The Essence of Neverland is a bold and imaginative tale of pirate battles, formidable fairies, territorial conquests, and unexpectedly, the power of community. In this continuation to the timeless fable of Peter Pan, author Juna Jinsei thoughtfully ushers the Lost Boys into their darkest era yet – the death of Peter Pan. The painful absence of the infamously green-tighted trickster is being felt all across Neverland, leaving friends and foes alike grimly fearing for the future of the lands. As the disruption of harmony begins to threaten all walks of life, age-old enemies must contemplate rewriting their own roles in history, lest all of Neverland become a fairytale entirely.
I feel obligated to admit that Peter Pan was a staple bedtime story in my childhood home. While my father enjoyed boastfully voicing out the comical mischief between Peter and the pirates, I personally always loved the popular legend for its emotional tone. There was something whimsical and charming to the tale, always gently reminding me to appreciate my youth and my family. Even as a child, I recognized that the adventure was steeped in wisdom and parables. In this particular imagining of life in Neverland, author Jinsei beautifully explores many of those same wisdoms, delving into the emotional grips of desiring a place to belong, and missing a home you may never return to. Jinsei ponders these perennial truths through her work with such charm that I read several passages aloud to my partner, wanting to share the touching eloquence of the lessons.
Even with its strong repertoire of life lessons, this novel is admittedly a little dark at times. Jinsei unapologetically crafts the characters to feel authentic to their human nature, respectively. Captain Hook’s surly, albeit loyal, band of pirates are burdened by grief, consumed by thoughts of revenge. The once crafty and playful Lost Boys have grown old and jaded, nostalgically wishing in vain for the return of their impish flying companion. Even the council of magical fairies, as hopeful a creature as one could imagine, have become nervous for the future and harmony of Neverland. In the beginning chapter, Peter Pan’s unexpected death is a severe moment, paving the way for a few other harsh and unfortunate occurrences throughout The Essence of Neverland. Jinsei has an undeniably natural hand for the “twisted fairytale” style, and I loved the boldness of this rendition.
Still, despite the reoccurring macabre tones, The Essence of Neverland remains persistently hopeful and surprisingly lighthearted. Jinsei’s illustrative writing style really shines through the four brave children that serve as the main protagonists. Hailing from various backgrounds and regions, they each find themselves being summoned to the Mother Fairy, the eternal essence and spirit of Neverland. Although they’ve each suffered great losses at tender ages, they bravely begin their journey of growth with such earnesty and ambition that it’s impossible not to root for them whole-heartedly. My kudos to Juna Jinsei for such sincere writing!
Pages: 377 | ASIN: B015QV5C3M
There are some stories that lend themselves to endless variations. Peter Pan is definitely one of them. And having read your review, I may be tempted to buy this book.