Fourth in the Peter and the Starcatchers fantasy adventures series for children loosely based on J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
This was great fun to read as we dipped further into the original Peter Pan‘s characters with Wendy, John, and Michael Darling although it’s really only Wendy who plays an active part.
Some proofreader messed up. Fighting Prawn is suggesting that since the castaways have done such a good job helping the Lost Boys fix up their hut that they would be ideal to help fix De Vliegen which would get them and the pirates off Never Land but when they do raise up the ship, it’s just the pirates and the Mollusks doing the work without any expectation of the castaways helping.
The ending activities tie in very well with the cache found in Bridge to Never Land.
It’s 1902 in London and the palace is busily preparing for Crown Prince Albert Edward’s coronation. But James believes that Ombra is back and that His Royal Highness is in danger. Believing that the police have been corrupted, he decides to seek out Molly and George. Having been involved in the earlier danger from Ombra, James is sure they will help so it’s a tremendous setback when Molly refuses to help. She won’t even allow him to talk to George.
Still, when James disappears after promising to visit the next day, it is enough to concern Molly and find her searching for her own answers. Too bad she didn’t take James’ warning as seriously as she should. For Molly Darling disappears. Fortunately, she did tell her daughter Wendy the tale and give her the locket she has worn all these years. Yet none of this helps when her father returns home and she tells him of the policeman she believes colluded in her mother’s kidnapping. George is so desperate to not believe that he does contact the police and eventually accuses them of not being serious about finding Mrs. Darling. It’s enough to find George in a spot of trouble.
The Darlings are lucky in their oldest child for Wendy is determined to find help and she displays the same adventurous spirit as her mother when she manages to gain Peter’s help.
Wendy Darling is the heroine we focus on in this story. Her brothers John and Michael simply perpetuate the attachment to Barrie’s original story. Their parents are George and Molly Darling (the former Mary Aster of the first three stories in the series; George first showed up in Peter and the Secret of Rundoon). George is heavily into denial while Molly doesn’t want to upset George. Uncle Neville Plonk-Fenster is a magistrate in Cambridgeshire with a passion for inventing.
Lord Leonard Aster is ill and dying; Mrs. Bumbrake has become his housekeeper and knows all about the starcatchers. Magill is Lord Aster’s backup at the Scotland Landing along with Karl the bear and they come in quite handy for their bit of b-and-e and tunnel exploration.
James Smith, one of the original Lost Boys, is all grown up now and working as a policeman. Actually, he’s working undercover at the palace where he greatly fears that Lord Ombra is back! Ted is now a professor at Cambridge, Dr. Theodore Pratt. Patrick Hunt is a history fellow at Cambridge with Ted and an expert on the Sword of Mercy. A very handy man to have around.
Peter Pan is kept quite busy traveling and fighting both the enemy and his own cowardice. The current crop of Lost Boys: Slightly, Nibs, Curly, Tootles, Shining Pearl, and Little Scallop have their own adventures in Never Land getting kidnapped and fighting off the castaways. Fighting Prawn is still chief of the Mollusk Indians with his son Bold Abalone playing a fast role. Mister Grin also runs through as part of another’s plot. Captain Hook, Smee, and his men are so anxious to get off the island that they readily agree to participate with the Mollusks and the castaways in raising their sunken ship although Hook does not endear himself to his crew as the voyage goes along and mutiny threatens. Ammm the porpoise who helped Molly so well is still alive and well.
Lord Ombra is back and possessing Baron Von Schatten‘s body. Seems the baron was intrepid enough to descend into the exploded temple in Rundoon where he re-emerged a changed man. Simon Revile—such a descriptive name!—is his second-in-command. There is a crew of four out scouring Europe for the missing tip of Curtana: Skeleton, a truly hideous man with an even more hideous power, Scarlet Johns, and two others. Another crew—the castaways—is quietly invading Never Land to search out their cache of starstuff and includes Cheeky O’Neal as the leader with Frederick DeWulf, Angus McPherson, and Rufus Kelly. No-nose Nerezza captains their ship.
The cover is quite frightening with a scene from the flying three-car train in the battle with Ombra’s minions depicted as monsters while Wendy opens the chest of starstuff at them and Peter and Tink look on. It could be that they’re looking monstrous because, being human, direct exposure to starstuff will kill them.
Truly, it is a beautifully detailed cover with lots of holographic, iridescent effects for the title and the author’s name, the border on the sides and the bottom of the cover, and, particularly, the stars in Tink’s flight contrail and when the starstuff flares out from the trunk.
The title is quite matter-of-fact as the entire story is about the necessity of finding the Sword of Mercy, a quite ancient artifact.