Wendy Darling: Shadow (Wendy Darling #3) by Colleen Oakes

I have thoroughly enjoyed the “Wendy Darling” series, which also included Volume 1: Stars (previously reviewed here) and Volume 2: Seas (reviewed here). How did Shadow finish out the story?

Wendy Darling: Shadow front cover (SparkPress)

THE PLOT: Volume 3 picks up where Seas left off. Wendy has returned to the Lost Boys, trying to make Peter believe she loves him and gain his forgiveness for leaving. She needs to be there long enough to get information from Tink and steal Peter’s pipes, both needed to control the Shadow, the destructive force behind Peter’s power.

 Her task is complicated by the capture of Booth, her gentle true love from London, thanks to her combative brother John. With Booth under Peter’s control, Wendy has to fight for his release from Neverland along with the freedom of both her brothers.
Alone with Peter, without the aid of her friend Captain Hook or much assistance from a hostile Tink, Wendy will have to rely on herself to rescue her loved ones and free Neverland from Peter and the Shadow.

MY TWO CENTS: First, let me say that this book has a lot more action than Volume 2 did. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Seas, but it was a lot of setup and building toward the climax. Now that we’re here, stuff is happening. In contrast to Seas, Hook’s role here is fairly limited. We do get a big dose of Peter, who was mostly missing from Seas.

Of course, we knew all along that this is a more obvious Wendy coming-of-age story than the original Peter Pan. This Wendy is in her late teens and already had a love interest before Peter. Peter makes no secret of what he wants from Wendy.  We definitely see a more adult Wendy emerge in this volume; she’s grabbing adulthood, and the responsibilities that come with it, with both hands.

Wendy is mostly released from Peter’s thrall now, especially with the reality of a captured Booth staring her in the face. While she has a battle plan, there’s a part of her that will take whatever happiness she can just in case it doesn’t work out.

I also found that this book wasn’t very predictable. I had a pretty definite idea of how things would play out, and I was wrong quite a bit. I wonder if other readers would agree with me, or do you see this ending coming?

COVER NOTES: I’ve mentioned before how very much I love these covers. I was wrong in thinking that we might see Wendy’s face on this final cover, but I don’t have a problem with that. I much prefer “faceless” covers that leave the details to the reader’s imagination than a model who doesn’t match my idea of the character. We do, however, get Wendy standing strong for the first time, which is appropriate. I’m buying a set of these books to have the matched set in hard copy because I think they’re worthy of my precious limited shelf space.

BOTTOM LINE: I really liked this whole series, and found Shadow fairly unpredictable. I’m really gratified when the series finale doesn’t trip the finish line. I would recommend this series to fans of fairy tale retellings.

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available in paperback and eformats on July 18, 2017.

NEXT UP FROM THIS AUTHOR: The third book in the “Red Queen” series, War of the Cards, will be released November 7, 2017. I really need to start reading this series.

Note: Review is based on ARCs provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wendy Darling: Seas (Wendy Darling #2) by Colleen Oakes

I loved the first book in this series–Wendy Darling: Stars, previously reviewed here. Based on the ending of Stars and the title Seas, I had an idea of what (or whom) this book would feature, but like the first book, there were unexpected twists and turns.

Wendy Darling: Seas Front Cover (SparkPress)

Wendy Darling: Seas Front Cover (SparkPress)

SPOILER WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series.

THE PLOT: Wendy and Michael have been fished out of the sea by Captain Hook’s crew.  Wendy figures they won’t be much safer in the hands of pirates than they were with evil, self-centered Peter, but she’ll do anything to keep Michael safe. The pirates, especially a nasty one named Smith, assure Wendy that they’d just as soon kill her as use her in their battle against Peter. When Wendy is brought to Captain James Hook, he promises his only interest in her is how she can help him defeat Peter. Yes, Peter is a homicidal maniac, but he’s obsessed with Wendy. Hook can use that weakness to his advantage. First, he needs to bring Wendy up to speed on his own turbulent history with Peter, and what Peter’s connection to Tink really is.

Wendy is all too aware of the precariousness of her situation. She would do anything to get her brother John away from Peter’s influence and get the Darlings back home to their parents…and Wendy’s first love, Booth. But Wendy’s time with the pirates will make her stronger physically and mentally, even while she faces horrible betrayals and mortal danger.

MY TWO CENTS: What do you need to know? First, Peter hardly appears in this book, except for the threat of knowing he’s out there watching. This one is centered firmly on the pirate ship Sudden Night, and it does a nice job of exploring the pirates.

We’ve seen various versions of Hook in many different versions of Peter Pan, but this one is different. He’s a very rounded character, neither all bad nor all good. He makes sure Wendy knows that he would have no problem disposing of her, yet they forge a friendship of sorts. Hook is firmly a pirate, but his actions may be an effort to actually save everyone. He is a man with very deep emotional ties to some people and studied indifference to everyone else. It’s almost easier to say which versions of Hook he is NOT, including the Disney version, the “Once Upon a Time” handsome anti-hero version, and the Dustin Hoffman version.

Wendy goes through quite a bit of development in this one, although she blushes entirely too often. (We get it, she’s on a pirate ship, the pirates not exactly going to respect her delicate sensibilities.) But where Hook’s primary goal is to destroy Peter, Wendy’s primary goal is to get home, safely, with both her brothers. Peter is just an obstacle, but he’s a fairly big, dangerous obstacle. It’s in Wendy’s best interest to ally with Hook and risk her life. It’s not just for him, or even for Neverland; as far as she’s concerned, those are just byproducts of her mission.

This does at times feel very much like the middle part of the story. For example, there are some overlong descriptions of the ship, and there are times where nothing is really happening, although those times help build tension. (Are the pirates good or bad? Is Peter lurking around the corner?) But the climax of the book is all up to Wendy, and her strength carries her through to a final twisting shock as a setup for the next book.

COVER NOTES: I love these covers. I love how you never see Wendy’s face, and the pleasing colors are reminiscent of the iconic blue nightgown we relate to Disney’s version of Wendy. I have to wonder if we’ll finally see Wendy’s face on the cover of the third and final book, as I’m sure she will rise as the conquering hero. So far, both covers show Wendy being pushed and pulled by the elements; I expect Wendy to become the element of the last book! Honestly, I like these covers so much that I will probably buy a set in paperback as well as the eformats I already have.

BOTTOM LINE: While bonding with Hook over their mutual loathing of Peter Pan, Wendy starts to become the player instead of the pawn. It’s obviously the middle of the story, but if you loved Stars, you’ll fall right into this one, too.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available September 20, 2016, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: Wendy Darling: Shadow, book 3 in the series, will be published in Fall 2017. I’m looking forward to the Wendy/Peter showdown.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wendy Darling: Stars (Volume One) by Colleen Oakes

Wendy Darling has always been one of my very favorite Disney characters. I can’t explain why, exactly…the voice work? the way she’s drawn? (Obviously, the racism toward Native Americans in Peter Pan is horrible, but the art, done during Disney Animation’s first Golden Age, is spectacular.) Maybe it’s her calm and soothing nature. Of course I’ve read Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, and I’m likely to watch any kind of Peter Pan movie or show. (I admit…the live TV musical was an exception!) So I was excited to receive an electronic ARC of this retelling.

Wendy Darling: Stars Front Cover by Colleen Oakes

Wendy Darling: Stars Front Cover by Colleen Oakes (SparkPress)

THE PLOT: In this version of the story, Wendy is 16 years old and embarking on her first romance with her childhood friend, Booth. Unfortunately, he’s the son of the local bookseller, and therefore of an unacceptably lower social class than the Darlings. Wendy’s father is a kind man, but he absolutely forbids the relationship. Between this and harsh treatment from her moody 14-year-old brother, John, Wendy is in emotional turmoil when handsome Peter Pan explodes through the nursery window, inviting Wendy, John, and five-year-old Michael off to his home in Neverland. Once in Neverland, the kids begin forgetting about their home and loved ones (including Booth). Wendy’s attraction to Peter is like a force of nature, and she just wants to be near him. She also wants to keep her brothers safe, but John, dubbed a general by Peter, isn’t having it. As Wendy and John’s relationship deteriorates and Peter overwhelms them all, Wendy struggles to remember her past. But what is Peter’s real purpose in bringing them to Neverland? Why is Wendy in particular so important to him?

MY TWO CENTS: I absolutely devoured this book, which pulled me in right away with the introductions to the Darlings. I was a little taken aback at first by the ages of the children. I can’t remember if their ages are mentioned in Peter Pan, but I generally think of the children as ages 12, 8, and 4 or thereabouts. Making Wendy 16 years old really both takes away and adds to the plot possibilities. The whole point of Wendy being just prepubescent is that she’s trying to avoid growing up, not leap into adulthood. On the other hand, a teenage Wendy who has already had her first kiss opens up the exploration of a truly romantic relationship between Wendy and Peter. And this is obviously one of the main themes of the book: the difference between innocent first love and sexual awakening.

The presentation of John also takes some adjustment. In Disney’s treatment, John is kind of a nerd; he wears glasses and grabs his father’s top hat to wear with his nightshirt. He’s also still definitely a child.This teenage John seems to almost hate Wendy, even more so after their arrival in Neverland. What is up with him? Is he afraid of Wendy usurping his role as their father’s favorite child? He seems to hold a grudge against her for being a girl, using her looks to attract boys, and basically being a living doll. Is John having trouble with gender roles? Is he jealous of Wendy’s friendship with Booth while he, her own brother, is isolated and lonely? Or is he just being a typical 14-year-old brother, magnified by the lack of supervision in Neverland?

Finally, I’m enjoying the presentation of Evil Peter Pan. Anyone who watches Once Upon a Time has already experienced an evil Peter whose goal is to stay young forever no matter what it takes. This Peter obviously wants Wendy. Why choose her, specifically? What led him to her nursery window? How much of what Peter has told Wendy is the truth? And why does he use Tinker Bell like an ex who will still do anything for her guy?

BOTTOM LINE: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In addition to being a well-written story, it makes you want to analyze it. I can’t wait for Volume Two—Wendy Darling: Seas. If you’re a Peter Pan fan, don’t miss this.

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available on October 13, 2015, in paperback and eformats.

Note: Review is based on ARCs provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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