Book Review: Dust (Book 1 in the Heirs of Neverland series) by Kara Swanson (2020)

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Official Synopsis  

The truth about Neverland is far more dangerous than a fairy tale. 

Claire Kenton believes the world is too dark for magic to be real—since her twin brother was stolen away as a child. Now Claire’s desperate search points to London... and a boy who shouldn't exist. 

Peter Pan is having a beastly time getting back to Neverland. Grounded in London and hunted by his own Lost Boys, Peter searches for the last hope of restoring his crumbling island: a lass with magic in her veins. 

The girl who fears her own destiny is on a collision course with the boy who never wanted to grow up. The truth behind this fairy tale is about to unravel everything Claire thought she knew about Peter Pan—and herself.  

~ * ~

Here we are, in a new year, and this is the first book I have officially read in 2021. This will probably be a year of magical and fantasy reads and that prospect excites me.

Kara Swanson is fairly new on the scene of Christian YA authors. But she's gifted with a vivid imagination, a romantic soul (kinda necessary for writing YA romantic fantasy), and lots and lots of dreams. Plus, she's young so there is plenty of time for her to hone her craft.

At the time of this review being published, Dust is available on Amazon for a whopping $4.65 in hardback or $4.91 in Kindle. I just purchased it in hardback; I enjoyed it that much.

Peter, Claire, and Tiger Lily take center stage, backed up by Hook and one other person who would constitute as a spoiler if I gave a name.

Peter is upbeat, mischievous, and growing into his hormones since being stuck on earth away from Neverland seems to be aging him. He's roughly in his late teens, almost twenty, and he's falling hard for Claire, which I personally found adorable. The author has a good sense of romantic timing, and how to give just enough detail without giving too much. Peter is snarky and his chapters entertain me the most. There is a certain repetition to his vocabulary, like calling most of the people he meets mates or chaps, even Claire, which just feels weird and slightly off-putting since it's not really natural to call a girl chap. But on the whole, Peter is Peter Pan, and unlike Claire, I've always loved Peter Pan, flights of fancy (forgive the pun!), and all. So the version of Peter in Dust delights me.

Claire is harder to pinpoint. She's an emotional mess, although we find out why she's an emotional mess later so that sort of helps a bit. But what doesn't help is that she's also a bit dense. I would have figured out I was dealing with Peter Pan waaaaaaay sooner than she does, and even when she's told point-blank that this boy is Peter Pan, she still doesn't quite believe it. She's a nice heroine, but she doesn't make wise decisions, especially near the end where wisdom would have served her best. I love the use of pixie dust in the story (it's BRILLIANT), and so for the magical elements alone, I like Claire. But she's still somewhat irksome as a heroine.

Tiger Lily on the other hand is magnificent. She's a native Neverlander (an idea I've loved since forever), and she's the tribal leader of her people, that is until she chose to maintain loyalty to Peter and fall to earth with him. She's clearly African inspired with her dark skin, but I love the addition of night sky and constellation tattoos into her character design, along with the teal streak in her hair and just her overall strength. This girl/woman is tough but kind, and she has suffered through many doubts and dark periods in her life. 

I wish that there had been a little more plot development in the middle section of the book apart from Peter and Claire growing closer and Claire learning to trust herself more. There's also a bit of an issue with repetition. We know that Tiger Lily has that teal streak in her hair. It doesn't have to be repeated more than once, and if it does need to be repeated, do it in a newer, fresher way.

Blatant faith elements are minimal, but there is mention of the native Neverlanders and their faith in the Ever One, the deity who hung the stars in the sky. Hopefully, she'll expound on this Being in the sequel. There is also a lot of mention of light overcoming darkness and shadow so that's inspiring. There's a lot of talk about facing up to your fears and inner demons before you can truly become whole and I completely agree with that. Lots of little nuggets of truth are sprinkled in without preaching.

I know very little about traveling outside my country, but I do know you need a passport and it's unlikely you can just get a job wherever you happen to be visiting. We never hear of Claire having a passport and she's planning to get a job within a week or so of landing in London. I just don't know how possible that is. Then there's the phone breakage incident. If it's an iPhone (which Claire has), all of your contacts are pretty much backed up for retrieval on the iCloud. So, yeah, her panic over losing contacts doesn't add up.

Overall, the idea for Dust is magical and clever. It just needed a little more research and possibly a beta reader to ask a couple of important questions like "how is Claire getting to London without a passport" and "don't iPhones back up their contacts." Regardless of these little hiccups, Kara Swanson clearly loves J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan and for that I thank her. I'm hoping for a tighter plot schedule in the sequel Shadow that is due out in summer 2021. There is a bit of a cliffhanger to this first novel so I'm eager for Shadow.


Author: Kara Swanson

Series: Heirs of Neverland

Year: 2020

My Rating:  ★★★★

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