Review: Peter Darling by Austin Chant

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Published: 15 February 2017

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Category: Fantasy/Romance/Retellings/LGBT (MM)

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.

Rating: 4 Stars

Wow. This book had way more feels than I thought it was going to. I was a bit of a mess while reading it, I’m not afraid to admit.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever read the original Peter Pan story, so most of my knowledge of such is from various Peter Pan films, especially the Disney film from 1953. Even with that in mind, I was able to get into this easily because this is a sequel of sorts, but also a retelling that bends the original to fit with the material. It’s got an air of darkness that, from what I’ve heard, the original book by J.M. Barrie began. That darkness, plus the emotional turmoil and plot events that Austin Chant gives us, made for a great novel that I enjoyed even as it was making me cry, kick-and-scream, and mourn.

The story begins when Peter is returning to Neverland having grown up a bit. He’s now 19/20 years old and doesn’t remember what happened in the mean time, as evidenced by people asking him, Tinker Bell asking him what he remembers, and his making up stories about what he expects happened. I think this is an effect that Neverland has on people that enter it i.e. the longer you’re there, the more you forget. That would have been sad enough, but then Peter starts to remember.

The moments when Peter is remembering his past were particularly heart wrenching. Whenever one started, I felt a drop in my stomach because none of these memories were happy. Even supposedly fun times with his brothers John and Michael were tainted because they were tied to his identity as Wendy.

A new character introduced, Ernest, was a character that had a lot of strength in him, but didn’t want to use it to overpower. He felt like a parental figure that wants to let his children figure things out, and is then supremely disappointed when they make the wrong decision. He worked so hard to make Neverland a place of peace in Peter’s absence and while it may not have been as viciously “fun” as it once was, it was a safer place for the Lost Boys. Peter’s return and subsequent influence over the Lost Boys felt like an utter defeat for Ernest and I really felt for him when things kept happening that undid his hard work.

The WORST thing about finding Ernest to be such a great character was that it’s revealed by Hook, during a time when he and Peter are trapped in a cave, that the pirates and the Lost Boys (with the exception of Ernest) are all figments of his and Peter’s imaginations, meant to fight in their war but having no life of their own. Peter didn’t remember this and was fighting the war upon his return as a real war, while Hook thought he knew the truth the whole time. The reveal was up there as one of the worst moments I had with this book because I didn’t see it coming and the aftermath didn’t have any healing factors.

I found Hook much more sympathetic as a character. He committed a few dastardly deeds, of course, but so did Pan upon his return. At one point in the story, following both of them killing significant members of the other’s crew, they’re trapped together (in the same cave as the aforementioned horrible moment) and Pan admits, rather forlornly, that “Neverland’s different. It’s not  I like it was when I was a boy. It’s not – fun anymore.”

Hook’s reply really struck me:

“That’s the trick of growing up. Nothing stays the same.”

It’s a sad fact, but entirely true. The magic of our childhood changes over time and not always for the better. The illusion of Santa, the magic of visiting of an amusement park with our favorite Disney characters. The specialness, the fun, adult eyes don’t see them the same way and that makes me incredibly sad, better able to empathize with Pan in regards to returning to a place he once saw with different eyes.

The ending was both happy and sad. The romance was something I hadn’t really thought about, so it came from out of nowhere: Peter and Hook. In this iteration Pan and Hook found love together and it felt real and angsty. The sadness came from Hook’s realization that whatever they had of their real lives, whatever memories they had that might be important (for him, memories of the real Samuel, a pirate he’d created as a lover in Neverland) would vanish if they remained there. In the end he and Peter left Neverland and, while they were able to return to Hook’s cottage in the real world and will most likely be able to live their lives there, it’s sad because Peter found the most comfort of his life in Neverland. I wish they could have remained in there and lived out their happiness there rather than return to the harsh reality of the real world.

I would highly recommend this book, even if you’ve never read Peter Pan before. This was a fantastic book with more than a few emotional passages within and a story that meant a lot to me. I hope it does to each reader that picks it up.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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