Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Peter Darling cover

(Chantel)

4/5 – I’ve never been a fan of Peter Pan. I’ve seen the Disney movie maybe once and thought it was meh. That’s the Peter Pan I know and I wasn’t interested. However, a trans Peter Pan? Yeah, I’m interested in that. I also really enjoy short books, usually under 200 pages because despite being a slow reader I can usually finish them in one sitting.

In Austin Chant’s retelling of Peter Pan, Peter was born as Wendy Darling who is struggling to come to terms with his identity in the early 1900s. This is after his return to London from his initial trip to Neverland. Peter is trying to explain to his family that he is now Peter Darling and tries to make them understand, but they don’t. As a result, Peter calls upon Tinkerbell and runs off to Neverland where he can be the man he wants to be.

Peter strikes up his old rivalry with Captain Hook and rounds up the Lost Boys to join him. The Lost Boys are now young men as is Peter, and nothing is the same as when he first came to Neverland. Hook and the Lost Boys have been content with leaving each other alone in the last decade. When Peter shows up looking for a fight, he is the only one enthusiastic about it other than Hook, of course.

I’ll admit, I found it hard to like Peter at times. He was willing to pressure the Lost Boys into joining a fight that they weren’t interested in joining. He came off as hypocritical when he was angry with Hook because one of the Lost Boys was killed after he had three of Hook’s men killed without regret or thought. I often struggle to like characters who aren’t self-aware, if you did something bad at least own up to it, and sometimes I find characters aren’t called out for their hypocrisy.

For example, Jorg in the Broken Empire series knows he’s a horrible person. He never makes you believe otherwise. He’s self-aware and knows he’s evil. With that out of the way, I can focus on the other aspects of his character.

Peter’s hypocrisy is called out by Hook and I was so happy when that happened because I could start focusing on other parts of Peter. Here are two characters who, at one point, fit neatly into their roles as hero and villain but things are far more complicated than that. There’s a lot in this story that is completely different than the version of Peter Pan that I know of, a version Disney would never make, it’s darker, it’s gayer, and the hero of the story Peter is flawed. However, I can’t forget that Peter is running away from his family, desperately trying to forget the fact that they don’t accept him and force him to live as Wendy. No wonder he’s angry and looking for a fight.

I adored Hook, he was charming and funny and just everything I liked in a character. Even though, he was a “villain” he was there for a reason just like Peter was. Neverland, in this retelling, is a place you can run away to as a way of escaping the real world which all too often doesn’t accept those who are different. Specifically, those who are gay or trans. Again, I have no knowledge of the original Peter Pan story, but I really liked Chant’s interpretation of Neverland.

This book hit many boxes on my LGBTQ+ Bingo board such as:

  • Fantasy with an LGBTQ+ MC
  • Read a book from the perspective of a transman (Hook has a few perspective chapters, but it’s mainly Peter.)
  • Read an LGBTQ+ novella
  • Read an LGBTQ+ retelling
  • Read an LGBTQ+ book from an Own Voices author

Ultimately I chose it for the LGBTQ+ retelling because it’s a retelling with a trans Peter Pan who has a romance with Captain Hook. A romance that was completely different than what I expected. That’s a pretty great retelling. I’m really glad I read it and I’m glad it was the book I started out 2018 reading. 

6 thoughts on “Peter Darling by Austin Chant

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