Author: Peter David
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel
Why did we read this book: We were offered review copies of Tigerheart, and when we saw that this was a retelling of J.M. Barrie’s classic, Peter Pan (one of Ana’s all time favorites), we could not refuse. I am a fan of Peter David’s comics (most recently I have read his adaptations of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower) and was excited to read his written prose in a ‘traditional’, original novel. Plus, look at that stunning cover.
Summary: (from RandomHouse.com)
For all readers who have ever lent an enthusiastic ear to a wonderfully well told tale, or tumbled gladly into pages that could transport them anywhere, now comes novelist Peter David’s enchanting new work of fantasy. Action-packed and suspenseful, heart-tugging and wise, it weaves a spell both hauntingly familiar and utterly irresistible for those who have ever surrendered themselves to flights of fancy, and have whispered in their hearts, “I believe.”
Paul Dear is a good and clever boy, doted on by a father who fills his son’s head with tall tales, thrilling legends, and talk of fairy-folk, and by a mother who indulges these fantastic stories and tempers them with common sense. But Paul is special in ways that even his adoring parents could never have imagined. For by day, in London’s Kensington Gardens, he walks and talks with the pixies and sprites and other magical creatures that dwell among the living–but are unseen by most. And at night in his room, a boy much like himself, yet not, beckons to Paul from the mirror to come adventuring. It’s a happy life for Paul, made all the more so by the birth of his baby sister.
But everything changes when tragedy strikes, and Paul concludes that there’s only one course of action he can take to dispel the darkness and make things right again. And like countless heroes before him, he knows that he must risk everything to save the day.
Thus begins a quest that will lead Paul down the city’s bustling streets, to a curio shop where a magical ally awaits him, and launches him into the starry skies, bound for a realm where anything is possible. Far from home, he will run with fierce Indian warriors, cross swords with fearsome pirates, befriend a magnificent white tiger, and soar beside an extraordinary, ageless boy who reigns in a boundless world of imagination.
Brimming with the sly humor and breathless excitement of a traditional Victorian bedtime story, deftly embroidered with its own unique wisdom and wonder, Tigerheart is a hymn to childhood’s happiness and heartbreak, a meditation on the love, courage, sacrifice, and faith that shape us and define our lives, and a splendidly rendered modern fable–for readers of any age–that brilliantly proves itself a worthy brother to the timeless classic that serve as its inspiration.
Thea: As I said above in listing why we read this book, I was very excited to see how Peter David’s writing in a prose novel would turn out. And, I am very pleased to announce that this novel certainly stacks up to my high expectations! Tigerheart is a book I would have loved as a young child–it doesn’t pander or condescend, but rather chooses to address children as the intelligent, brave creatures they are, and brings Peter Pan to life for a new generation of courageous adventurers. I quite enjoyed the spin Mr. David put on the classic tale, changing details and names. At first, I admit I was wary that this would be a straight-forward rehash of Peter Pan, just with slightly different names (i.e. The Boy for Peter Pan, Anyplace for Neverland, Captain Hack for Captain Hook, etc.). However, Peter David manages to do more than just update nomenclature; he takes the inspiration of J.M. Barrie’s work, and weaves a new, original tale that is decidedly his own.
Ana: I started out Tigerheart with a mixture of excitement and wariness . Excitement because Peter Pan is one of my favorite novels and Peter Pan himself one of my favorite characters. Wariness for the very same reason – what if things went in a direction I would not like? After all, I take Peter Pan so seriously. Like Thea, I was concerned that this would be simply a rehash of Barrie’s story. But I needed not worry. The book may share the world and some of the characters with the original Peter Pan but it departs from it in a completely fresh direction. Peter David gives a new spin to a much beloved tale with a captivating narrative voice that in my opinion both children and adults will love.
On the Plot
Paul Dear is a young, imaginative boy. Every night his father feeds that great imagination by telling him stories of Anyplace and The Boy who rules there–stories of swashbuckling evil pirates, of Indian braves, of wild animals and fairies and creatures, where danger and adventure lurks at every turn. Paul’s mother watches on with a smile, and jokingly chides her husband for filling Paul’s head with these silly stories. All is well and happy in the Dear household, which is just about to get a family member larger. After Paul’s mother gives birth to a his new baby sister, Paul is curious, and ecstatic with this new peculiar little girl.
But then, one day his baby sister doesn’t wake up, and Paul’s home starts to fall apart. Paul is convinced his mother has undergone some kind of strange transformation that has replaced her old personality with a completely new one–she is always sad, and never pays attention to Paul, except to tell him he must stop being so silly with his childish stories and games. She and his father fight, and father tells Paul that he must look after his mother now, since he is leaving. Paul becomes convinced that the only way to fix his mother is to bring home a new baby sister–and so he finds a way to journey to the Anyplace to find one.
Here is where Paul’s adventure begins. The Anyplace is going through trouble of its own–Fiddlefix, The Boy’s loyal if somewhat mischievous pixie friend, has been killed by none other than The Boy himself! The Boy has taken to pacing the Skull and Bones pirate ship, and commands a crew of Bully Boys who pillage and fight, and are intent on killing Indians and anyone who gets in their way. And who might be behind this mischief, one might ask? Well, there is a strange old woman who is behind The Boy’s shoulder at every turn, whispering encouragements and sweet blandishments to his ear. And there is the peculiar matter of The Boy’s shadow, which has taken the shape of the dead, dread pirate Captain Hack.
Paul, aided by Fiddlefix (who he discovered mummified in a thrift store back in England), flies to the Anyplace and comes across a helter-skelter scene, with The Boy trying to kill his own Vagabonds and Mother-Wife Gwenny. Paul must bravely fight to save the Boy, the Anyplace, and to return home to his family with his new baby sister.
Thea: I absolutely loved the plot of this novel, and easily this is where Tigerheart wins me over. For most of the book, I had absolutely zero idea as to where the story was going, or what Peter David’s ‘message’ would be (the Dreaded Message that many YA books are intent on hammering in). Every step of Paul’s adventure had me riveted, excited to see what would happen next. Paul’s journey actually mimics a type of Hero’s Journey. He accepts his call to adventure, and travels to the Anyplace in order to find his boon–his new baby sister–to bestow on his mother, for the happiness of his torn family.
Tigerheart deals with some serious issues, but at the heart of the story it is a book about Growing Up. Paul’s self-discovery, the fate of his childhood, his understanding of The Boy and Anyplace resonates even after the book is finished. I was very impressed that EVERYTHING came together at the end: the many observations that Paul sort of, almost looks like The Boy from certain angles (and no, the reason is not what you are thinking); the finality of the infamous Captain Hack; the resolution to Paul’s long journey and his procurement of a new baby sister. This doesn’t even include the multiple stories along the way, or the colorful cast of characters Peter David introduces us to. In particular, the most touching, poignant plot seed is when Paul gains his Picca name, Tigerheart.
It’s also worth noting that the story is told by a third party, who frequently interjects the narrative with messages addressed to the reader. While I appreciated the concept and the lighter tone this gives the book, at times I felt the frequent interruptions and foreshadowing disrupted the overall flow of the story and felt that some of the asides were unnecessary. However, keeping in mind that this book is written for a younger target audience, I believe the narrator’s voice and constant ‘presence’ in the story is something that younger readers will revel in. Tigerheart is a story that was made to be read aloud to a full classroom, or to a child getting tucked in at night before bed–with voices and sound effects, naturally.
Ana: I agree with Thea that the plot is where this book won me over. It has an unusual and endearing start with Paul Dear debating with himself about The Boy’s identity, that sets a whimsical and peculiar tone for the story; very much like the original Peter Pan novel, which serves as not only inspiration but also donates the background for Paul’s story.
Tigerheart is a book about growing up (or not) and about adventure, which are the very ethos of the original Peter Pan; but even though these aspects are present in both books, Tigerheart distances itself from its source of inspiration because ultimately, Paul’s story is also a story about a boy that loves his mother so much he would go anywhere and do anything to make her happy.
And this journey of his will take him to the Anyplace of his dreams where he participates in the current events taking place over there whilst trying to follow his own path and fulfill his objective of getting a baby sister for his mother. A lot happens before he is able to do so but as Thea says, everything comes together beautifully in the end.
Throughout the book I kept wondering where the story was going and for a moment there, I thought I had pinned down what was going to happen but I am extremely happy to say that I was completely off the mark. I thought Peter David managed to keep the oddly eccentric feel that Peter Pan had whereas at the same time adding his own flavor with the direction he took Paul. That is a great achievement, in my books.
I also really liked the way the narrative was interrupted so that the narrator could address the reader directly. To me that was part of the fun.
And fun is one of the keywords here: I had a lot of it reading the book with a few laugh out loud moments. I loved those small quirky details like how Paul finds the Fiddlefix MUMMIFIED in a curio’s shop in London.
But it also needs to be said that there are darker plotlines and some very heartbreaking ( which were at the same time, heartwarming – yeah, crazy I know) moments like for example, when it becomes clear why the book is called Tigerheart. That was particularly awesome.
On the Characters
Thea: While I felt the plotting of this book was superb, I felt the characters were a bit spotty. Paul Dear is wonderfully drawn out as the protagonist; we are privy to his thoughts and we come to understand Paul intimately. Initially, his observations are charmingly creative–his perception of his mother’s ‘transformation’, for example–but as the book progresses and Paul grows emotionally, his perceptions and observations become unguardedly precise, in the way only a child confronted with a harsh truth can be.
Paul shrugged…He chucked a thumb in the general direction of outside, indicating The Boy in a broad manner. “Do you think he ever wonders about such things?”
“No. He doesn’t care. That’s the joy of being him.”
“I’m not sure if it’s so joyful,” said Paul, “or whether it’s very, very sad.” He paused and then said, “What do you want to be? When you grow up, I mean?”
Her eyebrows knitted. “A teacher, I think. Or perhaps a social worker. Maybe even a psychiatrist. Specializing in dream therapy…Wouldn’t that be appropriate? Plus a mother, of course, with three children…two girls and one boy. Although, you know, a sports star might be nice. I do fancy skating. And dancing–I so love to dance.” She paused. “Bother, you’d think I’d have it sorted out by now. What about you? What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Paul thought about it and then said, “Myself.”
The other characters, however, had some uneven moments. I loved that The Boy was completely selfish, cocky, forgetful and brash–he IS The Boy after all–and his self-assured behavior is all part of his charm. The glimpses we get of The Boy past his bravado are also wonderful–when he gives Paul (partial) credit for his bravery on the hunt, for example. But there were a few passages where he monologues about the horrors of adulthood that felt heavy handed and out of place. In one passage, Paul tries to convince The Boy that growing up is not such a bad thing, and The Boy relates a story about how he one day in the Real World he saw children of different ethnicities playing without a care in the world. Then, their parents came along and told their children they were not to play with the others because of their different skin colors and/or beliefs. While the message is admirable, there is something to be said for subtlety, and this seemed odd coming from The Boy. As a character that revels in adventure and hunts, who can hardly remember anything that has happened longer than a day prior, this sudden, somber discourse didn’t sit right. Of course, this is just my opinion–and to be fair, it is a wise message to present in a book made for a younger generation.
Besides Paul and The Boy, the other star of this book is Captain Slash, sister to the late Captain Hack. I loved the introduction of a wicked female pirate leader, her complete devotion to her brother’s legacy, and her wily cunning. While Captain Hack’s schemes seemed to rely on brute force, Captain Slash brings a more subtle, conniving approach to the demise of The Boy. Truly, a worthy villain.
The remaining secondary cast from Fiddlefix to Princess Picca were widely varied and wonderfully imaginative. I loved the vivid depiction of the Sirens and their treacherous ways, just as I loved the Indians and the Pirate crew. Peter David manages to incorporate little touches that add lustre to even the smallest character mentioned en passant. One such example is the names of the Indian braves, based on the first thing a mother would see outside her wigwam after giving birth–we meet Pouring Rain and Dog Licking Self.
Ana: Even though the book is stocked full of well-known characters that most readers will recognize (even with all the re-naming), this is Paul’s story.
A boy that sets off as any young boy, who wants to have fun and to have adventures and never grow up. So much so that he even suspects that he himself might be The Boy of legend. But then reality bites and he has to face the fact that he MUST grow up and he willingly accepts that.
In that point, the book is absolutely fantastic – by making Paul in the beginning, almost like a replica of The Boy and some of their first interactions are so much fun because of that – two boys playing adventures and quests.
But ultimately Paul must follow a path that The Boy himself simply refuses to follow: thus becoming the very opposite of The Boy. In that sense, I can not help but to expand the thought that all boys are in their youth like The Boy – the archetype of Eternal Youth but all must at one point say goodbye to The Boy and become The Man.
As for the character of The Boy himself. Well, this is the point where I had a few problems with the book. It was impossible for me, to distance The Boy from Peter Pan and because of that, some things that came out of his mouth sounded completely off and not like anything Peter Pan would say. Some of his adulthood speeches sounded almost preachy and did not work for me at all. He sounded way too adult-ish.
BUT and this is a huge but, to be fair with the author there is one brilliant idea that he puts forward in the end of the book which helped me coping with this version of The Boy – and this is exactly what it is, a version:
“There has always been pirates in the Anyplace. There has always been a Boy, and his cohorts, in the Anyplace. The names change. The circumstances of how they got there and who they might be are constantly in flux. But heroes and villains remain heroes and villains, for such will always be needed to be in conflict with each other. Suffice to say that The Boy and Captains Hack and Slash were merely the latest occupants of roles in the Great Scheme of Things that long predated their arrival in the Anyplace and will continue long after their departure, whenever and however that might be”
Which leads me to believe that perhaps that was his intention – that this incarnation of Peter Pan is a slightly more grown up one.
*Ana’s internal voice A.K.A. The Girl: ‘Ana, must you bore us all to death? Why can’t you just say that the book is fun and awesome, full of adventure and quirky details and that Paul is a dear and that you want to play mother-wife to The Boy and be done with it? Come on, it is sunny outside, let’s go punting in the river Cam …….’*
Ahem. As I was saying before being so rudely interrupted.
I may be reading too much into it but I loved the idea that Anyplace or Neverland , The Boy or Peter Pan are archetypical ideas that pertain to all of us.
And yes, the book is fun. Captain Slash is a worthy addition to the list of Villains and the Indians’ naming manner was a complete hoot.
Final Observations, Recommendation and Rating
Thea: Tigerheart is a lush, beautiful dark fantasy novel that will appeal to young adult readers, as well as to some adults. More than just a retelling of Peter Pan, Mr. David has managed to create a whole new world with Tigerheart, and it is one I am happy to have visited. I plan on giving this book to my 8 year old sister, in hopes that she too can experience the wonder of the Anyplace on her own adventures with Paul Dear and The Boy.
Ana:Tigerheart is brilliant: it has humour, it has adventure with wicked fighting scenes that had my grown-up heart thudding like crazy. Anyplace can be a place as dangerous as Neverland and the story does not shy away from the more darker aspects (death, motherless children, the Noplace that was such a sad place) . I had some problems with some aspects of The Boy only because it was hard for me to distance myself from the image of Peter Pan. In any case, I recommend Tigerheart wholeheartedly.
Thea: I loved the interchanges between Paul and The Boy:
The Boy once again had his sword at the ready. Noticing the gesture, the snow tiger turned to face the threat that The Boy represented. “He’s a killer, Paul. A man-eater. However…there may be another way. A way that will not involve killing him.”
“No, not truly. I am tricking you, for I am grandnephew of Loki and cannot help myself. The truth is that his death will be a brave and magnificent one at my hands, but die he must. There’s nothing else for it.”
“Shut up, Boy!”
Ana: There are moments where Peter David captures more than perfectly the aura of the original Peter Pan and The Lost Boys and how they were all about adventures and quests and blend it with Paul’s own story. Like this one: Paul had recently arrived at Anyplace and had pretty much saved the day. Everyone was sitting around him asking him to tell how he got there in the first place, which he does. Then he reaches the moment where he had met them and he starts to cut off the story because well, everybody had been there and knew what had happened but oh, how they love a good story, they wanted to hear that too!
And so with a shrug, Paul continued until he arrived at their taking shelter within the cave. At which point Porthos, like a large eager puppy, prompted yet again. “And what next? What happened next?”
“well, I ….don’t rightly now”, Paul said.
This drew the Boy forward a bit, so that his silhouette was visible in the darkness. “What sort of story is that?” he said. “it doesn’t have a proper ending at all. Not even a ‘they lived happily ever after’”
“But the story is not complete”, Paul tried to explain. Even as he did so, he was seeing that as a poor excuse for an incomplete story. The other boys quickly confirmed that, imploring him to stop holding back and please, oh please, tell them everything that happened next.”
Thea: Peter Pan is a well known and often retold story in many different formats–from the beloved Disney cartoon, to the more recent motion picture Finding Neverland. My personal favorite has to be the 1991 feature film, Hook.
I was a wee 8 year old myself when I first saw Hook, and lost my heart to Neverland. Perusing online comments and reviews for the movie, I see that it might be some kind of hideous faux pas by admitting that I love this film, but oh well–there you have it. I loved the spin on Peter Pan, with Peter Banning all grown up with children of his own, becoming a pirate in his own right by turning into a too-busy-for-you-kids litigator. And I don’t care what anyone says, Dustin Hoffman’s Captain James T. Hook is brilliant. And…I still have a little crush on RU-FI-O! RU-FI-O! RU! FI! OHhhhhh!
Ana: I adore the 2003 version of Peter Pan, which I thought was very faithful to the original. I love the boy that plays Peter.
Also, recently I read and reviewed Peter Pan in Scarlet , the official sequel to Peter Pan. I highly recommend it too!
Thea: 7 Very Good
Ana: 7 Very Good
Reading Next: Through the Veil by Shiloh Walker
STAY TUNED AS NEXT WEEK WE’LL FEATURE OUR FIRST EVER POWERPUFF TRIPLE REVIEW, WITH KATIE (aka Blossum) OF RAMBLINGS ON ROMANCE!