For readers of Bill Willingham’s comic book series, Fables, Peter & Max is a welcome, albeit different, spin-off. This novel, illustrated in black and white by Steve Leiahola, tells the fascinating story of sibling rivalry between Peter (of pickled pepper and pumpkin-eater fame) and Max (the Pied Piper of Hamelin). As children in the enchanted world of Hesse, the younger Peter inherits his father’s magic-infused flute, embittering the elder son, Max. After tragedy strikes their family, Peter and Max are separated from their families and each other. In the subsequent years, Peter struggles to survive and to find his loved ones, while Max’s bitterness turns to a rage which leads him down a path of evil as he plots Peter’s destruction.
While readers familiar with the world of Fables will better understand the world from which Peter and Max come, non-Fables fans will not be left in the dark. Most readers will be able to fully enjoy the storyline that Willingham weaves since the characters and parts of the plotline are pulled from popular fairy tales. Initially, Peter & Max moves a little slowly to set the stage for those unfamiliar with Fables; however, after the introductory matter, it’s a dark, action-packed saga that fits perfectly into the Fables mythology, but can also stand on its own. I recommend this book to fans of fairytale-based fantasy and Fables fans (of course).