This is the second in Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s revamping of the Peter Pan story. I believe there are five books in the series with a few shorter ones that fit in there somehow. This was a perfect one for the TBR Dare because I’d read the first one out loud to my daughter a hundred years ago and always meant to read the rest but at the time My Lovely Bride was worried this was a bit too dark for our little one. I’d have to agree with that, although now she’d probably be fine.
The first book, Peter and the Starcatchers, was just a great rousing adventure and a well-done reboot/prequel of the Peter Pan myth. It was interesting what the authors chose to repurpose from J.M. Barrie and what they used or flipped around from Disney. The Island isn’t Neverland, the name of the boat carrying Peter and his other orphan friends is named that. The island doesn’t have racial stereotype “Injuns” on it but a fully realized native population. It’s Mollusk Island and the native populace are the Mollusks. All the “Lost Boys” are just orphans as well. Only Peter, due to things that happen in the first book, stays young and can fly. So one of the interesting aspects of this one is that he’s realizing that all his friends will continue to grow and change and he won’t.
Captain Hook is originally called “Black Stache” in the first book, but because of obvious reasons begins being referred to as Hook which is meant as a jibe but he thinks it sounds like a good pirate name so goes with it.
In the first story Peter befriends a girl and her family (Molly and Lord Astor) from London who are onboard the Neverland transporting a case of magical “star stuff” which ends up affecting Peter in magical ways. It’s clearly valuable stuff so a new bad guy, Lord Ombra has enlisted a crew of nefarious scalywags to retrieve it. They first come to Mollusk Island but soon find out that it’s back in London. Peter and Tink stow away to try to help warn and protect Molly and Lord Astor from them. But Lord Ombra isn’t just a scene chewing villain. It’s not even clear that he’s completely human. He has a power, a dark power and can somehow snatch your shadow and keep it in a bag. Once he’s able to do this your body seems to be under his command as your personality and will are in the bag with your shadow. It’s wonderfully creepy. No matter how many guns or uars you have, how do you protect yourself from something that can glide under the cracks of doors and only has to barely come into contact with a shadow to rob you of yourself?
This in in the same ballpark as many other fractured Fairy Tale adventures like Michael Buckley’s excellent Sisters Grimm series and compares favorably to the Harry Potter books and the many Rick Riordan series. This, like the Percy Jacksons, are more action driven than HP but it suits these characters.
Students who are looking for adventure fantasy will love it. Also, unfortunately, students looking for fat books with lots of AR points will be pleased.
The plot is pretty tight. I did wonder how long it would take Molly to figure out what they were up to. She’s a smart and decisive character most of the time and this is the second book. She knows there are bad dudes out there trying to get the star stuff. So when her father goes away on a business trip and she starts wondering about the scruffy policeman suddenly casing the house it seems to take a little longer than necessary for her to catch on.
The only other complaint I had was by splitting Peter/Tink/Ombra and the Lost Boys/Molluskers/Hook the island story gets the short end of the narrative stick. Things are so nail-bitingly tense in England and the island stuff gets cartoony and rote. In my humble opinion there should have either been more or less of it but something was missing there.
But overall it was a solid and enjoyably dark tale. We read the first book when my daughter was eight or nine and that was okay but this one IS much creepier. Lord Ombra is nightmare fuel even for me. In some ways he was scarier than Voldemort. Kind of like a Dementor with malice and forethought. There’s also a clue to the ending in his name. (Let me know if you catch that.) So this is more of a ten and up kind of book. Mature fourth graders at least if not more of a fifth and middle school pick.
I’ll definitely be getting to the rest of the series…along with everything else in the world I’ve set up for myself to read in the coming months.
Oh, and a word about the art. Greg Call nails it. The drawings seem right out of a Treasure Island era tale and the covers for these books are all perfect for sucking you right in. Great stuff.