Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Book Review: Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (Peter and the Starcatchers #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun background to a favorite character
Cons: A bit choppy with too short chapters at the end
The Bottom Line:
Peter Pan begins
All the elements are here
Fun adventure yarn

Fun Prequel to Peter Pan Filled with Fun and Adventure

I have always loved Peter Pan.  There's something about the character and the story that still appeals to me.  So Peter and the Starcatchers was always on my radar.  I finally got a chance to read it, and I'm not too surprised to say that I enjoyed it.

Peter is an orphan living in the late 1800's in London.  One day, he and four friends are put on a ship heading for a strange country.  When they arrive, they are to serve an unpleasant king, a king who executes all those who displease him.  And the voyage there will be unpleasant with gross "food" and cramped quarters.

On the ship, Peter meets Molly, a girl about his own age.  She is hiding a secret involving a giant chest that was brought on board at the last moment.  A chest that has attracted the attention of the dread pirate Black Stache.  What is the secret of the chest?  Can the children protect it from those seeking it?

Now, I should confess I am mostly familiar with the story from the various movie versions.  I've never actually read the original play/novel.  (Heck, I'm not even sure which the correct first version is.)  That might color my perception of the novel some.

It took me about 20 pages to get into the book, but after that I was hooked.  The story moves forward at a brisk pace with lots of chases and close calls.  I had a hard time putting it down.

And the novel just flew by.  At 451 pages, this isn't some a light, fast novel.  But it read very quickly.  Okay, I'm sure part of that was the short chapters.  And part of it is the fact that this is aimed at older elementary school students and I'm an adult.  Still, I was surprised as just how quickly I was able to get through it.

The story is told from multiple view points.  Most of the time, we stick with one character per chapter, although occasionally we switch view point characters within the same scene, a habit of lazy writing.  Most of the time, these view point switches compel the story, making us aware of what everyone is doing to help build the tension.  It did get overbearing in the final third of the novel, however.  The chapters became so short as they were attempting to move everyone into place for the climax that I felt very little was actually happening.  Frankly, this is my only complaint with the novel, and it's a minor one.

By the time this book is over, everything from the Peter Pan legend is in place.  I think one thing I got a kick out of is seeing how everything came together.

Now, as much as I love Peter Pan, I must admit he is a bit of a jerk and show off, especially in the Disney movie.  I was very glad to see that wasn't the case here.  In fact, he was a very real character with plenty of courage and compassion.  The ending really moved me as a result.  Black Stache and Smee were very well done as well.  I could almost here them from the various movies.  Molly is really the only other character to be fully developed.  Even the other orphans don't get much more than caricature.  But they work for moving the plot along, and we get to know them well enough to care about the outcome.

Considering everything is in place for the familiar tale, I'm a little curious how the authors expanded things in the later books.  But you can bet I will find out.  Peter and the Starcatchers is a great fantasy book that kids, boys especially, will enjoy.

Check out more of the Peter and the Starcatchers book in order.

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