Author: Peter David
Themes: responsibility, friendship, family, growing up, courage, magic, belief
Plot: For all readers who have ever lent an enthusiastic ear to a wonderfully well told tale, or tumbled gladly into pages that oculd transport them anywhere, now comes novelist Peter David's enchanting new work of fantasy. action-packed and suspenseful, heart-tugging and wise, it weaves a spell both hauntingly familiar and utterly irresistible for those who have ever surrendered themselves to flights of fancy and have whispered in their hearts "I believe."
Paul Dear is a good and clever boy, doted on by a father who fills his son's head with tall tales, thrilling legends, and talk of fairy-folk, and by a mother who indulges these fantastic stories and tempers them with common sense. But Paul is special in ways that even his adoring parents could never have imagined. For by day, in London's Kensington Gardens, he walks and talks with pixies and sprites and other magical creatures that dwell among the living-but are unseen by most. And at night in his room, a boy much like himself, yet not, beckons to Paul from the mirror to come adventuring. It's a happy life for Paul, made all the more so by the birth of his baby sister.
But everything changes when tragedy strikes, and Paul concludes that there's only one course of action he can take to dispel the darkness and make things right again. And like countless heroes before him, he knows he must risk everything to save the day.
Thus begins a quest that will lead Paul down the city's bustling streets, to a curio shop where a magical ally awaits him and launches him into the starry skies, bound for a realm where anything is possible. Far from home, he will run with fierce Indian warriors, cross swords with fearsome pirates, befriend a magnificent white tiger, and soar beside an extraordinary, ageless boy who reigns in a boundless world of imagination.
Brimming with the sly humor and breathless excitement of a traditional Victorian bedtime story, deftly embroidered with its own unique wisdom and wonder, Tigerheart is a hymn to childhood's happiness and heartbreak, a meditation on the love, courage, sacrifice, and faith that shape us and define our lives, and a splendidly rendered modern fable-for readers of any age-that brilliantly proves itself a worthy brother to the timeless classic that serves as its inspiration.
My Thoughts: Tigerheart was infinitely more impressive than I suspected it would be, but also somewhat disappointing. As implied by the rather long plot synopsis on the flaps, a family tragedy forces young Paul Dear to become a hero and fly far far away to find a boy who never ages in order to right his family that now seems so terribly wrong. Paul speaks in a clear and innocent voice, his courage and morality shine through even as he is medicated by psychologists and punished by his mother.
Part of Tigerheart's appeal, as well as its mystery, is its effective timelessness. Yes, psychologists (doctors with pills for visions) exist. I believe cars are mentioned. Yet the London Paul lives in is timeless, it evokes Victoriana and times long gone. One pictures Paul in sweaters and knee socks, and his mother in long bustling gowns with her hair up in a chignon. Paul Dear cannot be placed in any sort of linear time, but he is definitely in London. Much like the Anyplace, Paul Dear lives in a sort of timelessness where one grows old and dies.
The clever asides and amusing narrative style seems as though it will grow tiresome, yet never does. They give the book an air of storytelling, and seems to imagine itself being read aloud-despite its length and lack of illustrations. While I had feared this witting interruptions would ruin the story, they are well placed and rather add to the mystery and adventure instead of detracting and becoming rather passe.
While I do not wish to giveaway any of the plotline, I do believe that Tigerheart contains all of the elements of a classic children's story while maintaining a rather modern voice. It has family, responsibility, adventure, betrayal, and hard work at its backbone-while magic and the Anyplace provides enough spice to make it fantastical. I have emphasized the book's strengths: it's timelessness, it's narrative style, and its emphasis on adventure and personal growth. However, I was also disappointed with Tigerheart because I felt it could do so much more. It was such an enjoyable read that I felt it could have been improved by more. It is indeed the story of Paul Dear, not of The Boy, but it could have been expanded into a longer narrative and still maintained its grip on readers. I suppose it's a testament to the greatness of a novel, when one's only complaint is that there was not more of it!
Random Passage: "And so Captain Slash kept talking to them. She cajoled and complained and convinced; and whether it took longer or shorter than it did to convince Fiddlefix to cooperate, again we cannot tell. Know, though, that Captain Slash had something of a silver tongue, coated by Satan himself, and thus could eventually talk almost anyone into doing almost anything (pp. 171-172)."
Recommendation: I would highly recommend this novel to any lover of children's literature, as well as any Peter Pan fan. I do think the asides may be off-putting for many an adult reader, as well as the less dedicated young reader, but just as many will embrace the narrative style.
Similar Reads: Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
David, Peter. Tigerheart. New York: Ballantine Books, 2008.