented at combat and brave in the face of danger, Leroy is a coward and, though violent, terrible at actual combat. Nick adored his father. Leroy murdered his.
  • Game Face: The Devils paint themselves when they go into battle. Danny unfortunately looks a bit like a panda rather than fearsome.
  • Good Parents: Surprisingly, there are some. Danny loves his parents, but he got himself into a lot of trouble. Leroy nods along when people talk about their terrible parents, but in reality they loved him dearly and kept trying to help him.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The Devils and the Flesh-Eaters. As it turns out, both sides have reasons for fighting for their people. And also for the atrocities they commit.
  • Grimmification: Brom stated in the afterword that his purpose in writing this novel was to rescue Peter Pan from "Disney films and peanut-butter commercials."
  • Growing Up Sucks: The Devils are convinced of this, seeing as adults cause all the problems in their lives. Further, people who come to Avalon after they are too old warp into monsters.
  • The High Queen: Most of Avalon sees Lady Modron this way.
  • Hope Spot: They won the battle! They rescued the Lady and she healed Sekeu's wounds! The elves will fight with them! Everything is going peachy! And then Ulfger picks up his father's sword and helmet...
  • Human Mom Nonhuman Dad: Peter, though we don't know the identity of his father until the end. He's actually a child of the Horned One and Ulfger's half-brother.
  • I Lied: Peter says variations of this, like that his fingers were crossed.
  • Island of Mystery: Avalon.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: Nick realizes pretty early on that everyone wants the same thing, for the Flesh-Eaters to leave Avalon.This would be easy and take no more lives if the Lady would just lift the Mist, but everyone is horrified that he could even think such a thing.
  • Land of Faerie: Once the whole world, but now just the island of Avalon.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Lady Modron and Ginny Greenteeth. The former is all delicate, pale beauty, healing magic, with a healthy dose of damsel in distress. The latter in a sensual witch that seduces and then eats people.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Much like his father, Peter becomes the new hero of the Wild.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Peter. He deliberately targets desperate, lonely, abused children and makes them Child Soldiers who are completely loyal to him because Deviltree is theirs in a way nothing was back home. The Devils practically worship him instead of realizing that they're just cannon fodder in a war that has nothing to do with them.
  • Mystical White Hair: Lady Modron, the goddess who rules Avalon, has snow-white hair.
  • Na´ve Newcomer: All the New Blood. Peter deliberately keeps them in the dark until they become proper Devils.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Ginny Greenteeth.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Redbone.
  • Parental Abandonment: Part of Peter's backstory.
  • Parental Incest: The book opens with Cricket about to be molested or raped by her father.
  • Parental Neglect: A common backstory of the Devils.
  • Patricide: Leroy went with Peter because he'd killed his father... over a beer.
  • Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: The Captain is actually a very polite man. Peter and the Devils on the other hand...
  • Really 700 Years Old: All of the original inhabitants of Avalon, and Peter. Some of the Devils, namely Sekeu, might also fit this trope. Most of the other Devils are Older Than They Look.
  • Redheaded Hero: Peter. Sort of.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Modron's heart has been broken since she lost her son Mabon, and she does her best to replace him with Peter.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Abraham and Sekeu.
  • Sinister Minister: The Reverend, of the scare tactic variety.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Peter, who is part fae and has been eating the magic of Avalon for a couple thousand years. The oldest Devils who have been taking in Avalon's magic for the longest time also have golden eyes.
  • Team Mom: Sekeu, who is basically Peter's right hand. She isn't particularly nurturing, but she is fair and cares for the survival of Deviltree. The Devils respect her completely, look to her for direction, and know that any praise from her is high praise indeed. And something is very much lost when she dies.
  • Trapped in Another World: Peter is the only person who can safely travel through the Mist alone. Everyone else is stuck on Avalon.
  • Truly Single Parent: Avallach created Modron, Ginny, and The Horned One on his own.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Ulfger.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Nick delivers a couple speeches of this sort to Peter.
  • Woman in White: Lady Modron, the goddess who rules Avalon, wears nothing but white.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Time seems to work this way on Avalon, with no one knowing exactly knows exactly how much time is passing on Avalon, but in the real world the war has been going on for over three-hundred years.