Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to NetGalley and Titan Books for the free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
A.C. Wise does not flinch in this brutal and feminist take on Neverland and what happened after for Wendy Darling. She explores the consequences of capturing Peter Pan’s attention and the disenfranchisement of women who stepped out of line or failed to meet male expectations in the early 20th century.
I’ve been reading A.C. Wise’s short fiction here and there for a few years, and was really excited to sink my teeth into a whole novel, especially a female-centric take on the Peter Pan mythos. I recently re-watched Hook, and as much as I love the twists that film takes, as much as I appreciate a fathers-and-sons story, there are ladies in this sandbox, too, and they are often marginalized and underutilized when writers decide to play with Pan.
This was not an easy book to read. It was an adventure, and it was satisfying, but it was not fun. It was a pleasure to arrive at Wendy’s self-actualization and triumph, but difficult to follow her through her valley of despair along the way. While Wise doesn’t flinch, she still handles with care. She makes interesting rather than easy choices, and goes for nuance over cliché. Native and queer characters and experiences are given places of prominence, and the darkness at the heart of Peter Pan is at the center rather than the edges, interrogated rather than left to the subtext.
I don’t want to give spoilers, so I’ll give a warning instead: read this book only if you’re prepared for some darkness and to be challenged. The rewards are worth the risk.
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Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love related short stories, and Angela Slatter takes it to the next level in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings. She explores the history of an order of archivist nuns, their fight against a man seeking immortality, and the strange and tragic tales of the many women whose lives and family histories cross and re-cross paths with this conflict. Each story stands on its own, with perhaps the exception of the final story, “Spells for Coming Forth by Daylight,” which follows immediately on the heels of “By the Weeping Gate” and must tie up all the threads of this epic tale.
This collection absolutely deserved its win of the 2015 World Fantasy Award. I feel like I read a multi-book series in 270 pages. I didn’t want it to end, so I doled out the stories slowly, and when I read the last line of the last story, I desperately wanted to return to the beginning and read it all again. I enjoyed Slatter’s collection of fairy-tale retellings, The Girl with No Hands, but the stories of The Bitterwood Bible make me want to write. They are that satisfying and inspiring.