Tigerheart: One of the most charming novels I’ve ever read

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Peter David TigerheartTigerheart by Peter David

Whether you’ve read the original J.M. Barrie play or novel, seen the Disney film, eaten the peanut butter, or been exposed to any of the other countless adaptations out there, most people are probably familiar with the tale of Peter Pan and Neverland, and because of this familiarity, readers should be able to immediately connect with Peter David’s Tigerheart which is an homage to, an original retelling, and a sequel to the classic bedtime story.

As an homage, Tigerheart liberally borrows from J.M. Barrie’s classic including characters, places, and themes — names and certain elements have been changed such as The Boy instead of Peter Pan, Anyplace instead of Neverland, Captain Hack for Captain Hook, Vagabonds/Bully Boys in place of The Lost Boys, Fiddlefix for Tinker Bell, Gwenny instead of Wendy, Seirenes in place of mermaids, a sea serpent instead of a crocodile, and so on — and Peter David even goes so far as adopting the author’s fanciful narrative style, which is actually one of the book’s most endearing qualities, along with the novel’s ability to appeal to readers of all ages.

It is as an interpretation though where Tigerheart really shines, by telling a story that is fresh, imaginative and enchanting while retaining the whimsical nature and enduring spirit of the original. For starters, Paul Dear, or ‘Tigerheart’ as he will come to be known in the book, is really the star of the story instead of The Boy. What I like about Paul is that he’s like the anti-Peter Pan. Where The Boy is cocky, selfish, fearless, and wants to stay a boy forever, Paul wants to grow up, is modest, and cares more about others than himself. In fact, the whole reason Paul travels to Anyplace is not because of grand adventures and having fun, but because he wants to help his mom, and actually spends most of his time there sacrificing himself for others. Other interesting departures include Captain Slash (Captain Hack’s sister, a fellow pirate, and the novel’s main villain), Paul’s best friend, the snow tiger, Noplace, a wonderful subplot involving The Boy’s shadow, and The Boy’s parentage. Also of note is how certain ‘controversy’ was avoided in Peter David’s book compared to the original. In other words, there’s violence and one or two bad words in Tigerheart, it’s dark at times and deals with some adult issues, but the sexual innuendo has been toned down to virtually nothing and Peter keeps things politically correct.

More often than not, adaptations, reimaginings, or sequels rarely live up to the original, but in this case I have to say Peter David’s Tigerheart is even better than J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy. At least, I enjoyed reading Tigerheart more. In fact, Tigerheart is easily one of the most charming novels I’ve ever read and is an instant favorite — the kind of book you just want to read over and over again while sharing the wonderment with as many people as possible.

Tigerheart — (2008) Publisher: 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.

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ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

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