Book: Peter Darling
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Publication date: February 15, 2017
Length: 140 pages
Reviewed by Erin
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.
I'll be totally honest with you, fairy tale retellings are usually not my thing. But between the absolutely stunning cover of Austin Chant's Peter Darling and the blurb to go along with it, I knew right away that this was one book I could not miss. A queer retelling of Peter Pan? Boy am I glad I didn't. I don't know if I've read a book that was quite this extraordinary in a very long time. Brilliantly imaginative with the most gorgeous, vibrant imagery and a story that while familiar was VERY different from the original, Peter Darling was one breathless surprise after another. Austin Chant is one of the most gifted writer's I've come across—his ability to weave a story that will catapult you to a world you can't even being to imagine is almost mind-blowing.
Though the world that Chant delivers his readers to is one that most will be familiar with—Hook, the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell, crocodiles and mermaids just to name a few—the differences make the story completely his own. There is a mystical, magical, ethereal vibe that is present from beginning to end that really just wowed me. I felt like I could SEE everything and HEAR the waterfalls and the clash of swords or the chittering of fairies. The fact that this is a story about Peter and Hook just made this all the more interesting to me. As a trans man writing about a trans character, I felt Chant's writing of Peter's inner thoughts and his memories were achingly realistic.
Peter Darling is a hard book to review for the simple reason that it's an experience that should be savored. I would absolutely hate to take any of the surprise away. Peter's journey from London to Neverland and back again is emotional, painful, and joyous in turns. His growth from a rather spoiled, devious and almost cruel child to the person who loves and adores James Hook is remarkable. There are moments of gender dysphoria that brought tears to my eyes for the pain and confusion and fear that Peter goes through. As Peter begins to understand the true meaning of Neverland and what he must do to return home ... well, you'll just have to read to see just how magnificent it all is. Peter grows and learns and as he realizes and accepts his feelings for Hook, my heart just warmed me all over.
James grimaced, which was difficult, because his face was mostly numb. "Don't pretend to be concerned," he snapped. "If you really wanted to help, you'd stop making this accursed storm so I could find him without freezing to death."
The queen's laughter was a terrible, discordant clanging that set his teeth on edge. "Oh, James," she said. "It's his storm."
James opened his mouth, then shut it.
"I see," he said at length. "I should have known."
He felt blank. He'd truly thought it was Neverland or the fae or some malicious force of nature trying to wash him into the sea, trying to keep him away from Peter.
But it had been Peter—Peter trying to keep him away, or just raging against the world, thoughtless of what he might be doing to James.
"Haven't you ever noticed that the sun comes out when he smiles?" the queen said. "It's another thing he wished for when he was a boy."
James laughed raggedly. "And all I wished for was a pirate crew."
"He is a far bolder storyteller than you."
This is a beautiful story of love and acceptance. It's a journey, sometimes brutal and sometimes soft and tender. Hook ... man I just loved him. Like A LOT. From his clothes to his speech to his teasing of Peter, he's just fabulous. The Lost Boys, Ernest in particular were such an integral part of the story and let's not forget Miss Tinkerbell and the rest of the fairies, too. All of them have a place. There are lessons to be learned while reading Peter Darling. Don't miss this one people, it's truly magical.
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