If I am being completely honest, Peter Pan has never been my favourite Disney film. Oh sure the lost boys and Michael were cute; Tink was sassy and Hook was a good villain but why did everyone moon over Peter so much? And Wendy was always a bit, well a bit wet!
Enter Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown with their Tales of Wendy series to prove me wrong! The Wendy is the first in this series but I am already desperate to finish the second book, The Navigator before their third is released at the end of this year.
The Wendy, as you may expect, centres around Wendy Darling. However, this is not the prissy, mother-idolising figure I love to roll my eyes at: oh no, this Wendy Darling is growing up in the late 1700s in a London orphanage. In a world where her sole career option seems to be to become a mother, this feisty ten-year-old would prefer to “marry Davy Jones than grow up and look after babies”. This Wendy Darling is the one I have been waiting for.
Wendy’s dream is to join the Navy and sail the world. Unlike the rest of 18th Century Britain, she doesn’t see why being a girl should prevent this. Therefore, over the years she becomes adapt at mathematics, science, navigation, marksmanship and swordsmanship. Nevertheless, despite being just as good, if not better than her childhood friend Charlie, he earns the rank of Officer in the British Navy whilst Wendy is assigned to the Home Office as a Diviner, one who can detect the presence of magic: a post to be filled only by women and dogs.
It is here that the reader meets John and Michael: Wendy’s “brothers-in-arms but in no way related, despite what you may have heard”. They are all stationed in Dover Castle, along with the Brigade’s dog Nana (who else?!). Their mission: to protect Britain from a magical threat, the innisfay or “everlost”, whom are known to kidnap orphans. Sound familiar?
The Wendy is definitely the best retelling of Peter Pan I have read so far. Despite the presence of all our favourite names, the characters are a far cry from their animated counterparts. Michael and John are wonderfully dry and sarcastic; Hook is powerful and attractive; Tink is a shape shifter; Peter, despite possessing a pair of wings and armour, is essentially the same and Wendy is an ambitious, feisty, yet beautifully flawed protagonist.
There are many little nods to the film which are greatly appreciated. Wendy “moving out of the nursery” means leaving the orphanage and gaining an apprenticeship and “thinking happy thoughts” as a means of flight is a practical joke by Peter to make Wendy smile.
Sky and Brown’s conversationalist style of writing makes this a very easy read, despite Wendy galloping all over the South of England with a variety of characters. It also allows the reader to really bond with Wendy and empathise with her and her struggles to achieve the employment she has longed so for since childhood.
As you may have gathered, sexism plays a large part in Wendy’s uphill struggle: as the only main female character she is constantly undermined in her ambition to become a sailor. Even when she proves to be useful in her post within the Home Office she is removed to the country “for her own safety”. Those men whom do not undermine her moon after her romantically: it truly is infuriating.
In some situations, this ingrained attitude was slightly heart-breaking but equally a sign of the times in which this novel was set: Wendy’s thoughts often returned to the propriety of her actions and the danger she experiences just through wearing “men’s clothes” is powerful moment. However, Wendy never lets these attitudes halt her ambition, ending her first novel as a true inspiration to girls following in her footsteps: Navigator Darling.
I can’t wait to discover the next step in her journey which, conveniently, lays past the second star to the right and straight on till morning!