Title: Peter Darling (2017)
Author: Austin Chant
Publisher: Less Than Three
Expect: New Adult, Trans MC, M/M Romance, Visible Disability
Rating: ★★★½ and ★★★★
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.
Now, THIS is how you properly release a retelling out into the world
This is a hard review to write because I greatly enjoyed this book and want to shove it into the hands over everyone I know and love (because it is so good OMG IT IS SO GOOD READ IT. If you haven’t read it, forget my critique and read it now… then come back). However, I would be remiss if I didn’t give it a critical onceover.
The beginning was muddled and the action was at times rushed. The first half of Peter Darling also relied heavily on reader’s prior knowledge of the story of Peter Pan. I’m gonna be honest, I remember the bare bones of the original story— das it. I’ve encountered two versions– Hook with Robin Williams and that Broadway production with Mary Martin (which I thought was the only/original FOR THE LONGEST TIME). That being said, I know about a few of the world basics and the common sayings tossed around like hotcakes like… “second star to the right and straight on till morning” or… well, that’s it actually but nothing concrete, y’know? So, while it was cool noticing some commonalities between this story and the original tale, I couldn’t help feeling that I might have been missing out on some inside jokes. This, of course, gave me a bit of a disconnect with the text, and it was kind of hard to get into it for a while.
That is… until I rolled into the second half of the book where Chant seems to snatch this world and turn it into his own. The second half definitely stood on its own and was filled with purpose. It was able to be more than the tale of olde and picked up into the world Chant imagined for his characters. Honestly, I wished the entire book could capture this tone because I was literally on the edge of my bed the entire time waiting to see what twists and turns were coming next. Once you break out of the familiarity of plot, you begin to experience Chant being a total genius at his craft. The way Neverland was built in this story goes far beyond anything I could have ever hoped for. I fell so in love with the world that I really didn’t want to leave it behind.
Our two MCs were the B E S T
I’m going to try to talk about the characters (as much as I can without giving anything away) because they are what kept me going throughout the story and the one thing I couldn’t stop gushing to my carpool buddy on our drive to work (how do I still have friends?). They were so multi-faceted and OMG give Austin Chant ALL OF THE AWARDS RIGHT NOW!
First, Peter Pan. This isn’t the Peter from your childhood. Okay, that’s a lie. This is EXACTLY the Peter from your childhood, but you get to see him from a different POV. You get to experience how his overzealous “Must Kill the Pirates” acts affected those around him from the Lost Boys to the band of pirates themselves. And as the story progresses, you get to know why he’s been acting this way.
There is never a coming out moment for Peter (you can read more about why Chant decided not to include that here), but there are glimpses of his life during the ten years of his return from Neverland that help to further establish the motives behind his actions in both Neverland and in the present-day world. Beware, though, there is a lot of misgendering and dead-naming these flashbacks.
AND HOOK! My God. My Most Precious Person. I want to grovel at Chant’s feet for fleshing out my baddy in the way he did. I’ve always had a thing for Hook. Perhaps he is where my dreams of being a pirate really began. Hook has always been one of the flashier villains (#same), and Chant made sure to ham that up with his eye for fashion and need to dress to impress at all times. Looking for treasure? Better put on that fancy coat? Standing at the helm of the ship wondering if Peter is coming to fight today? Better wear the hat with the giant ass feather and the boots with the shiny buckles. Hook was my precious babe, and I will never love another.
The dynamic between Peter and Hook was beautiful; and their relationship shifting from mortal enemies to reluctant
friends allies to holyshitdoIfuckinglikelikethisdude??! was my fave. I just [/sobs] OTP for life, tbh. Of course, it’s important to note that while there is a romance a-brewin’, that isn’t the heart of this story. I promise. There is way more stabbing and self-realization than face-sucking. (So. Many. Swordfights.)
An interesting concept that needed more pages
I thought the story’s logic was a bit flawed and could have done with some expansion. It was an A+ concept, I just wish it was carried all the way through. This was the same problem I had with Every Heart a Doorway. The story takes on an interesting storyline (A+ concept, tbh!) and it’s unique and I want to know everything about it, but it isn’t fully fleshed out or explored within the book which leaves a lot to speculation. Basically, I just want more. So much more.
I AM SO CONFLICTED! Does the story has flaws? Sure… But literally every story does. According to my own star rating, this should be a 3.5…. BUT IT IS FOUR STARS IN MY HEART. So, I’m giving it both. Fite me.
P.S. If you have an #ownvoices review of this awesome work (or know of one), please let me know! I’d love to read and boost it here.