Peter Darling | Stand-Alone | ISBN 9781620049587 | Less Than Three Press, 2017 | 5 out of 5 Points
Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.
But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.
Goddamn this was a good book.
Which is why this review is going to be a lot shorter than usual – this is such a great book, but it’s also very short and packed with plot, so if I tell you guys too much about it, I might spoil the book for you, and I just really don’t want to do that. I hope I’ll be able to give you a bit of a feeling for the book with this review, but in the end I really only can ask you to go and read it so you can understand why I am so absolutely ecstatic about it.
CHILDHOOD DREAMS OF SHELTER
This is the second time in a row that I’m reviewing an adaption of a childhood classic, but where “Dorothy Must Die” left me with more question than answers, “Peter Darling” answered questions that I would never even have thought to ask. The book leaves you in the dark at first, with only the slightest of hints as to what is going on, just as Peter is leaving himself in the dark, and the reader gets to learn about his painful past while Peter himself is remembering it. It’s not the newest literary device there is, but it is extremely well done here. You can see throughout the pages how Peter’s bluster is leaving him, how he starts to doubt his persona, the person he always thought he was.
This book is about the journey from trying to be somebody you aren’t, but who you would love to be, to loving the person who you are, without letting other people dictate who that person is. Peter is not the only person going through this transformation in “Peter Darling”; the book also gives us a completely new, absolutely fascinating view of Hook, as a dreamer who got lost in a dream, and who needs Peter, a boy beyond saving himself, to save him.
Everything familiar about Neverland gets just a tiny bit of a spin in this book, not enough to become unfamiliar, but enough to make it ever so slightly more strange. Fairies become insect-like, mermaids become more monstrous, imagination becomes power becomes destruction. We get to see Neverland from Peter’s view and from Hook’s view, and just like everybody who comes to Neverland uses a different path, we see how Neverland means different things for different people, but it always seems to be a refuge, a place of safety in an adverse world. Whether they want to pay the price of this safety is one of the key questions the main characters of “Peter Darling” have to figure out.
PETER DARLING AND JAMES HOOK
I guess the idea of an adult Peter Pan is not new, and neither is the idea of a Neverland that isn’t quite what it appears to be. But by weaving these elements together with the LGBT+ themes of this book, Austen Chant has created a beautiful tale of identity and longing. I just really loved the characters so much, especially Hook, who has so much personality and so much backstory and so much everything in this book, and his shifting relationship with Peter was just fascinating. There are just some tropes that I love so much, and the ‘two mortal enemies have to work together to get out of a crisis’ is definitely one of them. And the way their relationship progresses later is so incredibly well-written and so fun to read that I just couldn’t get enough of it. I’ve been having fanfiction ideas in my head ever since I finished this book, honestly.
I also really, really liked Chant’s interpretation of fairies. I don’t think little people fairies with little dragonfly wings are boring or anything, and I love all kinds of classical fairies (I’ve got a whole shelf full of fairy figures), but the idea of having insect-like fairies is just so good that I couldn’t help but want to read more about them. I just really want to know everything about the fairy queen to be honest.
The only criticism I have is that “Peter Darling” is a very short novel. I mean, it doesn’t feel as if anything important has been left out, the length of the book fits the story perfectly, but when I finished I still wanted more, and I know that that is the sign of a really good story, but that’s not really helping the fact that I just want more of this and I want it now. Fingers crossed for a little domestic sequel novella, right?
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