Peter Darling by Austin Chant
Available on Bookshop.Org*
Peter Darling is a fairytale romance, where Peter returns to Neverland as an adult and seeks to capture the same spirit of adventure it brought him as a boy (perhaps in the arms of one Captain Hook?). It also imagines Peter as a trans boy who fled to Neverland, though his memories of his life before (and his pre-transition life as Wendy) are spotty. For a while, it was difficult to get ahold of this book. It was originally published in 2017 by Less Than 3 press, which closed in 2019. However, it was reprinted in 2021 and is now widely available again.
Recently, I’ve seen this book recommended for people who enjoyed the romance of Our Flag Means Death. There are similar themes here; both are romances with pirates that speak deeply about what masculinity means. Hook’s story arc seems to be much like that of Blackbeard’s, as he uncovers feelings that he dissociated from to survive. Peter and Hook begin to realize how tightly they’re intertwined, which brings up memories of their personal histories.
As much as it’s a romance novel, it is also a classic Peter Pan story that pulls on the iconic aspects of his story: sword fighting, fairies, pirates, and more. However, this story picks up Peter’s story 10 years after he left Neverland for the first time. There are also some similarities to Hook, as Peter struggles with the changes among the Lost Boys and tries to regain his status as their leader. There are also homoerotic swordfights, a mystery about Neverland’s true nature, and a dramatic poisoning.
However, Peter Darling also makes me think more broadly of the current state of media criticism. When this book first came out, I didn’t read it. The idea that Peter Pan and Captain Hook could end up together was of much controversy; I’ve also read critiques that assume Peter is still presented as a child. However, I think that this reaction misses out on why this book is appealing. The epithet for this book specifically says it’s for queer people who saw themselves in the villian. I couldn’t agree more, since it leans into why I found myself deeply connected with villains as a child, and does in a way that feels welcoming.
Pick It Up If:
- You watched Our Flag Means Death and want more gay pirate romance
- You grew up on Peter Pan and would appreciate a queer retelling
- Homoerotic swordfights are your thing
- Adventure-Style Fight Scenes and Violence
- Transphobia in flashbacks
- Relationship with a large age gap
- Enemies-to-lovers arc
- Trans main character
- Romance between two men
- Trans author
Not Sure? Try Some Other Reviews!
- Trans Narrative: Peter Darling by Austin Chant Review
- The Book Corps: ARC Review: Peter Darling by Austin Chant
Next Week's Review: Future Feeling by Joss Lake
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