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Literature / Peter and the Starcatchers

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The Peter and the Starcatchers saga, written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, is a series of fantasy novels; starting out as prequels to Sir J.M Barrie's Peter Pan, but gradually deviating from its plot. The series contains four books:

  • Peter and the Starcatchers
  • Peter and the Shadow Thieves
  • Peter and the Secret of Rundoon
  • Peter and the Sword of Mercy

There are also three significantly shorter spinoff novels about The Lost Boys and Fighting Prawn's younger daughter: Escape from the Carnivale, Cave of the Dark Wind, and Blood Tide. A new series in the same universe of Peter and the Starcatchers begins with the book The Bridge to Neverland.

Peter And The Starcatcher is a play based on the novel.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Prologue: Sword of Mercy opens with a battle between Charlemagne and Ogier the Dane. Receives a Call-Back at the end of the novel with one between Peter and Hook.
  • Adaptational Personality Change: Black Stache aka Captain Hook is a filthy, unwashed thug with a Hook Hand, a far cry from Barrie's Gentleman Pirate obsessed with "good form."
  • Always Save the Girl: Every time the villains organize a Hostage for MacGuffin.
  • Androcles' Lion: The mermaids side with Peter after he heals their leader with some starstuff.
  • Bad Boss: In the very first scene with Black Stache, we see him tying up his two fattest sailors and marooning them in a dory, just to make the ship lighter. (They survive.)
  • Big Bad: Lord Ombra.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Peter, in the first book, when Slank has a knife to Molly's throat.
  • Bungling Inventor: Uncle Neville in The Sword of Mercy.
  • Burning the Ships: In the first act of the first book, the pirate Black Stache dumps most of his water overboard so that the only way his men can avoid dying of thirst is by fully committing themselves to chasing and catching the ship Stache is after and taking its water.
  • Canon Character All Along: Molly eventually grows up to become Mrs. Darling.
  • Catch a Falling Star: Peter catches Wendy in the fourth book.
  • Changeling Fantasy: The common orphan boy Peter turns out to have a very extraordinary family history.
  • Character Filibuster: Chapter 20 of the first book, "Molly's Story", is one of these.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: The Return of the starstuff at the climax of Shadow Thieves takes place here. More specifically, Stonehenge.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Black Stache. Smee is quite surprised to hear that he's planning to take the Wasp in a fair fight.
  • Creator Cameo: J.M. Barrie and his Saint Bernard Porthos make a short appearance in Shadow Thieves when he helps Peter and gives him directions to Molly's house.
  • Dark Is Evil: Ombra is a textbook case.
  • Dressed to Plunder: Played just as straight as in the original Peter Pan. Nerezza even turns the Artificial Limbs up a notch with an intimidating wooden nose.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Lord Ombra, later revealed to be one of many.
  • Embarrassing Rescue: The heroes rescuing Hook from Rundoon in the third book.
  • Empty Promise: Peter finds himself making these to the other boys quite often.
  • Enemy Mine: Shining Pearl and the pirates in the third book.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: It's mentioned that Black Stache only ever loved his mother, and felt bad about that time he marooned her.
  • Evil Gloating: Slank to Molly in the first book.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Slank is never seen or mentioned after running away from a pack of wolves in the second book's climax (although Captain Nezerra, who fled with him, does reappear).
  • False Reassurance: King Zarboff. See You Said You Would Let Them Go.
  • Familial Foe: Lord Ombra is opposed by four different generations (not all of them consecutive) of Peter Pan's allies, the Asters.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Hook in The Sword of Mercy when he and his crew leave the island for the first time in twenty years. The first thing they do is attempt to attack a steam ship, only to realize that it can crush their wooden sailing ship without even noticing.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Lord Ombra's masters, revealed to be the very forces of darkness and entropy with the goal to destroy the entire universe.
  • Green Rocks: Starstuff can do just about anything. For starters, it can make things fly, change peoples' moods, heal wounds, extend life, and transform ordinary animals into mythological creatures. And it's hinted that it has other powers as well; Molly comments that the Greek gods were actually humans using starstuff, and it's hard to imagine their reputation came from long lives and flight alone.
  • Gunship Rescue: In Secret of Rundoon, George and the orphan boys pilot a flying boat to attack King Zarboff's palace just before the rocket launch.
  • Heroic Willpower: Used by Peter to resist Ombra taking him over.
  • Hook Hand: Captain Hook. (Obviously.)
  • Hostage for MacGuffin:
    • In the first book, Slank takes Molly hostage and demands the trunk of starstuff in return.
    • In the second book:
      • Ombra and his crew capture Shining Pearl for the same reason. The Molluscs don't have the starstuff, though, so they end up using her to guarantee safe passage back to their ship.
      • The Others kidnap Louise Astor and hold her ransom for the starstuff.
    • In the fourth book:
      • von Schaffen captures Tinker Bell and holds her hostage to swap with Peter.
      • Shining Pearl is once again used as leverage to get the starstuff from Fighting Prawn.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Lord Ombra is one of these. He's a shadowy creature that moves like liquid, hates the light, and can control people's shadows. He is also a member of a species from the darkness before the universe, and he wants to restore it to that state.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the book titles, prior to the spinoff, start with "Peter and the".
  • I Have Your Wife: Used to set up a Hostage for MacGuffin in the second book.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like... / Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: In the first book, the Shell Islanders have a good laugh over Alf's name. "Alf" is their word for "squid poop".
  • Just Between You and Me: This happens pretty much every time The Others capture one of the good guys. In the third book, Ombra admits he just wants to see Leonard's reaction once he knows what's really going on.
  • Karmic Death: King Zarboff gets eaten by his own snake, Kundalini.
  • Living Shadow: A major plot point from Shadow Thieves-onwards.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Glotz, the evil scientist who devises a plan to force large quantities of starstuff to fall. He knows that if it is successful, it will ultimately destroy the entire universe, but he will be content in his knowledge, just before it happens, that his theory was right.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Peter and Molly, since he ends up eternally young while she ultimately grows up.
  • Men of Sherwood:
    • In the first book, Captain Scott and the crew of the Wasp are brave, intelligent, and skilled in fighting the pirates. They probably could have inflicted serious damage if Scott hadn't surrendered early to avoid a massacre.
    • Fighting Prawn and his Mollusk Tribe are stealthy, strong, cunning fighters who are only ever at a disadvantage due to superior numbers or I Have Your Wife hostage situations. Even when they're taken prisoner in The Secret of Rundoon, they launch an effective Slave Revolt.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: When Molly is talking to the porpoises, she keeps telling them her teeth are green when she means hello. She eventually figures out the mistake, but by then the porpoises have made a joke out of it.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Lord Ombra, which is Italian for "shadow".
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Commonly used.
    And then it erupted from him, a string of oaths so vile that Peter reached out to cover Tink's tiny ears.
  • Never Grew Up: Peter ends up with eternal youth as a result of the starstuff.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: The island that becomes Never Land is home to Mr. Grin, an enormous crocodile who was friendly until he developed a taste for human flesh as a result of being tormented by a group of English sailors; the native Mollusk tribe nearly has to kill him until they decide they can use him to dispose of future unwanted visitors. And naturally, he ends up eating Black Stache's severed hand.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: The attitude of the Starcatchers towards starstuff; their efforts are concentrated on sending it back where it came from every time some of it falls to earth. It's eventually revealed that they have far worse to fear than mere men getting their hands on it...
  • No One Gets Left Behind
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Book 2 reveals that after Slank and Little Richard were sent back out to sea by the mermaids, Slank was forced to kill and eat Little Richard in order to survive long enough to get back to land.
  • The Noseless: Nerezza lost his nose in a battle and wears a fake one over the hole, which he removes whenever he wants to smell something. The larger aperture seems to have enhanced his sense of smell.
  • Not Even Human: Ombra.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The series begins with Peter and the other boys leaving one of these to board the Never Land.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: They evolved from fish in the lagoon on the coast of what became Never Land, courtesy of exposure to starstuff, and it takes a while - when Slank and Little Richard first meet them, their teeth are more like sharks' teeth. By the time Peter meets one, her teeth are fully human.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Leonard Aster is part of an Ancient Order of Protectors, and shows a lot of bravery and quick thinking against both The Others and Captain Hook. Still, his accomplishments generally pale next to Peter and Molly's Kid Hero accomplishments, especially once Peter gets the power to fly.
  • Phlebotinum-Handling Equipment: The only way to safely handle starstuff is wearing an entire suit of gold clothing. This is also why the Starcatchers keep their personal stock in pure gold lockets.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • At the beginning of the second book, Lord Ombra has his henchmen release their hostage (one of Fighting Prawn's daughters) once they've retreated to their boats. This is the only time in the series where a villain actually intends to keep their word to release a hostage once the heroes meet their demands.
    • In Sword of Mercy, Cheeky O'Neal yells for his fellow henchmen to join him in sliding on a log to escape a lava flow rather than abandoning them.
    • Cave of The Dark Wind. When Hook sends two men to steal a goat for him, he's so excited at the thought of something new in his diet that he promises to share the meat with them. Smee views this as an unprecedented act of generosity from Hook.
    • In Blood Tide, after a mermaid saves Hook from drowning, he's touched by the gesture and responds appropriately.
    [H]e spoke two words that he had never-not once-uttered or even thought of uttering. Two words that to him sounded almost like a foreign language. But they were the two most honest words he'd ever spoken. "Thank you," he said.
  • Power Glows: Starstuff. It's practically nothing but glow.
  • Running Gag: You know that whenever Peter translates Tinker Bell's speech for someone, that's not what she said...
  • Scary Black Man: African Mook Lieutenant Cheeky O'Neal once ripped a man's hair out by the roots, helps hold children hostage, and threatens to throw his men into a volcano when they take a break from tossing vegetation into it for a smoke signal.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Happens in the Back Story of Cave of The Dark Wind. A cursed treasure aboard a Spanish galleon makes everyone who looks at it except a cabin boy go blind. The men who spent less time looking at the treasure and get their sight back promptly flee in the two longboats, not wanting to risk being blinded again. Only one of the longboats makes it to land.
  • Stealth Pun: In the third book, George and the orphans steal a ship, which later ends up flying after being inundated with starstuff. The name of the vessel is De Vliegen, which means "the flies" in Dutch. In other words, it's a flying Dutchman.
  • Sustained Misunderstanding: A standard gag between Smee and the Cap'n. Tubby Ted gets in on it too:
    Tubby Ted: But we need them for our scurvy!
    Prentiss: We don't have scurvy, you twit.
    Tubby Ted: Then why do we have the figs?
    James: They're for the monkeys.
    Tubby Ted: The monkeys have scurvy?
  • Tactful Translation: Peter's translations for Tinker Bell, most of the time.
  • Take a Third Option: Black Stache, torn between chasing after Astor and taking the trunk or calling his bluff and pursuing the Wasp, decides to take a third option: he tosses his British Navy prisoner overboard. Predictably, Astor turns around to rescue the drowning sailor, coming close enough to the Sea Devil for Black Stache to harpoon his dory.
  • They Called Me Mad!: Dr. Glotz cackles this in his first appearance.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Wendy's Uncle Neville has built an ornithopter, which after a rocky first test is able to fly reasonably well. Wendy steals it and uses it to fly to Never-Land.
  • Trilogy Creep: Originally the book started as a trilogy, and then came Sword of Mercy, acting as a full fledged prequel to the events of Peter Pan.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: The first work can actually stand by itself, acting as an introduction with the major plot points (of that book) more or less resolved. Around Shadow Thieves, the series starts to blend together into a bigger story arc. However, it went back to a relative trilogy with Sword of Mercy which itself is a relative standalone story.
  • Unobtanium: The starstuff is seen as this by the Others. The Starcatchers believe it to be too dangerous to actually use, except in very small amounts in emergencies, and spend most of their efforts to send it back into space so it can't be used.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Shining Pearl's plan to attack the Scorpions.
  • The Watson: Peter. There's a whole chapter where Molly goes on a Character Filibuster to tell him all about starstuff and the history of the Starcatchers, and another bit where Fighting Prawn explains Mr. Grin's origin story to him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The two pirates who are taken aboard the Neverland in the first book, Preston and Harbuckle, disappear after they reveal the news of Black Stache's plans to attack the Wasp. Likewise, Slank completely disappears from the story after Shadow Thieves despite being a major antagonist in the first few books.
  • Whip of Dominance: Little Richard uses a whip to keep his lower-ranked crewmates and the boys they're taking to become royal slaves in another country in line in book 1.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: At first, Slank planned to kill Little Richard for this reason. But by the time he actually does it, it's for a different reason.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: In the third book, after Peter locates the starstuff. Zarboff decides to feed the boys to the snake anyway — he only promised that if Peter didn't do as he was instructed, he would feed them to the snake. He didn't say anything about not feeding them to the snake if he did follow the instructions.