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Tigerheart by Peter David
Review by Sam Lubell
Del Rey Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345501592
Date: 17 June 2008 List Price $22.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

There's something about Peter Pan, the boy who won't grow up, that still resonates today, over a century since the character was first introduced. In fact, we seem to be going through a Peter Pan boom with a 2003 live action movie, 2002 Disney sequel, and various book sequels and prequels, including an authorized sequel and a trilogy co-written by comedian Dave Barry. Add to this list, Peter David's Tigerheart: A Tale of the Anyplace, an all-ages novel about an original character who has new adventures with Peter and company.

In Tigerheart the Peter Pan characters have the barest of disguises – Peter Pan is referred to as The Boy, Wendy is Gwenny, Captain Hook is Captain Hack (who now has a sister Mary Slash), Tinker Bell the fairy is Fiddlefix the pixie, Neverland is Anyplace etc. All the old adventures still happened, so these are not really new characters. Allegedly this is done because Peter Pan is not the central character and "Peter Pan's monumental ego would certainly not allow a story to feature him as a supporting character," (although it is worth noting that he was a supporting character in his first appearance, in James Barrie's "The White Bird" and shares top billing with Wendy in "Peter and Wendy"). It would undoubtedly be rude to mention that there remains some question as to whether Peter Pan is in public domain and the hospital that had been given the copyright sued at least one writer of an unauthorized sequel.

Tigerheart is the story of Paul Dear, whose father routinely tells him stories about That Boy, so much that he wonders if he himself, isn't The Boy and is not surprised when his reflection starts talking to him and teaching him how to talk to animals. But when Paul's baby sister dies, his mother becomes distant and intolerant of imagination; she separates from his father and sends Paul to a doctor for his strange statements. Paul continues to dream of Anyplace where he has a snow tiger as a companion. Gradually, Paul decides to go to Anyplace and find a baby girl to bring to his mother, although the Boy in the mirror insists "Mothers betray you. Always." When he does find a way there, he is shocked to find That Boy and most of his Vagabonds, now renamed the Bully Boys have joined forces with the pirates, attacking his Indian allies and even firing on Gwenny and friends.

Paul, Fiddlefix, and Gwenny discover that the reason for That Boy's behavior is that the dead Captain Hack has taken control of That Boy's shadow and is using it to influence The Boy's actions. (Incidentally, this is similar to a major plot point in the earlier authorized sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet in which Hook uses his second-best coat to turn Peter Pan into a replica of himself.) After cutting the shadow from him (literally, since Wendy had sewed it back onto Peter Pan in the original "Peter and Wendy"), the Boy goes to seek allies in his fight against the pirates. But the Indians insist that The Boy and Paul first fight an animal that has been killing them which requires Paul to kill the white tiger that he had befriended in his dreams. For this deed, the Indians give Paul the name Tigerheart. Another complication comes when, after a pirate attack almost kills The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, he begins to show signs of doing just that. Fortunately, the author is able to wrap all the plot threads together, including an unexpected revelation about The Boy's family, in a way that provides a satisfactory conclusion while still leaving ample room for a sequel.

Surprisingly, The Boy does not really come across as an admirable figure, even after Hack's influence has been removed. He is arrogant, boastful, selfish, and more concerned with having fun than with doing the right thing. Moreover, the essence of his character is that he cannot change, because changing is growing up. The main character is really Paul, who does grow and change as a result of his adventures, most notably in his acceptance of his tiger's death.

So, is it an adult or children's book? Del Rey has packaged the book to look like an adult novel, with a cover and type size that does not signal children's book. The vocabulary and literary style – a pastiche of Barrie's narrative voice – are that of an adult novel as well. More to the point, the concept of growing up is key to the novel. At one point Gwenny asks Paul if you grow up all at once or just slowly and gradually realize you are sure of everything all the time, Then, after he earns the name Tigerheart, he tells Gwenny, "I think maybe it happens all at once." And while the exciting adventures of a boy who won't grow up are the stuff of children's tales, Tigerheart shows some of the consequences of being a boy who refuses to grow up, including forgetting much of what happens from day to day. I would classify the book as a YA novel that can be enjoyed by adults and even by advanced children (although they may miss some of the nuances.) Recommended.

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