Peter David (as I noted in my review of Darkness of the Light is one of the most versatile storytellers in speculative fiction today; from his numerous Star Trek novels to his humorous Apropos series to his reinvention of the King Arthur myth to post-apocalyptic Vance-ian fantasy to writing nearly every major comics character (most notably The Incredible Hulk), and scripting Stephen King’s beloved Dark Tower saga for the comics, he clearly has done a lot. So, in Tigerheart, it should come as little surprise that David is tackling one of the most famous stories of all – Peter Pan. While the novel isn’t a straight away retelling of Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, it is rather a pastiche (in David’s own words). In the end, that is probably a wiser decision than a straight retelling of the same story.
The protagonist, Paul Dear, fits very comfortably in the mold of Peter Pan on many levels. He is a young boy who, feeling spurned by his mother and in an attempt to make her happy, journeys to a magical far-away land, here called the Anyplace. In David’s pastiche, the Boy (who is never named) actually plays second fiddle to Paul as young Master Dear has his adventures in the Anyplace in his search for a new sister to appease his despondent mother. Prior to the events of the novel, Paul’s baby sister inexplicably disappeared, leaving his mother heartbroken and ultimately destroying the Dear family. Paul’s father and mother separate leaving Paul alone with his dejected, grieving mother. The ultimate explanation for his sister’s disappearance (as told by his sister) hearkens to the original story of Peter Pan whereby children are birds’ spirits reborn who wish to fly. That is, Paul’s sister just escaped out of the window one day. What makes this, as well as many of the other elements of this type work so well is David’s ability to weave the original story into his own. It is a seamless rendering that works for those not intimately familiar with the original story while also providing something of an Easter egg to those who are familiar. David also turns some of the given elements of the Peter Pan story on their ears to great effect.
Along the way, Paul and Peter meet with a nasty adult pirate who happens to be missing a hand, as well as a young girl named Gwen, a fairy named Fiddlefix and a group of wayward boys known as the Vagabonds. Though these elements may be familiar by another name, David’s masking them allows him to play them against each other, and their own molds more subtly in this pastiche rather than if the novel were a straightaway retelling. I found David’s re-imagining of Captain Hook, particularly well played in specific, and the play on words for many of the other characters well played on the whole.
David’s narrative style in Tigerheart will likely have as much an effect on one’s enjoyment of the book as does the plot. The story is told to us through the voice of an omniscient narrator, who takes up just enough space in Tigerheart as a character himself. The narrator tells you the story in a very conversational manner and the most similar equivalent that comes to mind is the voice of Lemony Snicket. David’s voice in Tigerheart is prone to the same type of asides and warnings as Snicket, without the darkly cynical tone present in Snicket’s books. Like the Snicket books, this style and overall tone makes Tigerheart an enjoyable novel for both the younger crowd and adults.
The tone of the book and superfluous material (www.tigerheartbook.com) gives the feel of young adult, while the price tag $22.95 gives the impression of adult. I suppose that aspect is neither here nor there because the book appealed to me as an adult as well as the youthful part of me and I hope it will work well for all readers in the same capacity.
The novel is at times a comfortable read, which is only natural because of the explicit familiarity many people have with the Peter Pan story. One of the key elements of the Peter Pan story is its quality of timelessness, that it could happen Anytime. David is able to inject some modern sensibilities (his mother’s approach in dealing with Paul Dear’s ‘imaginary friend in the mirror’) while still making the book feel as if it could happen now or anytime. Admittedly, I am a fan of much of Peter David’s work so my opinion here may be slightly biased but I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Based on other novels I’ve read by David, the style here in Tigerheart is slightly different and perhaps a bit more formal. His authorial and conversational voice were pleasant and apt for the story itself. However, the tongue-in-cheek similarities to his Apropos series of novels is a pleasant reminder of David’s talents at varying methods of humor.
Tigerheart is an enjoyable novel I found very difficult to put down and recommend to readers of all ages. I’d love to see more from Mr. David in this vein and with this particular authorial voice.
© 2008 Rob H. Bedford