REVIEW: Peter Darling by Austin Chant
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.
Dear Austin Chant,
I love fairy tale retellings, whether they contain gay romance or not, but in order to increase my chances of enjoying the retelling I have to love the original. I always was torn about original “Peter Pan”. I thought the story was brilliant, but I felt so bad for Peter and lost boys, stuck in the land of dreams, that I only reread it once, a long time ago. I did watch the movie and I also saw the play couple years ago, but the book is not one of my “comfort rereads”. I wanted Peter to grow up even thought I understood that he was supposed to be happier in Neverland as a leader of his crew.
Imagine my surprise when I noticed your book while browsing the newer m/m offerings. Nobody at the Amazon m/m discussion board (my first go to resource of information) seemed to know your work, so I glanced at a couple of reviews. The reviews were not very helpful (“everything is awesome!” from a reviewer whose tastes I do not know rarely sways me), but I was intrigued by the story and decided to take a dive.
As the blurb states, in this story Peter left Neverland after his first voyage there in order to try living his life as Wendy Darling. Of course such a life only made him more miserable than he was before, and back to Neverland he comes with the help of faithful Tink. While it is unclear how many years have passed since he went back home, Peter is no longer a child, he is now a young man. I don’t know if we are supposed to think he’s older than 18 since the word “youth” is used at least one to describe him, but no matter how old he is, what’s important is that time has indeed passed.
When Peter gets back to Neverland, he has to deal with changes, both with the Lost Boys who have also grown up and with a new leader named Ernest. The Lost Boys do not fight with pirates anymore, but that’s all Peter wants to do: go back to the state of war with James Hook.
The blurb tells you that Peter is attracted to Hook, so I don’t consider it a spoiler to reveal that their rivalry eventually becomes a romance. I thought it was very sweet and well written; despite them realizing their real feelings just now, they had known each other for a long time in Neverland so I did not feel that their courtship was too fast.
Now, was I completely happy with the whole story? Not really. I really liked the writing, but I thought a certain plot point was revealed too early and the intrigue fizzled out for me. I mean, it is not a spoiler for anybody that Neverland is a land of dreams, right? However what exactly is happening with *this* version of Neverland is a spoiler and I will treat it as such. For the first half of the story I felt like everything was hidden in the mist, like fairy dust was all over the story. Then the reality was revealed and I was just disappointed that it was revealed so early.
I am not trying to evaluate a story that was not on the page, but as I said before what *was* revealed made me feel as if there was nothing else to look forward to aside from the romance itself, since I did not doubt they would get together.
Here is a little writing sample for you – it is very near the end of the story, and as I said, the romance between them is not a spoiler, but I hope the happy ending is not a spoiler either.
“Peter tested the strength of the next branch.”I won’t hurt myself,” he called back, dragging himself up to the next intersection and stretching a hand toward the nearest apple. “I’m the spirit of youth and joy, remember?” “You’re a grown man and a nuisance.”
“I’m your nuisance,” Peter said, and then paused, embarrassed with himself and glad that he was too high up for James to see it. James fell into an equally awkward silence until Peter began tossing crabapples at him. When he had thrown down what seemed like plenty of fruit for the two of them, Peter began an incautious descent, sliding down through the branches and scraping his palms on the rough bark. He misjudged the height of the last drop and hit the ground a little hard, tripping into James, who dropped an armful of apples to catch him. “Thanks,” Peter said, grinning.”
Grade : B-
Huh. This sounds really neat.
And the cover is amazing.
I’m going to pretend that Peter is definitely eighteen and buy it.
@Kingly: I hope the book will work for you. Please consider coming back and letting me know what you thought?
It took me a minute to realise that the blurb was telling me that Peter had lived as Wendy – I was wondering where the trans character mentioned in the tags was, and duh, staring me in the summary! It’s a fascinating interpretation of Neverland, and I’m definitely adding this to my to read list.
@Mina Kelly: It was a very interesting interpretation I completely agree. Fingers crossed the book will be enjoyable reading experience for you.
Hah – it’s not often that I hear of an mm book before you do, Sirius.
Ive read Coffee Boy by Austin Chant – it was recommended on a trans romance thread somewhere. Its a contemp mm novella about an office romance. It’s cute – I enjoyed it. But Peter Darling is much more ambitious.
I really enjoyed this one. I also had some problems with the pacing.
I think that Peter is definitely 18 or older, although I can’t look it up to confirm that right now. But I think I remember that Peter returned after 10 years and Hook says something about Peter having been 10 y o before so I’m going with him being 20.
I thought the portrayal of Peter’s life being forced to be Wendy was heartbreaking. And it made Neverland work for me in a completely new way.
@cleo: I think it is awesome when another reader tells me about the new book :). Yeah I thought Peter was around that age too.