May 20, 2008

Tigerheart by Peter David

Tigerheart is the story of a boy named Paul Dear – Paul was raised with his father’s stories of the Anyplace, where pixies and pirates and tigers roam free, and where The Boy of Legend rules supreme. His mother always regarded these stories with benevolent tolerance at best. But Paul’s life – indeed, his whole concept of the world – changes when an unexpected tragedy strikes his family. To make his mother happy again, Paul follows Fiddlefix the Pixie into the Anyplace, and so the greatest adventure of his life begins.

As you most likely realized by now, Tigerheart is a reinvention of Barrie’s classic, Peter Pan. It’s an intelligent, warm and humorous reinvention that is both immediately familiar and strikingly new. It manages to evoke a classic while being its own thing at the same time.

Characters that will ring a bell with a great number of readers include The Boy himself, the aforementioned Fiddlefix, a girl named Gweeny, The Vagabonds, and the dreaded Captain Hack, who has a hatchet for a hand, among others. And these changed names are more than just a whimsy. They signal a changed approach – the Anyplace is Neverland, and yet it is not Neverland. Peter David approaches the story of the boy who didn’t want to grow up from a unique angle.

Just recently, when posting about The Enchanted Castle, I mentioned that conversational and interventive narrators could either work really well or go horribly wrong for me. Tigerheart has one of those narrators, but fortunately it worked really, really well. The voice that tells this story, like the story itself, is reminiscent of Barrie’s, but is not quite Barrie’s. There’s more sarcasm, for starters. There’s also more humour – in fact, there were several passages that made me laugh out loud, something I don’t think had happened since I last read a Terry Pratchett book.

Tigerheart is a humorous and adventurous story, but it’s also more than that. It’s a story about loss and sorrow, courage and love, what it means to grow up – and this is where it distances itself from Barrie’s tale the most – the power of the imagination, and the things one shouldn’t give up.

In an interview at the end of the book, Peter David explains, among other things, how the process of retelling familiar stories is akin to the building of modern myths. It’s something we need, something we’ve always done and continue to do. I find this a particularly interesting idea, and Tigerheart is a perfect illustration of how characters that populate our collective imaginations can be used to tell a story that is both familiar and completely unique.

Other Blog Reviews:
Worlds of Wonder
(Got any more? Let me know and I'll add your link to this list)


  1. This sounds so good! Peter Pan has always been one of my favorite books and I've reread it so many times throughout my life. And I love retellings of classic stories. Glad this one went in the right direction. I didn't even know it existed...guess where it's going? That's right...straight on to the wishlist...thanks :/

  2. I've always loved Barrie's Peter and Wendy and enjoy retellings. I've got to put this one on my TBR now.

  3. You know, maybe I shouldn't say this, but I still can't quite decide if I'm enjoying Peter Pan or not. It sounds to me like I would actually like Tigerheart a lot more. Maybe the kids and I will have to read it next, if we ever finish Peter Pan, that is. :)

  4. This sounds interesting! I always did like Peter Pan. It would be fun to read a book that expands on the story.

  5. Sounds like an awesome book. I really enjoyed Peter Pan in Scarlet recently, the official sequel, and am hoping to check out some of the prequels that have been written. This sounds like another to add to my list.

  6. This sounds really good. I love Peter Pan! I'd never heard of this book, so I've put this on my list because I can tell that I'd like it. Thanks!

  7. Slightly off topic here - but Nymeth, you read like a maniac! How do you manage to finish so many books so fast?

  8. Chris: You're welcome :P It's a new book, which would explain why you hadn't heard of it. I really do think you'd enjoy it, especially because, like me, you're a fan of fun and adventurous but also meaningful stories.

    Jeane, I hope you enjoy it :)

    Debi, if you feel it, then of course you should say it! We can't all like every book, after all. This one would be enjoyable even for someone who didn't finish (or didn't at all read) Peter Pan, I think. It's very much it's own things, and all the information on Peter Pan you need to have to catch the references is part of popular culture anyway.

    Kim: It was lots of fun!

    Rhinoa: After reading this book I'm aching to read Peter Pan in Scarlet, yet a part of me tells me that I'd better make some progress on my challenges...see why I'm starting to feel pressured? :P It's silly, I know. I'll probably tell that part of me to shut up and read it in the next few weeks anyway.

    Robin: I do think you'll like it!

    Dark Orpheus: A combination of factors, which include having no social life whatsoever and neggleting all my other hobbies in the past few months :P I need to do something about that, actually. I miss video games, among other things. I'm also lucky to be a fast reader, so even if I don't have much time available some days I can still get a good amount of pages read.

  9. This sounds like a fun read - I love Peter Pan - and you've GOT to read Peter Pan in Scarlet!
    ...I'm working on the list - it's looking like it's gonna have to be more than a top five, I can't stop at five - maybe ten, maybe...

  10. Ken, I will. Probably very soon :P And I look forward to that list!

  11. could you tell me some more about the uniqueness of david's approach (without of course giving something away). is it to do with the context, the tone? or is it some things that are actually changed quite a lot.

    i'm a big fan of david's comics. i remember (about 15 years ago now) picking up some hulk comics. i was very dubious and just bought it 'cause it was cheap.

    i got hooked. it was amazing. and the whole time i followed the series i couldn't believe that all i was reading about was a guy who got big and green when he got angry.

    i also read super girl (this time 'cause of david) but again i was sceptical. and again i was pleasantly surprised.

    i was and still am super impressed with peter david. i really think he is the one man in comics who can truly write a story about anything and make it work.

  12. JP: Sorry, I should have explained this properly in the actual post. It doesn't give too much away, no.

    The tone is different too, but the main thing is that there's a different attitude towards growing up. You know how in Barrie's book Peter Pan sees growing up as this irretrievable loss? How there's the implication that you will never be as happy again as you were in your childhood? And you get the feeling that Barrie's sympathies are with Peter Pan when it comes to this?

    Well, in Tigerheart growing up is not seen as necessarily damaging. You don't have to give up your imagination and enthusiasm and sense of wonder and belief that the world is big and full of possibilities when you grow up. Sure, some adults do, but it's not inevitable. To grow up is to change, of course. But then, if you don't change, your life stagnates, and does anyone really want that? This is the main difference, and then there's a bunch of little differences that are a consequence of this.

    Peter David really is a gifted storyteller. Before this I'd only read some of his Babylon 5 novels, and I enjoyed those a lot too.


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