After reading Peter David’s most excellent novella Tigerheart, I was feeling a soft spot towards Peter Pan stories. So the reason I picked up Peter and the Starcatchers was threefold: it was sitting on a “staff recommended” shelf at the book store, I was feeling fond of Neverland, and Dave Barry writes such a great news paper column that I figured his fantasy would have to be great.
Peter and the Starcatchers is kind of a Peter Pan Prequel (mmm, alliteration), the first in an ongoing series. It follows the story of a group of young orphans who get sent off on a ship that will take them to live in the employ of an evil prince. Their voyage does not go as planned, however, and through the course of the story we find out just how the ordinary boy Peter becomes the legend that can fly and defy pirates. We also meet Captain Hook’s precursor and discover the events through which he came to be plagued by a crocodile.
This book is definitely a kids book; I think a child between 8 and 12 would really love it. Sadly, it doesn’t live up to the “timeless tale” measure, like Tigerheart did. I chomped the book down on a flight home from Memphis, all in one sitting, but I really only kept reading it because I had nothing better to do. The story was fun and it was a creative and interesting take on Peter Pan, but there was no real substance to it. At times the narrative aaaaalmost took on a self-aware tone and injected a bit of humor… but in the end it fell short and missed the mark.
Peter and the Starcatchers is a good book for youths and young adults, but lacks the punch or depth to make it appeal to all audiences. If you pick it up looking for Dave Barry’s usual wit and humor, I fear you will be disappointed.