Either I've grown out of YA fiction, or my patience and forgiveness for it has diminished over the past couple of years. It also doesn't help how many Wonderland retellings I've seen, which made "Queen of Hearts" already a tough sell. But sometimes a nice easy read sounds appealing, which I thought this would end up being. And it was easy - easy to skim through and get distracted from, because while there's certainly a lot of text describing events and presenting dialogue, it all stayed on the surface as a dry cardboard-cutout.
I'll give the book credit for trying to present a different identity of the Mad Hatter, who happened to be the only character I cared even a little for. Considering how vague and up in the air the "plot" was, the characters were the default focal point for attention. Even then, Dinah was unlikable and difficult to feel any empathy for, whereas too little was known about any of the other characters, particularly the king, Wardley, and Vittiore, all of which fit the stereotypes of the cruel-for-no-known-reason father, the hot and drool worthy guy who's been a friend from childhood, and the girl who's a rival for power and who is hated by the heroine for, also, no clear or entirely believable reason. There's also the familiar cast of Wonderland characters like Cheshire who are slotted in just to satisfy the criteria of having them in the story - it is, after all, a spin on "Alice in Wonderland. The classification of the Cards was the only other interesting aspect that altered the original story, but it did little in redeeming the book.
The "plot" was a mixture of loose threads thrown around that was more like sketchy exposition in a prequel style than any kind of coherent story. The writing lacked the alluring tone of voice that would draw a reader in, instead dry and stereotypical in the way in described characters or events. It was a book that was driven more by the unappealing heroine than by plot, although the former was surely the goal.
Beyond that there isn't much more to say. The fact that it was easy to get through felt like a small mercy considering how frustrating it felt to read it. I think I won't be touching any more Wonderland retellings after this one, as "Queen of Hearts" set a new low in the genre. It simultaneously had characters and action going on, but also lacked both of those things tremendously. It was predictable and boring, worse than I feared it might be. It looks like, with the immense about of takes on Wonderland, it is slowly losing its magical touch, which is probably a sign that it's time for publishing companies to stop churning out more dime-a-dozen books because they think they'll sell.
Imagine what the queen was like as a child. Queen of Hearts tells us the story of young Dinah and what her life was like growing up in the well known, Alice in Wonderland world. There were things I liked and didn't like about this version.
Dinah has been the princess everyone has ignored. Her father hates her and only cares for her sister. Wordley is the only one that pays any attention to her. But then mysterious dreams come and strange things start to happen within the castle and Wonderland. Dinah and Wordley must travel to dark parts of their world to figure out just what is going on.
This is a book that has its ups and downs. I really would have liked more back story with Dinah, but I suppose the author may have assumed we know enough about Alice in Wonderland.
A good recommendation for someone looking for another fantasy/childhood retelling.
I received a copy from Netgalley.
I’ve not read a Peter Pan retelling before and my knowledge of the original is limited to the Disney movie version. So I figured I would give this one a chance. It started off fairly boring to be honest. Beautifully written, but very dull. Wendy was kind of bland and uninteresting, Michael the five year old was cute, and John the other brother was a complete ass. Wendy is a 16 year old girl who’s supposed to be getting ready for a profitable match for her family, but she’s secretly in love with the bookseller’s son, Booth. Who adores her. Wendy is torn because her society status will not accept a lady of her standing to be with the bookseller’s son. Even though he’s sweet, charming and really does truly seem to care for her.
Wendy is crushed when her father confirms her fears, and hints if she doesn’t cut off her feelings for Booth, then she may be shipped off to boarding school. Her brothers don’t help much, and John is dick when he finds a love note Booth has written Wendy. But next thing you know, the enigmatic Peter Pan has appeared and charmed them all with tales of Neverland, flying and the promise of thrills and adventure and that he can have them all escape for the night and be home before their parents even realise that the children are gone.
So off they go on an exciting adventure. Wendy is kind of nervous, but goes along with the flow. It’s all meandering along nicely, there’s a great sense of wonder as Wendy and her brothers experience the thrills and nerves of flying and arriving in Neverland. There’s a captivating sense of beauty in actually arriving in the magic of Neverland, the beautiful seas, the beautiful but disturbingly deadly mermaids. The sense of adventure and no rules and grownups around to tell anyone what do.
Wendy though, appears to be struggling greatly with the sense of keeping to the manners she has been brought up with. However, arriving on Pan Island with Peter and meeting the Lost Boys – it’s clear being a well-mannered girl is something of a problem. These boys haven’t seen a girl in years and Wendy is something of an anomaly. She’s treated with suspicion and the boys are constantly poking and prodding her. Until Peter tells them to leave her alone and show her some respect.
As dull as she is, though you have to give it to Wendy Darling – she must have the patience of a saint to put up with the appalling manners of the Lost Boys. They are just not used to having a girl around. And the only other female form – is Tink, the last fairy. Who hates Wendy. I almost find myself sympathising with Tink a lot – what is it about Wendy that’s so special, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about her at all (other than her manners and endless patience) it’s really hard to fathom out what it is that Peter sees in her.
Wendy shows remarkable tolerance and tries to befriend Tink in spite of Tink’s nastiness and threats and acts of violence against her. The boys come to enjoy her company and Wendy tries to get into the swing of things – eating with them and sitting with them, climbing around the trees and walking the dangerous rope bridges. Peter Pan himself is sassy and eloquent, just has a presence that commands attention and holds your intrigue and respect. He’s full of great stories and all the Lost Boys want his special attention and favour. He makes everyone feel welcome and part of the fun.
As soon as the Darling siblings arrive and have been welcomed, Peter tells a story of daring deeds with the notorious Captain Hook and decides they need a raid to steal booze from the pirates to have a proper welcome feast for Wendy and her brothers. John’s smarts get him made a General in the Lost Boys and have a big part in the raid. Wendy is terribly worried for him. John dismisses her and is very cruel to her.
For the most part, the novel up to this point has been fairly bland, as I mentioned very well written, though I failed to see why it was marketed for a YA audience, and thought I could easily see reading this to group of younger children – it’s fun, kids would get a kick out of the excitement of the Lost Boys and the thrill of adventure and those looking for romance would enjoy the budding thrill between Peter and Wendy.
Once the pirate raid happens, things quickly took a much darker turn than I anticipated. It goes very wrong very quickly and ends in terrible violence. It’s not all fun and games anymore and there are some serious issues with Peter’s greed when everything starts falling apart. Wendy is naturally very worried and shocked about what happens. Though Peter’s so charming he can talk his way round pretty much anything. And starts heating up the romance angle again. Which pretty much makes Wendy swoony.
Though thanks to Wendy’s latest encounter with Tink, she starts to realise there are very important things she’s forgetting. This is when things get darker still. Neverland is looking so fun anymore. At least not to Wendy as she starts to remember their parents and their lives in London. And also begins to be concerned about whether or not they will ever get home.
Peter’s pushing the romance angle in a way that started off as quite – well – romantic, but when Wendy can’t go through with taking things to another level he gets very jealous and very very angry. He acts like a spoiled brat – he’s pushy, cruel and actually threatening. It’s shocking and disturbing by this point. Wendy wants to home. John won’t listen – he’s crueller than ever. Michael’s quite agreeable to go with Wendy. Wendy wants her family together. She’s torn.
By the end of the novel, Wendy shows incredible strength as she fights to get herself and Michael to safety, away from Peter who’s shown a much more frightening side than she ever realised. It’s life or death to escape and Wendy realises she will do whatever it takes to get home. John for now seems like a lost cause, but her priority becomes getting Michael away from the Lost Boys and safe. The last twenty percent or so is absolutely gripping and quite scary.
And left at one brilliant cliff-hanger. I really can not wait for the next book.
Thank you to Netgalley and SparksPress for approving my request to view this title.
I can never resist books that are in any way connected to Peter Pan, I’m just fascinated by Neverland and what it represents. So when I was offered the chance to review Wendy Darling, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!
Wendy Darling is a re-telling of Peter Pan told from 16 year old Wendy’s perspective. John is Mr Darling’s favourite child and Wendy feels desperate to be noticed by her father, she tries so hard to see the star that John can see so easily but she struggles and the disappointment she feels from her father is palpable.
Wendy spends as much time as she can visiting the local bookshop. She loves to read, but even more than that she loves to visit the bookseller’s son Booth. The two are growing closer but their romance seems to be doomed from the start as society dictates that Booth is just not an appropriate suitor so they meet in secret.
One night Mr and Mrs Darling go out for the evening and something very strange happens at the house. It is really quite sinister and leaves the children feeling very shaken, until Peter Pan appears at the window and takes them all off on an adventure.
I have to be honest and say I found some of the things that happened in Neverland a little long-winded and slow, I was initially more captivated by Wendy’s romance with Booth and was longing to see more of that, I didn’t want to be taken away from that storyline. Having said that, where the book keeps you hooked is with this much more overtly sinister version of Neverland. It was always possible to see the darkness in JM Barrie’s original story but it’s much more extreme in Oakes’ re-telling. Oakes takes the nightmarish elements to fantastic extremes and danger is everywhere, especially for Wendy. It’s about how nothing is as it seems, and the idealism of a perfect world is never going to be as you’d thought.
Peter Pan has always felt a little creepy to me but in this version he is sociopathic. He appears very loving and kind one minute and the next his personality becomes very menacing, and actually often downright evil. I loved that Wendy was older in this re-telling as it gives a whole new dynamic to her and Peter’s relationship. There is an undeniable sexual chemistry from the beginning of the book, Wendy is drawn to him and cannot stop herself from staring at him and wanting to be closer to him. Peter ultimately uses this against her though and there are a couple of scenes later in the book that are very shocking and disturbing. The contrast between the rather innocent kissing with Booth and the way that Peter Pan treats Wendy really highlights the way that Neverland represents the desires of a teenage girl and her inability to fully comprehend how dangerous the world can be for someone still so naive and innocent.
Wendy Darling is ultimately the story of an awakening, it’s about Wendy discovering her power as a young woman and how she can fight back against the things that imprison her. It’s about her discovering her longing to be a mother; the way Wendy takes to nurturing the lost boys is beautiful, she seems to have found her place with them and they adoringly look up to her wanting her to be their mother. I did very much appreciate how empowered Wendy is in this re-telling; she’s been taken from a character who is almost always portrayed as weak just because she’s just a girl to a young woman who can stand her ground, and who will speak up when she feels she needs to. It was fascinating to see the character of Wendy in this way.
I do have a real bugbear with this book though and that is that even when a book is a part of a series I strongly feel that each book in the series should have some sort of ending. I know they have to lead into the next book so you will want to buy it but this novel just stops and ends with the title of the next book. I have to be honest and say that this really irritated me and I’m not sure that I would read the next one because I would always be wondering if I was ever going to get an ending. I love open endings, I enjoy being left with lots to think about but to just stop dead at the end of a scene and announce the next book is actually infuriating.
There are aspects of this novel that are fascinating and compelling, but there are times when it falls a little flat and the lack of an ending is something I can’t ignore so I rate this novel 7 out of 10. I still highly recommend it, especially to people who are fascinated by Peter Pan, it’s a brilliant look at his character and it takes him to really sinister levels that always seem to be underlying his character in the original story.
I received this book from SparkPress in exchange for an honest review.
Wendy Darling is out now and available from Amazon.
This review was originally posted on my blog: RatherTooFondofbooks