My reasons for disliking this book may be slightly personal. That said, I wouldn't write off this review entirely. I do have quite a bit to say about it.
I think its a childhood fear. The fear of being mistrusted, your judgement questioned. When you're a kid, particularly a smart kid, you pick up pretty quickly that adults are hiding things from you. That when you know something and they don't it doesn't really matter because you're the smaller one, and the bigger one is always right. This is what makes it so hard for me to read stories like this, where a character's own sanity, even his status as a human being is put in to question. Its something that you can't defend with anything but your word and its funny how willing people are to throw that away when they've decided they're through with you. It's why I hated reading The Crucible in high school, and why this season of American Horror Story is particularly chilling (actually, gaslighting is totally a theme in AHS, so its pretty much the show all around). The idea of my word being denied is terrifying to me and part of that has to do with being a woman of color, of which there is only one in this book and she dies relatively early.
And so because it is a fear stemmed from childhood, I suppose that's why its so intrinsic to this novel. The major conflicts are built on one misunderstanding or miscommunication or another, and exacerbated by people seeing their enemies where and when they want to. To disastrous results, not surprisingly. Everybody dies. Literally, rocks fall. From multiple directions. That didn't make it any easier for me to read though.
The Child Thief is in third person omniscient, which generally I think I don't have a problem with, except the past couple of times I've read books with that POV, I haven't liked it. Here, I think the focus is spread too thin and we're never given a chance to really entrench ourselves in a character. Nick is the closest thing the book has to a classic protagonist, he is the reader's cipher. For me though, he was too much of a stereotypical young boy - headstrong, a tad self-righteous (he's totally self-righteous what am I talking about), with a bit of smarts. As a 26-year-old woman, I couldn't find anything in there to relate to. Not to mention, considering the fact that he just found himself on fucking Avalon, he was seriously lacking in awe. I mean, I get that the island is not what it used to be, and mostly he was just scared, but I would have liked Brom to have incorporated something misty-eyed, something to make us love the setting and want to fight for it.
That point of view was supposed to mostly come through Peter, who loves the island dearly. Or he thinks he does, because personally I think he hates men-kind a lot more. I wanted to like him, but the kid is wild, his emotions are so over-the-top that its just really hard to feel grounded with him. You could also see his mistakes plain as day, and it was hard to see him as totally sympathetic, or to get behind his mission, when he's done such horrible things just because it was fun.
The other points of view we get are briefly from one of the other kids, Cricket for the opening chapter I'm guessing because she's the last of the Devils other than Peter to survive, but otherwise that opening was mostly pointless, aside from establishing mood. Then there's Ulfger basically vomit inducing, the fact that there was someone on the island who was full blown insane when it counted turned my frustration into a headache, and The Captain, the one genuine guy on this damn boat. You know, aside from the whole killing kids and sticking their heads on pikes thing. Or forget it, everybody sucks here.
I also felt a little duped by this. When I first picked this up, based on the description and the cover, I was expecting more urban fantasy, maybe magic realism. This is actually more like high fantasy, with modern elements. There's a considerable amount of mythology and background, some obscure terminology, and even some walking. I don't do high fantasy, not unless its really damn good. I may be slightly bitter about that.
On the plus side, there is a lot of great action. The plot and pacing is very tight and quick, there is no loose end left untied. And if you're into go and body parts going flying then that's here too, but there isn't much art or even horror behind it. The illustrations are also beautiful, I'm glad at the very least that I picked this up from the library so that I could at least handle it and appreciate that aspect of it (even if its shaped like goddamn textbook).
But this is bleak. Nobody wins in this story. I think in some places I heard this describe as YA, and I'd have to respectfully disagree. Not because of how dark this is, the gore or the tragedy. But because its not a coming of age story, in fact its the exact opposite. After everything, Peter stays the way he is, a perpetual child, carefree and murderous. I see what Brom was going for, and in many ways this is probably the only way to make an honest take on Peter Pan, a story that shows the wrong doing and valor on both sides of the conflict, while maintaining the inherent nature of Peter and the Lost Boys. But I think I could have probably lived my life without it.