Friday, 6 June 2008

‘Tigerheart’ – Peter David (Del Rey)

I’ve never read ‘Peter Pan’, probably a combination of ‘I’ve seen the Disney film so I don’t need to read the book’ (I know, I know…) and the simple fact that there’s always been another book that I want to read first. I know how the story goes so I don’t think I’m missing out on too much, or am I? Anyway, even though I’ve never read the book there’s still something about Peter Pan and his adventures that sparks my imagination, possibly something to do with the fact that I would rather be off fighting pirates than sat at my desk. Well, wouldn’t you? Will all this in mind Peter David’s ‘Tigerheart’ seemed like a decent choice for my next read, nice and short as well so a good book for the commute to work!
On the front cover Terry Brooks describes ‘Tigerheart’ as a ‘clever re-imagining of the story of Peter Pan’ and, as such, I don’t really need to go into what that story is. I mean, we all know what happens don’t we… The story runs along the same lines as ‘Peter Pan’ just with a different character that has different reasons for travelling to Neverland… sorry, I meant ‘Anyplace’… This kind of thing is the very reason why anyone picking up this book should read the ‘Acknowledgements’ page first. I went through the whole book thinking, ‘this is just a pastiche of Peter Pan’, reading the acknowledgements I found out that this was Peter David’s intention the whole time… This certainly changed my opinion about what he was trying to do and whether or not he had succeeded. The other issue I had with ‘Tigerheart’ was that it didn’t seem sure whether it was a ‘Young Adult’ or ‘Adult’ book. I’m not saying that a book cannot be both but I think a little more focus one way, or the other, would have tightened things up and made it more readable. I found it unclear whether the asides, made by the narrator to the reader, were for adults or children’s ears. Maybe it’s a book designed for parents to read to their children; maybe it’s a book for teenagers on the cusp of adulthood or maybe it’s a little bit of everything. I just got the impression that it was trying to say too much all at once and missing out on the chance to really get its point across. This is a real shame as there’s a lot of stuff in the book that’s worth exploring in greater detail, in particular that tricky transition from childhood to becoming an adult. While there’s a lot of good things said, there are so many that it feels like the author is sitting on the fence and refusing to commit one way or the other. Maybe this was the author’s intention but it just left me wanting him to decide which side to come down on.
The story itself is as full of excitement as ‘Peter Pan’ ever was; a real swashbuckling tale of pirates, Indians, revenge and honour. The added notes of poignancy kept the story fresh and, to be fair, the narrative ‘asides’ fitted in well in terms of the homage that Peter David is paying to JM Barrie. I also liked the way that while everything is tied up by the end, there’s just enough left unfinished to give the reader a haunting sense of the world ‘beyond the book’.
‘Tigerheart’ is an enjoyable read but a frustrating one at the same time. Whilst it is certainly entertaining the author has a lot to say about a lot of things and it’s a shame that (at two hundred and ninety pages) he hasn’t given himself enough room to say it all in.

Seven out of Ten

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