For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer. But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.
The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe. With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?
This wild and dark retelling of the fairytale of Peter Pan (which was pretty wild and dark, itself, for kids, if you ask me) had me hooked (see what I did here?) from the start when Gwen lands on the doorstep of her new home. It definitely had a gothic vibe at the start, and I was excited for the adventure to come. But rather than being the Wendy to Pan, Gwen gets saved by the pirate who plays the role of Captain Hook. I say ‘play’ because this is nothing like the story you have heard – well, unless you watch Once Upon a Time and are familiar with a devilishly handsome one-handed pirate in eyeliner. Okay, technically, Rowan’s backstory is not like him, more like a bad boy slightly reformed, in a world where light and dark are not exactly right and wrong. Gwen is worried about her friend, Olivia, who she finds out is with Pan, and agrees to go with him. While there, she finds a Neverland that is as unpredictable as the creatures on it, and that it is not easy to keep your wits about yourself when your memories drain from you like a sieve.
Our heroine, Gwen, is headstrong and stubborn, and doesn’t take things at face value – mostly. Pan is not the hero of myth, and she is not sure she can trust either of them. But she does feel a longing for the pirate that feels more natural than the thrall she feels when with Pan. Ultimately, it is her allegiance that would determine the fate of Neverland, and I will say, the ending did not go the way I had imagined. The romance in this book, is unexpectedly hot – I didn’t think I would find the rogue pirate to be so…uh, swoon-worthy? Maybe it was more of being in Gwen’s mind and her reactions to him, but that is something to look out for.
The writing is beautiful, vivid and terrific – pulling us into the darkness of Neverland, and flowing wonderfully from chapter to chapter. The small story going at the title of the chapters is a subplot that reveals whom it belongs to towards the end and doesn’t really affect the plot, but is an interesting tidbit and backstory to that character. I loved the creatures created in Neverland, and the various Fey, and the balance of power that was the crux of the plot. The ending was bittersweet, in a way – it sealed the story of the book, making it highly probable this is a standalone, but also gave a good resolution to the characters. Enjoyed this book immensely!
Received a free galley from Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.