Book: “The Wendy” by Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown
Publishing Info: Trash Dogs Media, January 2018
Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley
Book Description: London. 1789. More than anything in the world, Wendy Darling wants to be the captain of a ship, but women aren’t allowed in the Royal Navy. When she learns the Home Office is accepting a handful of women into its ranks, she jumps at the chance, joining the fight against the most formidable threat England has ever faced. Magic.
But the secret service isn’t exactly what she hoped. Accompanied by a reimagined cast of the original Peter Pan, Wendy soon discovers that her dreams are as far away as ever, that choosing sides isn’t as simple as she thought, and that the only man who isn’t blinded by her gender might be the worst friend anyone could ask for.
Anyone, that is, except Wendy Darling.
Review: I’m never one to turn down a re-telling. And while I haven’t had super good luck with “Peter Pan” retellings in the past, this one seemed far enough from the original story to have a better chance of success. For one thing, the focus is on Wendy’s own story, not Peter’s. And for another, she wants to become a ship’s captain?? So some strange mixture of Peter’s, Wendy’s, and, somehow, Hook’s story? Count me in!
Wending Darling does want to grow up. But she wants to grow up to be a very specific thing: a ship’s captain. And, luckily enough, once she is older, it turns out that a limited number of women are being accepted into the service. Seems perfect! But once there, Wendy quickly discovers that being accepted on paper is not the same thing as being accepted by the men around her, especially not in her dreamed-of leadership role as the captain. Struggling to find her own place, Wendy quickly finds herself caught up in new challenges and adventures, surrounded by a familiar sounding cast of characters, including a certain Captain Hook and a man-child named Peter.
This was a really fun read. One of the reasons I think it’s a success compared to other “Peter Pan” retellings I’ve read is the fact that, while it does a familiar cast of characters, it’s not trying to retell the original story really at all. For one thing, this is Wendy’s story through and through. Sure, Peter plays an important role, but she is front and center the entire time. It is her dreams and adventures the story follows, and her challenges the story prioritizes.
Part of this, of course, is a focus on the gender inequality of the time. The fact that she’s allowed to sign on to the secret service at all is a huge departure from history, but the authors don’t make it any easier for her other than that. She’s constantly having to challenge the perceptions and dismissals of those around her. And, when she does find someone who can see past her gender, it’s not necessarily the best advocate one could ask for. There were a few moments where the “messaging,” for lack of a better word, around this theme came across as a little heavy handed. But luckily the story had enough going for it that the action could quickly take over again and right the ship, so to say.
I also really liked the various takes on familiar characters. John and Michael, for example, are transformed from Wendy’s literal brothers to her brothers-in-arms. Michael, however, could be a bit much at times and too often came across in a pretty annoying manner. He improved as the story went a long and was given opportunities to make up for some of his shortcomings, but he was probably, overall, my least favorite character in the story.
Probably my biggest complaint for the story was the overabundance of love interests presented for Wendy. Sigh. Love triangles are not my thing (pretty well established), and I’m even less excited when we move past triangles to squares and pentagons. I want to settle into my romance and see it slowly develop. Not feel tossed here and there wondering what direction the main character go. Beyond that, multiple love interests is really hard to sell, simply on the believability spectrum, and this one wasn’t any different.
This was a pretty fun romp of a book. It’s not blowing away any literary awards or anything, but if you like fairytale retellings and “Peter Pan” especially, it’s definitely one worth checking out. A sequel came out fairly recently, so I’ll probably get around to reading that one, too, sooner or later.
Rating 8: A bit preachy at times and with too many love interests, but other than that, a jolly good time.
“The Wendy” is on these Goodreads lists: “Peter Pan Retellings” and “Retellings of Classic Tales.”
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