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.


Clever is the best descriptor of this lovely little book. In the simplest terms, it's the story of a boy realizing he's no longer a boy.

I think at one point or another everyone has had those moments in life wherein they'd like to be a kid again because adulting is a grind. The notion of escaping to a fantasyland where anything is possible - even flight! - where you're king of the kingdom and free to do whatever you please without those pesky responsibilities is an enticing one. Hell, I'd go now to escape Dr. Agent Orange and his Bungling Band of Fabricators. I digress.

Peter left Neverland a decade ago because he loved and missed his family, but his family has foisted upon him a narrative he cannot live. They've repeatedly tried to fit him into a mould to assuage their own discomfort with who he is, so one night at the end of his tether he calls upon Tink for help.

I don't have much to say about Neverland other than THERE WAS A FUCKEN KRAKEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND MERMAIDS! AND SWORD FIGHTS! AND LOST TREASURE!!!! AND A KRAKEN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ahem. Sorry. I got a little carried away there for a second. Did I mention the kraken? 

Books like Peter Darling make me remember why I love the fantasy genre so much. It's been a minute since I've seen Peter Pan, but I'm fairly certain there wasn't this much bloodshed. Chant's vivid worldbuilding is as sensational as his evocative prose; the pacing is breakneck, the side characters are instrumental to the plot, and the tension between Hook and Pan is the stuff of classic romance.

Chant did a marvelous job with these characters. The differences between them are exaggerated which I think worked really well with this story, due to the paradigm originally established by Barrie. Hook's a pompous dandy to Pan's bedraggled waif. Hook's effete to Pan's spry. Hook's the dastardly villain to Pan's puckish hero and self-appointed King of Neverland.

But as their story evolves those archetypes break down. The evolution parallels Pan's growth and his realization that life isn't black and white. Even in Neverland. Once he realizes that Neverland wouldn't be nearly as much fun without his most worthy adversary and that he's attracted to Hook things become even more complicated. Actions have reactions and morals come with responsibilities both of which can be burdensome, especially to one longing to prolong the reckless abandon of youth.

"That's the trick of growing up. Nothing stays the same." Hook sounded oddly sympathetic. "You see the faults in everything. Including yourself."

What's the ultimate dreamer to do when he realizes the dream of perpetual boyhood and endless adventure no longer holds the allure it once did?

The interplay between Hook and Pan is why I read romance. There is no sex between them but I didn't miss it when in its place I got palpable desire and longing. That kiss was pretty epic though.

...the most unfortunate thing of all was that taking off the crown didn't make him look any less regal. That was all in his bearing, in his arrogance and grace.

His skin was stark canvas begging for ink, and Hook's touch was going to stain him forever.

Chant captured the timelessness of their love story by retaining the 20th century quaintness while also adding a modern twist thereby making it fresh and relevant in the 21st century.

If you're an adventure-fantasy fan, love a good story or are a romantic at heart you're doing yourself a disservice by not reading this. I'll be on the lookout for what's next from this author.

A review copy was provided by NetGalley.

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