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Author: Katrina MonroeAll darling children.jpg

It can be very difficult reading re-tellings, re-interpretations or re-masterings of books, because you never know (especially with a new author) If they’re capable of doing the old tale justice and there’s always the risk that your favourite classic can be forced to undergo the equivalent of that reverse bear trap the Saw franchise is so fond of.

I felt relatively safe from that with All Darling Children since, even though I read Peter Pan when I was younger, it never grabbed me in the way the Little Princess and The Tales of Narnia did, so I felt my childhood nostalgia glasses would remain untainted at least, and I’d be able to go on and give Neverland fans the answer to the question ‘Is it safe to read?’

In short: Probably Not. But not because Monroe can’t write, on the contrary, she can (very well, I’m going to be keeping an eye on her work), but if you were a fan of Pan as a child then be prepared for your much-loved fiction to get a serious going over on the spanking saddle. You see; we’re going back to Neverland, this time with Wendy’s Granddaughter, Madge, and it seems that Wendy dearest was not the most reliable narrator and the immortality of the island is more of an insidious corruption than the wonderful anti-ageing aid it was in Barrie’s original.

However, if the reasoning I just gave doesn’t bother you then the answer to the second most important question of ‘Is it fun to read?’, gets a resounding ‘Yes.’

There’s not much I can say plot wise because it would ruin it for those who do want to read this book, which, assuming my warning hasn’t frightened you off, I would recommend that you do. The only thing I can really add is that Monroe’s done a great job of mixing up the roles and adapting the narrative for an older audience by giving Neverland more shades of grey than an unmentionable fan fiction publication. All the characters from the original make a reappearance cast in different ways and, if nothing else it’s interesting to see a new bent on Hook and Tiger Lily and see how they’ve been cast here.

So what’s been borrowed from the original fiction has been remixed in a satisfying way that kept me interested throughout (Monroe knows how to throw a curve ball or six if nothing else).

The original characters work interestingly with Monroe’s new original inserts,  but strangely, that’s because they don’t mesh at all. This seems to be a theme in and of itself though and more to do with book’s questions about the struggle between new and old ideas that evolve with generations. I’m not sure how I feel about sacrificing narrative style for theme, but the books not really long enough for it to be an issue.

That said I did like the new characters, Madge and Slightly (Yes, not an original character, but honestly he’s had more work done here than Pamela Anderson, he might as well be) both conflicted, engaging and, interestingly, not the main characters because they were ‘nicer’ people than everyone else, which is something I can appreciate. They don’t try to rise above and take high roads, they just do what has to be done.

The writing, as I’ve already mentioned, is solid, although the short-sentence style is not a favourite of mine, I can see when it’s being done well. For those who worry about indie books being unreadable due to grammar and formatting errors fear not here, this books is flawless in that regard. Although as I side note I feel I must add that I found the more “gritty” imagery and swearing to add very little, I can’t explain it past saying that it read like it shouldn’t really be there, and the book would have been fine without it.

You can probably tell I’m struggling with this review. That’s because it’s impossible to talk about the content without spoiling everything. All I can really say is; I found it an interesting read, that original characters go to unexpected places, it’s not overlong, it’s very well paced and there’s no shortage of original ideas. If you can make peace with the idea Peter Pan as anything other than a childhood hero then I can guarantee you’ll find this fascinating if nothing else.

On the tenth anniversary of her mother’s death, fourteen-year-old Madge Darling’s grandmother suffers a heart attack. With the overbearing Grandma Wendy in the hospital, Madge runs away to Chicago, intent on tracking down a woman she believes is actually her mother.

On her way to the Windy City, a boy named Peter Pan lures Madge to Neverland, a magical place where children can remain young forever. While Pan plays puppet master in a twisted game only he understands, Madge discovers the disturbing price of Peter Pan’s eternal youth.