Review of the Starcatchers Series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

The Starcatchers series, written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, includes Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, and The Bridge to Never Land. The books revolve around a mysterious substance called “starstuff”, a fantastically powerful material that transfigures everything it touches and bestows incredible power upon those who know how to use it. For thousands of years, batches of starstuff have fallen from the heavens to Earth, igniting a covert but desperate struggle between those who wish to protect its power and those who wish to wield it. For as long as starstuff has fallen to Earth, a secret organization of people who call themselves the Starcatchers have dedicated their lives to keeping the powerful starstuff out of the hands of the Others, untold evil forces that are both human and unearthly.

The dangerous struggle for control of Earth’s limited supply of starstuff throws Peter, a young orphan boy, and Molly Aster, the daughter of a prominent family of Starcatchers, together as they’re forced to defend themselves and their loved ones from greedy pirates, ruthless agents of the Others, and horrifying creatures of the shadows. Lives are changed forever as the fantastic power of the starstuff draws an unsuspecting Peter into a world he never knew existed, ensuring that both he and a certain island will never be the same again.

This series has been a favorite of mine for many years, and even as a teenager I like to return to the world of the Starcatchers every once in a while to revisit the story and characters. The books provide an amazingly imaginative origin story for Peter Pan‘s characters while at the same time weaving a new action-packed tale featuring lovable characters. The authors really made the familiar features of Peter Pan their own, and in every book they added another clue to leading to how events and characters of the play ended up the way we know them.

The books are all told in third-person point of view, switching between following the journeys of certain characters throughout each book. The chapters vary in length because of this, allowing the action to move along at varying paces as the authors switch between one character’s “point of view” to another. This technique does a great job of making the plot and tone feel more urgent in action scenes as the sections grow shorter and the narration moves swiftly from one aspect/view of an event to another happening simultaneously. This is also crucial to the layout of the books as each one (except the last book, The Bridge to Never Land) includes multiple plot lines taking place at the same time, though they usually converge at some point. There’s always a lot going on in this series, and it all ends up becoming connected by the end of each book.

What really stands out in this series are the characters. The authors do a wonderful job of making them come to life in colorful ways, both their original characters and those present in Peter Pan. Even the characters from the original play seem made anew, fitting seamlessly into the world the authors created. The writing is heartfelt and often funny, and the books always leave readers wanting to know more about what happened next. Following the journeys of the many different characters is an important part of what keeps readers interested, as well as the adventurous plots that the reader would never want to come to an end.

In addition to the books, a Tony-Award-winning play was also adapted from the original novel, Peter and the Starcatchers, titled almost the same– Peter and the Starcatcher. The play is unique in many ways– rather than using an elaborate set and special effects, it’s famously simple and uses an aesthetic designed to appear as if everything was sort of cobbled together out of found objects, such as from a shipwreck. Traditionally, a small cast of about a dozen actors plays nearly a hundred different roles, and the entire cast works together to act as narrators and to portray scenery. For example — the first half of the story takes place on a ship, and rather than using an enormous set piece, the play uses a few simple props to represent rooms and corridors, like stretching a rope in different ways to show a cramped room or a low crawlspace. It’s a little hard to describe, but the effect is amazing and truly unique. The play is heartfelt and extremely funny, and is a popular production for amateur theatre companies (especially high schools) to perform due to its versatility.

I would highly recommend the Starcatchers series, especially to young readers looking for their next fantasy adventure series.

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