Title: Dust, Shadow
Series: Heirs of Neverland
Author: Kara Swanson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Overview: This was my second time reading this series, and it definitely improves upon closer acquaintance. I loved it the first time I read it, though I was a little confused about some of the decisions the characters made, uncertain about the motivations behind those decisions. But the second time through, I caught all the future events the author was alluding to, which made for a much more enjoyable experience. Everything made so much more sense this time, and I was once again pulled into the magical world of this shattered Neverland.
Characters: Claire is such a relatable character, what with her anxieties of feelings of worthlessness. But she also has pixie dust, which is… pretty cool. She does annoy me sometimes with her trust issues, but it’s understandable as to why she struggles in this area, so I can forgive her for it. She goes through some great character growth over the series!
As for Peter… I might have a crush on him. Maybe. Which is terrible, because he’s very much an immature child who really needs to grow up. But at the same time, he can be sweet and considerate, and I’m right there with Claire in loving him for it. Basically, he’s definitely my favorite of the two POVs. He grows so much over the series; it makes me so happy!
Content: There are a couple of kisses, described in terms of how they make the people feel. A character is accused of being a bit of a player. The romance is a bit heavier in the second book, but it’s still sweet and pure. There’s a hint of romance between two side characters. Two characters had a relationship in the past and seem to still have something in the present.
There’s fighting throughout, usually involving blood. In the first book, a character remembers how a friend died in the past (it’s quite sad).The fighting is more intense in the second book, with a couple of characters meet gruesome deaths (nothing graphic).
In the first book, a highly depressed character jumped out a window in the past. It’s unclear if it was an intentional suicide attempt. There are also allusions to self-harm (portrayed as wrong). Another character basically attempts suicide in the second book (also treated as wrong).
Peter utters a few British exclamations (cor, blast, blasted heck, etc.).
Writing: I’m still not a fan of first-person present narration, but Swanson does a good job of it in this series. Peter and Claire have different narrative styles that makes it easy to keep up with whose head we’re in at any given time. She also does a great job of weaving mystery into the plot, keeping you guessing all the way.
The story does drag just a little towards the ending of the second book. There are a few slow moments that last a bit longer than I felt they should have. But at the same time, I would have been complaining about the book being too short if those scenes had been condensed, so I suppose it’s a moot point.
Summary: This is a dark read, yet one that is somehow simultaneously whimsical. Peter Pan may be a selfish coward at times, but he’s also still the charming boy we remember from the fairy tale. There’s darkness here, for sure, but there’s also light that’s much more powerful. This is a sweet story about hope shining in the midst of darkness, one that I would recommend to anyone aged 14+.