Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: Wendy Darling Vol. 1 - Stars by Colleen Oakes

Title: Wendy Darling: Stars
Author: Colleen Oakes
Series: Wendy Darling, Book One
Publisher: SparkPress
Published Date: 13 October 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository

I received this book through NetGalley from SparkPress for review.

From the Best-Selling Author of Queen of Hearts comes a dark and mesmerizing twist on the beloved Children's Classic, Peter Pan.

Wendy Darling has a perfectly agreeable life with her parents and brothers in wealthy London, as well as a budding romance with Booth, the neighborhood bookseller’s son. But while their parents are at a ball, the charmingly beautiful Peter Pan comes to the Darling children’s nursery and—dazzled by this flying boy with god-like powers—they follow him out of the window and straight on to morning, to Neverland, a intoxicating island of feral freedom.

As time passes in Neverland, Wendy realizes that this Lost Boy’s paradise of turquoise seas, mermaids, and pirates holds terrible secrets rooted in blood and greed. As Peter’s grasp on her heart tightens, she struggles to remember where she came from—and begins to suspect that this island of dreams, and the boy who desires her—have the potential to transform into an everlasting nightmare.
(summary from Goodreads)

Wendy Darling is a densely descriptive novel that turns flying and pixie dust dreams into a chilling nightmare.

If you like Peter Pan a lot - and I don't mean just the book, but the actual character - Wendy Darling is going to break your heart. Everything you may like about Pan has been twisted to form a malevolent monster hiding behind the charm of a flying boy who doesn't grow up. It's pretty darn cool. It also totally works because Oakes's revision of Peter is believable and it's what I really enjoyed about this book. Peter is terrifying, and the reveals of his true cruel nature are skin crawling. Oakes's writing style helps, as it's a stark contrast. Her descriptions are quite flowery, suiting the times of the book's setting, and the beauty and awe of Neverland allow the darkness of Peter and the realities of this world to truly stand out. There is a downside to the writing style though and that is that I did get impatient with it. A good 50% of this novel is learning about Neverland and Wendy's fluctuating between infatuation with Peter and guilt over the barely remembered Booth. It was easy to see where this story was going and so at times I wanted Oakes to move it along, to delve into the real heart of the story. Unfortunately she only just did so in order to end with a cliffhanger. Which sort of had me screaming, but hey, also means I'm willing to continue the series to see where this saga goes. Mostly, I'm looking forward to seeing a certain dagger put to good use!

A lot of that feeling comes down to Oakes's portrayal of Tink. Oh, Tink. She's mean spirited, mischievous and jealous, and like Peter, it's twisted. There's so much more to Tink's story and it is horrifying and heart-wrenching, the little we learn in this first book. Considering Tink and Peter, I'm very interested to get to know Hook and Oakes's vision of him. He's minor in Wendy Darling, sad to say, but there's no doubt that won't be so for book two. As for Wendy herself, honestly, I'm so so. As I was impatient over the writing style and flow of the story, so too was I with Wendy. She had me rolling my eyes and sighing in frustration a number of times. But on the other hand, because magic! So. I guess we'll see? I also wasn't really feeling Booth and Wendy's relationship with him. There's no development because the narrative jumps right in and then we're off to Neverland, so for now, Booth is simply a tool to negate Peter's influence. I have very definite feelings for John however. I hate him. And not just because he's a nasty jerk - which he is - but because his whole characterisation didn't feel right to me. There's sibling rivalry and there's pure hatred coming out of relatively nothing! While John's antagonism creates drama, it did sometimes feel too manufactured. Plus, okay, I can admit I'm a tad sentimental for the iconic Darling siblings. Sentimentality is not treated well here though, but that's what makes Wendy Darling the dark retelling it is.

If you're a fan of fractured fairy tales, Wendy Darling is for you. The pretty prose can be slightly wishy washy, but Oakes has crafted an intense and sinister reimagination of an adored classic. 



  1. OOh nice! I was hesitant over this one at first, hence I didn't request it. But now I'm learning that it sounds pretty freaking cool! Sure there might a few annoyances, but it sounds like quite the reimagining of a beloved tale! Definitely adding this to wishlist if nothing else! Great review!

    By the way, if you like retellings, I highly recommend Tiger Lily! That was an incredible retelling of Peter Pan and remains one of my favorites! And surprisingly, it's told from Tinker Bell's point of view! ;)

  2. I too felt impatient with Colleen's writing. Wendy Darling took me what felt like forever to finish, but I felt it was a good book. Read my full review at PoetryBooksYA: