Off to Neverland, with Fairies

Long-time readers know that Peter Pan is one of my favorite books.  You might also know that I often have trouble with new writers telling stories about beloved characters.  So Gail Carson Levine’s Fairies series is a slightly dicey situation, with one of my favorite authors writing based on one of my favorite books.  If it had gone bad, it all would have been immensely sad.

So it’s a good thing that it’s a good series!  It’s very much a kids book, but it’s a sweet read.  I just read the last book as part of my challenge to complete more series.  This one is basically a stand-alone, so you could choose to start here if you like.  I started this series so long ago (2006!) that I don’t even remember my thoughts when I began, if I was worried about whether it would work.  But I remember I liked the first two books, and I can talk about why I think they do work.

As you might have already surmised, the series is not so much about Peter as it is about Tinkerbell, and a host of other fairies who live in Neverland.  Shifting the focus makes it easier for a new author to step in.  Barrie only gave us a few hints and glimmers (or should I say flashing lights?) about fairies, so Levine can build up a more complex world without contradicting what came before.  In the first two books, Peter Pan himself is just referenced, and he’s only a supporting character in this third one.

The first two books introduce us to Levine’s Tinkerbell, an emotional but well-meaning fairy who loves to tinker with metal objects.  It’s not the image people usually have of elegant Tinkerbell–but it’s exactly what Barrie said about her, and explains her name.  We also meet other fairies, like Rani, who loves water, and Vidia, a nasty fairy who loves to fly fast.

Knowing the characters would certainly provide more context for book number three, Fairies and the Quest for Never Land, but you could start here because the book really focuses on Gwendolyn, a descendent of Wendy, whose female ancestors have been flying off to Neverland with Peter ever since.  Gwendolyn can’t wait for her turn, especially when Wendy’s “kiss” (the acorn a confused Peter gave her) gives her tantalizing visions of the island.  Peter does eventually arrive, and when she gets to Neverland Gwendolyn rushes off to look for fairies.

That’s both the strength and the weakness of the book.  Gwendolyn gets to meet all the fairies, and their guardian, Mother Dove.  It’s lovely to find out about society in Fairy Haven, and to watch Gwendolyn learn what her own talent is as she struggles to be accepted by the fairies, and then to help them when a terrifying dragon is accidentally released.  It’s a sweet story, exciting in spots, rather cute throughout.

My trouble, actually, is Peter.  As long as he wasn’t in it at all (or just in a passing reference), I didn’t miss him–so the first two books were fine in that way.  But when he’s in it a bit, suddenly it bothers me that Gwendolyn seems to have no interest in him at all.  Likewise, Peter has very little interest in Gwendolyn (and keeps calling her Wendy).  Peter’s arrogance and forgetfulness are very well-established so I don’t fault the character portrayal.  But the magic of Peter appearing at the window to take someone to Neverland…well, part of it is a Cinderella story, that the special person sees you and chooses you and says that you’re special too.  Peter didn’t seem to think Gwendolyn was special at all.  I guess that’s all right, since what she really wanted was for Tink to think she’s special…but I think Peter’s special so it bothered me!

But that was mostly a side issue, a kind of absence of something that I thought should be there.  What actually was there was good.  It’s not Barrie’s Neverland–it’s a bit homier and a bit more practical.  But it’s not painfully not Barrie’s Neverland either.  And to be fair, the cover says it’s about “Disney Fairies,” so I suppose it doesn’t have to be based on Barrie at all, when it’s really coming from another source material.  With that in mind, Levine has actually written something that’s impressively accurate to Barrie, when she probably didn’t need to be at all.

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the illustrations.  David Christiana did the illustrations for the entire series and they are absolutely beautiful.  There are many full-page illustrations (or two-page, and even one fold-out!) and they add a wonderful dimension to the story.  I like the book, but it’s actually the illustrations that are making me tempted to buy it!

This isn’t one of my favorite Levine books, but it is a fun look at Neverland from a different angle (even if sometimes a little TOO much that angle!)  This is a simple, sweet, fast read–I’m glad I finished the series, because it was a lovely book and when I did finally read it, it only took me a day!

Author’s Site:

Other reviews:
Reading All Year Long
Shannon Messenger
Confessions of a Book Habitue

9 thoughts on “Off to Neverland, with Fairies

  1. I’m also not a fan of reading authors who use other authors creations. I recently broke my own rule and read House of Silk by Anthony Horrowitz. This is a new Sherlock Holmes story. As it happens it wasn’t a disaster but the ‘voice’ just wasn’t the same. It’s so difficult to capture somebody else’s creation. Particularly when the author was writing from a different time period – the language is never quite the same or the plotlines.
    I’ve also picked up another one (after saying I never read this type of book) – Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James. But, this is just sat on the shelf. Part of me is fascinated to see if the author can pull it off, but again, I don’t think PD James will be able to capture the same feel as Jane Austen – and why use her characters to write a thriller? I will eventually read it but I think this is going to be the last time!
    The illustrations you’ve posted are so lovely I think I would like to have them framed and up on the wall!
    Lynn 😀

    1. I break the rule sometimes too…because I always want more with my favorite characters or world, and just sometimes a new author actually gets it right! I actually just saw a review of Death Comes to Pemberley. I think it was on Vulpes Libres…pretty mixed opinion.

      1. I think I saw the same review and must confess it’s put me off reading it! Maybe I’ll give it the first 50 pages – I just don’t see how this will sound like Austen.
        Lynn 😀

  2. Wow, I love those illustrations. They are gorgeous.

    I know exactly what you mean about other writers taking on beloved characters. There are some things I just refuse to ever read as I am too enamored of the original stuff. For example I haven’t read any of the “sequels” to Dracula, nor any of the various Jane Austen spin offs. I’m happy with the whole of those stories, I don’t need more of the characters’ lives unless it was directly from the author. I’m not interested in an non-J.R.R. Tolkien tales in the world of Middle-earth. I would hate to see another author take any of my favorite characters from Gaiman’s books and do more with them.

    I would much rather see talented authors create their own things, or do things that are in some way an homage to an existing work rather than building on or around an existing work.

    1. I think it’s especially hard for a new author to write books in someone else’s series when the original author had a very distinctive writing voice. I’ve looked at new author books in bookstores and inside of two pages I’m pretty sure I don’t want to read the rest!

      This one had almost an homage feel–it was far enough from the original to feel less imitative and more like something related but new.

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