Wendy Darling by A.C. Wise is a great fantasy novel digging deeper into Neverland, trying to get to the whys and hows and falling into the dark depth of a world of innocence lost.
I have read and seen a huge amount of works based of Peter Pan. While I will admit not liking the character very much – he was always such an entitled, bossy and selfish thing, I never could like him, I always loved the idea and his world. The premise of never growing up is amazing and raises a fantastic set of possibilities.
I have read works on how Peter ended up in Neverland, others about what he truly is, stories imagining what led him to seek Wendy, others that focused on how he became an enemy of Captain Hook, and of course I enjoyed the fairytale reinterpretation in the TV series One Upon a Time. And this mock follow up novel delivers nicely.
The book is very much focused on Wendy, who no one believed and ended in an asylum. She is all grown, married and with a scientifically-minded daughter… and Peter comes back, way too late, and obviously takes the daughter.
There is a lot of good in this book, the emotions truly felt genuine. I loved that the hero is a mum. Maybe because I am a mum and it’s nice to see people with a history and worries and a family already, and complicated love lives, not just the beginning of feelings blooming. While that can be fun, I feel it’s been done and redone and keeps on being written about and something different is nice.
What I liked less was the fact the story was very predictable. The pace is well maintained, but the darkness hinted at is exactly what it is expected to be, and in there end there is not many answers given about it. Wendy is truly the centre of the story and even those basic questions we might have liked to be clearer stay too vague. In fact, the ending to me felt rushed in many ways, I would have liked more solid answers.
There is also a certain slowness in the inner monologue of the characters. I found that some of Wendy’s thoughts were too repetitive, too circular and and didn’t really bring much to the story. I found my mind drifting off. I would have liked to understand better her love story with her husband and how it worked, but there is a lot left to everyone’s guess. There are a lot of unspoken dialogues and shared understanding between characters. Maybe we are just supposed to walk a fraction of their journey with the characters, but still it somehow felt a little incomplete. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, but I think it could have been so much more with a few little tweaks.
I obviously recommend it to people who loved the original Peter Pan, but also fans of Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins and all those works that question childhood and what it means to grow up.
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