Book Review: The Piper's Price by Audrey Greathouse
Goodreads Description: Peter is plotting his retaliation against the latest bombing. Neverland needs an army, and Peter Pan is certain children will join him once they know what is at stake. The lost boys and girls are planning an invasion in suburbia to recruit, but in order to deliver their message, they will need the help of an old and dangerous associate—the infamous Pied Piper.
Hunting him down will require a spy in in the real world, and Gwen soon finds herself in charge of locating the Piper and cutting an uncertain deal with him. She isn't sure if Peter trusts her that much, or if he's just trying to keep her away from him in Neverland. Are they friends, or just allies? But Peter might not even matter now that she's nearly home and meeting with Jay again.
The Piper isn't the only one hiding from the adults' war on magic though, and when Gwen goes back to reality, she'll have to confront one of Peter's oldest friends… and one of his earliest enemies.
Book Review: I was given an e-copy of the Piper's Price by the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Piper's Price is the second book in the Neverland Wars series. It picks up a few months after the end of the first book, where Gwen and her sister, Rosemary, fled reality and the black coats of the Anomalous Activity Department, who intend to strip down Neverland's magic and use it for their own purposes. In order for Peter to recruit an army of children to protect Neverland, Gwen must return to reality to hunt down tokens to summon the infamous Pied Piper. But when the Piper does show up, the cost of his cooperation might be more than Gwen can handle.
Aw, yeah, guys. This book is the prime example of a sequel ending up better than the first book. The plot was a smash hit and integrated many elements from the first book very nicely, from Gwen's mysterious childhood memory to the mermaid's scale. I was delighted to see how all these elements came together, and makes me excited to see how future things will come into play, such as the mermaids finally getting their "sky glass"/mirror. The relationships in this installment were much deeper and more heartfelt. I particularly enjoyed the friendship between Gwen and Lasiandra, as it is always nice to see authors explore female friendships in YA, even if one of the girls is a mermaid.
The plot in this book was much more engaging than the previous installment, in my opinion, as there was more clarity to Gwen's mission and circumstances. Despite that, I feel like the tension could have been improved by outlining the stakes a bit more. We have a vague idea that Neverland will be bombed and stripped of magic, but it would be nice to see the concrete consequences if Gwen were to fail. (e.g., if they're not able to recruit the Piper by X date, the black coats will invade.) In addition, I feel the tension suffered because the bad guys didn't come across as big and bad. They had access to powerful magic-fueled technology (like ability to track flight and suppress all magic in an area) yet hardly utilized it to its full effectiveness. They come across as bumbling and incompetent more than usual, which dulled the kids' victories over them. The pirate appearance ended up feeling more threatening than this entire magic suppression agency, because he came after Peter and Gwen with everything he had.
The characters development was well-done for Gwen. I really liked seeing her struggles with doubts, and her flipping between two worlds-- adult and childhood. She perfectly straddles that inner conflict that many teenagers face where they don't feel as though they belong in either world. I especially liked that the book delved further into the relationships between characters, particularly between Gwen and Jay vs Gwen and Peter. The latter relationship is not romantic but has fleeting hints that there might be. However, Peter's stunted character makes it difficult to determine where it will go. He is presented as a "larger than life" figure, but he often comes across as one dimensional because we only see one facet of his personality-- pretty much the stereotype of Peter Pan. I understand the effect that was going for, but as other "fictional" characters come across with more personality, I'd feel like he could have a greater effect if we saw other sides to him as well.
There was a bit of conflicting world building which I felt could have been improved through some more explanation. It was difficult for me as a reader to understand how the world worked as things often flip-flopped in their usage, Like, the raven tree eggs at the beginning of the book were being used as a food, then later were being used as a weapon. There was a host of "fictional" characters that had immigrated to reality, but it's never specified who's who. There were some minor hints, and maybe I'm just dense, but as this is a book for kids, spelling it out in this case is probably best. As Gwen would recognize these figures from movies and storybooks (as the princesses mention Disney at one point) I can’t see why she wouldn’t be making comparisons in her mind between the reality versions and what the fiction depicted them as.
Delving a little deeper would also help with the whole "reality vs fiction" representation of Native Americans. It touches a little deeper on it in this book by showing Tiger Lily living in reality as a Native American as opposed to a redskin, which I think is important. I'm not Native American, so I can't speak to the representation, but I will say I'm glad the redskins and Native Americans are shown to be two separate entities.
Aside from all the criticisms, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was such a fun mission-based story that gave Gwen a lot of autonomy and strength. She wasn't just another kid in Neverland; she was one of the only lost children smart and strong enough to take on this mission for Peter. The romance as well between her and Jay was so light and beautiful, especially in the way the two accepted the realities of their situation. Gwen often reminds herself that this is a crush, not a True Love situation, which lets the romance grow naturally. By the time they get to the L word, it feels organic to their situation despite their time apart. Because most of the story takes place in reality, it has a definite urban fantasy feel to it that really made the whole thing charming. I would recommend this book for readers on the younger end of the YA scale, perhaps those transitioning from MG to YA.
TL;DR: 3.5/5 stars. A kick ass sequel that beautifully tied elements together and led by an awesome heroine juggling her life between two worlds.