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The Other Side of Never: Dark Tales from the World of Peter and Wendy, edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also some of the authors are personal friends.

This is a fairly narrow topic for an anthology and thus a dangerous one: there’s a risk that a narrow anthology topic will result in stories that are on the one hand repetitive and same-y or on the other hand very tentatively connected to the theme. And this one brushes those guardrails on both sides while not crashing: there’s a bit much of yes, we know James M. Barrie was a creepy so-and-so whose ideas of gender and sexuality were pretty gross, and also there are a few stories that are just barely Peter Pannish at all. But on the whole it’s pretty deftly handled with enough of a spread to keep me from going “ugh not again” or “why this one though”–especially as I am not the world’s biggest fan of the story. (See above re: creepy so-and-so, ideas of gender and sexuality etc.)

I particularly want to shout out A.C. Wise’s story, “Manic Pixie Girl.” Many times when you see an author who has successfully published multiple books related to a theme (Hooked and Wendy Darling, available from booksellers near you!) publishing a story in an anthology about that theme, their story is an offcut from those books, a chapter that didn’t quite make it into the final version and has decent prose but doesn’t really stand on its own as a story. The Gym Shoes of Shannara, we call those stories in my house: if you wanted to know every single unmagical detail of my magical world, step right up for some baaaaaackstoryyyyyy! Well, not only did Wise give us a complete and satisfying story rather than an offcut, she took an entirely different run at the Peter Pan concept with it than her novels did. That’s artistic integrity, is what that is, and my favorite story of the volume to boot. No gym shoes here.

Other notable stories include Lavie Tidhar’s “A Visit to Kensington Gardens,” “Never Was Born His Equal” by Premee Mohamed, and “A House the Size of Me” by Alison Littlewood. I was a bit surprised that my favorites all tended to deal fairly directly with the subject matter rather than glancing off it, because I have no objections to a glancing inspiration, especially in this case, but that’s how it happened to fall out this time. Those whose taste skews more firmly in the horror direction will find other stories appeal to them more, and that’s how anthologies are supposed to work: different strokes for etc. etc.

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