Wendy Darling: Stars by Colleen Oakes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“All the world is made of faith and trust and pixie dust” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
That may have been the case for J.M. Barrie but in Colleen Oakes version of the classic Peter Pan story everything is a lot darker and more sinister. I loved it.
I’m a big fan of classic stories that are re told with a bit of a twist so when I saw this book with it’s stunning cover I couldn’t resist. I will admit I’ve never actually read the original J.M. Barrie story so I can’t do a direct comparison but I can say this version is definitely a lot different to the Disney film which I couldn’t resist watching at the weekend.
The general story is the same, Wendy and her brothers John and Michael are whisked away from their home by the charismatic boy who can fly, Peter Pan. They go to Neverland where they meet the other Lost Boys and Tink, go on adventures to steal treasure, fight pirates and generally forget all about their home and their parents. Wendy starts worry about losing her memories however and wants to take her brothers home but Peter is not a fan of that idea and tries to keep them.
Despite the similar plot this feels like a very different tale. The author manages to twist almost everything about the original story and make it that little bit darker and more sinister.
Wendy is the same prim and proper mother type to both her brothers and the other lost boys (something I found a bit annoying) but back home she’s having a secret relationship with the bookseller’s son which is turning serious. Eldest of her brothers John is a much nastier piece of work than the cartoon version and is downright rude and stand-offish with his family. Michael the youngest is an absolute joy to read about and I couldn’t help but love his enthusiasm and bounce.
The biggest differences however are with Peter and Tink. Peter is sinister and creepy right from his first appearance in the Darling’s bedroom. He seems to have some amazing charisma which persuades the Darlings to follow him despite their initial instincts and to convince the Lost Boys to take on pirates for little gain. He seems like some kind of cult leader in a way with almost everyone under his spell. You get the feeling almost immediately however that he is a little unstable and he definitely doesn’t like it when things don’t go his way.
The Tink in this tale is truly damaged. She comes across as almost psychotic at times but as this seems to be due to a very twisted relationship with Peter you can’t help but feel a little sorry for her. Particularly when it becomes clear that Peter has feelings for Wendy and will use Tink, who is in love with him, to win her over.
As well as the differences in the characters the world the author creates is also very unique. There is magic and magical creatures but these are much more dangerous than expected. There is a lot of violence in the story, mostly initiated by Peter, and there are some slightly gruesome deaths which make me think this would be more suited towards the older YA reader.
While I did enjoy the story however there were a few little things that niggled about the writing. My main critique being that I felt some of the descriptions went on a little bit too long and there were far too many similes. They worked well in terms of giving you a feel for the world but I thought they slowed the story down a little too much and I found my attention wandering.
I actually didn’t realise when I started reading that this was the first in a series (my fault as it does make it clear on the cover) so I was a little shocked at the suddenness of the ending and I have to admit frustrated to be left with a cliffhanger. I am however quite excited to find out what happens in the story next as we never really got to know the pirates side of the story and given the darkness in Peter I think it could be quite unexpected.
Definitely a book I’d recommend if you like a good retelling but be prepared for a sudden ending.