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Peter and the Shadow Thieves    by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson order for
Peter and the Shadow Thieves
by Dave Barry
Order:  USA  Can
Brilliance Audio, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Peter Pan is back in another exciting adventure set in dark Victorian London. This transpires years before the boy-who-never-grew-up befriended Wendy. Several months after the events of Peter and the Starcatchers, listeners hear Peter enjoying the lush living on Neverland, a magical island almost beyond the reach of humankind. When not playing with the other orphan boys, Peter can often be found antagonizing the shipwrecked pirates, especially Blackstache, the mean and nasty brigand who lost his hand to the giant alligator - with Peter's help.

When a ship visits the island, the dark and mysterious Lord Omvra kidnaps the daughter of Fighting Prawn, chief of the Mollusk tribe. Omvra gives the daughter back upon discovering that the starstuff he seeks is back in London at the Astor home. Realizing that his dear friend Molly is in danger, Peter steals away on Omvra's ship with the help of the jealous but dedicated Tinkerbell. Peter arrives in London, but now must find Molly in the giant city - with no friends and no way of knowing how to proceed.

Barry and Pearson surpass their debut novel this time, fleshing out the characters and background, as well as adding new elements to the series. Where the first story left readers with questions, this episode provides much better direction. George Darling, Wendy's father to be, is introduced into this book as a rival of sorts to Peter for Molly's affection. The humor (presumably Barry's influence) appears more tangible than in the first book. Side comments, quick lines, and subtle jokes permeate the text, interspersing smiles with sincere interest. In one bemusing scene, Peter is saved from Artful Dodger-like street urchins by a small man named J. M. Barrie (the original author of Peter Pan).

The tale's strength lies in Peter's adventures. He gallivants through London, learning to balance his cockiness with skills and humility. If one takes the time to read the original Peter Pan or even watch one of the many films based on the book, it's plain to see that while the story is filled with adventure and excitement, it has an inconsequential element to it, telling of an adventurous boy and his escapades on a magical island. Barry and Pearson cast Peter into an epic battle of good versus evil, that makes his exploits against Hook seem rather trivial.

Jim Dale - a name known throughout the audiobook world - delivers an enjoyable performance, but not without its flaws. His voice of Peter fluctuates and doesn't always coordinate well with the text. Though at times, the voice does correlate to Peter, at others the tone is too mature. However, Dale does supremely well narrating the story. His intensity in action scenes keeps listeners in awe, just as much as his soft gentle whisper when Peter is snooping about.

There are many reasons to listen to this audiobook. It offers a great spin on a classic character, a fantastic narrator, an amusing tone, and an overall great story. Whether this series becomes as classic as Gregory Maguire's Wicked story, remains to be seen, but Barry and Pearson's efforts are of the same caliber.

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