Release Day & Author Interview! Wendy Darling Vol 3: Shadow


I have to admit that I love nothing more than opening my email than seeing Spark Point Studio. I love working with them and they promote some of my absolute favorite authors. So when I saw the invitation to participate in the blog tour for Colleen Oakes latest addition to the Wendy Darling series, I responded without hesitation. I fangirl over Oakes and her ability to weave dazzling re-imaginings of my favorite fairy tales. Wendy Darling Vol 2: Seas ranks highly among my favorites. You can find my past review of Seas here.

Today I am excited to share my thoughts on the conclusion to this haunting series as well as a lovely interview with the brilliant author behind the books!


Please Welcome Colleen Oakes

Thank you so much for your time today! The Wendy Darling series is one of my favorites. I admire how you have taken Neverland and its familiar residents and expanded on them, giving them new life. What was your inspiration behind this series?  

I knew that after Queen of Hearts I wanted to write another fairytale retelling with a strong female character.  When I first picked up Peter Pan to read it again before starting Wendy Darling, I was struck by just how adult that story is. As a child, you remember the Lost Boys having fun and Peter flying, but there are a lot of dark and twisted things about the story of Peter Pan; gender roles, violence, strange hints of hatred for Mothers…it’s a much deeper and more diabolical story that it gets credit for. That resonated with me, and I knew that Wendy Darling would be the character, and the book, for me.

Who has been your favorite character to develop within the Wendy Darling series and what are some of your favorite qualities within them?

While I do love Wendy and all that is good and merciful within her, Peter Pan is my favorite character to write. I love a charismatic villain; I modeled him after powerful and attractive cult leaders throughout history. I wondered – what would a sixteen year old forever actually look like, and he was born out of that question.

You have taken the infamous Neverland and made it your very own. What were some of the challenges you encountered during this process?

Probably the most obvious answer is that it’s an island. You can only go so many places on an island and so it’s sort of limiting in its scope. Because that wasn’t challenging enough, I set book two, Seas, on a boat. I modeled the physical island after Kauai, only with a feral magic that has created the history that we see in the books.

Wendy Darling: Shadow is the conclusion of our time with this series. For myself it was bitter-sweet. While very satisfied, I found I was not quite ready to say goodbye. How does it feel personally to see this adventure come to an end?

I feel sad, but also grateful that I got to tell Wendy Darling’s story second, after J.M Barrie. I’m proud of these books and what they have to say about family and loyalty and the struggles of a girl coming-of-age in a wild world.  They will always have a special place in my heart and yes, it’s quite bittersweet.

As a reader, I hold a special fondness for fairy tales and retellings. You have explored Wonderland in your Queen of Hearts series and Neverland in Wendy Darling. What can we anticipate next?

I can tell you that in 2019, you will be seeing a very different book from me  – a Southern Gothic style thriller that deals with vigilante justice and a matriarchal society in Austin Texas. After that, another YA thriller will be up on deck, and another fantasy novel.  I will be revisiting fairy-tales very soon though.

And last but least, I must ask (in the spirit of Books, Vertigo and Tea) do you have a favorite tea that you enjoy?

My favorite tea is Honey Vanilla Chamomile with a LOT of honey in it.

Thank you again fColleen! I am anticipating the new thriller (Austin is my birth city) and cannot wait to see what lies ahead! I am also excited to see which fairy tales you choose to revisit.

Wendy Darling Volume 3: Shadow

Available 7/18/17
Publisher: Sparkpress
ISBN13: 9781943006168
Genre: Fantasy/Retelling


Wendy Darling has found herself once again in the arms of charming Peter Pan, the god-child who desires power above all things. This time, though, Wendy burns not with passion but with a secret: with Hook as her ally, she is there to defeat the evil that lies inside of Peter, the evil that holds all Neverland hostage: the Shadow.
To do this, Wendy must quietly undo Peter from inside his heart while at the same time convincing Tink to betray the twisted love that binds them together. This is a task made nearly impossible by the arrival of Booth, her sweetheart from London and a new pawn in Peter’s manipulative game, a boy whose heart she must break in order to save his life. As all of Neverland prepares to fight, Wendy races to untangle Peter’s connection to the Shadow, a secret long buried in the Forsaken Garden. When the time comes, pirates, mermaids, Lost Boys, and the Darling family will all rise, but if Wendy can’t call the Shadow, they will all be destroyed by Peter’s dark soul. War has come to paradise, and Neverland will never be the same. Wendy Darling: Shadow is the thrilling final installment in Colleen Oakes’ Wendy Darling Trilogy.”

My Thoughts:

Colleen Oakes has captured the very heart and essence of fairy tales with this series. There is an indescribable magic that seems to lift from the pages when I open Shadow. A comforting familiarity and an enticing new adventure find the perfect balance within, as a Wendy’s remarkable journey unfolds.

I am refraining from diving too far into the plot as always since this is a conclusion to a trilogy. But Shadow thrusts us back into the heart of Neverland as our heroine Wendy embarks on a daring emprise to save its lands and inhabitants from the ever menacing Peter Pan and his Shadow. Is it possible that in doing so she just might save the ones she loves and finally return home?

Shadow continues to deliver extraordinary character development and world building that is showcased through a bold and fast paced plot bursting with excitement and enthusiasm. Wendy’s relentless courage pairs beautifully with her unyielding love and hope to provide a protagonist that confronts her own weakness and continually challenges herself. The end result is a unique character that evolves tremendously and in doing so creates a very personalized connection with the reader. The returning ensemble of rag-tag pirates and misfits ultimately succeed in gaining our affection and admiration in the most unlikely ways.

Oakes has earned a favored spot among my list of auto-read authors. I often envision something mystical occurring as she puts pen to paper (so to speak). There is an overwhelming sense of ease that is conveyed through how effortlessly her stories read. Seamless narration compliments her uncanny ability to take something well-known and transform it into her own. She incorporates haunting elements of love, loss and obsession, exposing a new, darker side of Neverland and its inhabitants that will play on a multitude of emotions.

It is quite possible to pick up any book in this series and read it as a standalone because the storytelling is complete and thorough, but I would honestly advise against doing so. There is too much to be gained from the Wendy Darling books. This is a trilogy that will find a permanent and welcomed home among the shelves of fantasy and fairy tale fans alike. With a consistent pace and befitting conclusion, this is one series I find myself reluctant to part with.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

About The Author

Colleen Oakes is the author of books for both teens and adults, including the Elly in Bloom Series, the Queen of Hearts Saga (Harper Collins 2016), and the Wendy Darling Saga. She lives in North Denver with her husband and son and surrounds herself with the most lovely family and friends imaginable. When not writing or plotting new books, Oakes can be found swimming, traveling or totally immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. She currently at work on another fantasy series and a stand-alone YA novel. Visit her on Twitter @ColleenBlooms.
You can also visit her website at

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer ~Audio Book Review

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By Marissa Meyer
Narrated by Rebecca Soler
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Duration: 14 hours 34 minutes
ISBN13: 9781427267948
Genre: YA Fantasy


Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.


Anyone who even remotely knows me knows I am infatuated (maybe unhealthily) with all that is Wonderland. Picking up Heartless was a gimme, but finding the time to read it was becoming a challenge. I do happen to own a physical copy that I had originally pre-ordered. However, between my neverending TBR and constant bouts of vertigo, audio seemed to be the best solution.

“A heart, once stolen, can never be taken back.”

Heartless takes us back to a time before Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole into the infamous Wonderland. We are introduced to Catherine, a young girl with a passion for baking and a heart that desires true love. Courted by the King but longing only for the court joker Jest, Cath begins a forbidden affair that may have disastrous outcomes. This is the story of how a girl in love will rise to the throne and eventually become known as The Queen of Hearts.

Characters were a mixed bag for me in Heartless. This is a fast paced retelling that incorporates the familiar denizens of Wonderland to provide us with a prequel. We are given a rare opportunity to dive behind the scenes and take a look at the “ingredients” that lead up to the final cake, AKA the Queen of Hearts. Catherine is our protagonist. She is young and full of ambition, driven by her desires to open her very own bakery with her best friend and household servant Mary Ann. But when the King decides to court Cath, she soon finds herself facing an endless list of obstacles that will not only challenge her aspirations but her heart that belongs to Jest, the court Joker. I have to be honest, while I appreciated our heroine’s emotions and situation, there was a part of me that continued to feel a tinge of annoyance. She knew what she wanted, but I felt her voice and actions were weak at times. There was this ongoing attempt to approach matters logically that had me pulling hair at times. I did not dislike her, but I couldn’t help but feel she was her own worst enemy.

Additional characters included a customary entourage ranging from the Cheshire Cat to the Mad Hatter. We are even offered an extension into Wonderland’s occupants with the introduction of some new faces such as Jest and Raven. There is no shortage of bizarre and eccentric behavior that offers a bit of welcomed predictability.

The plot was straight forward, lacking some of the imagination I have come to expect from Meyers, but that is not to say it disappoints. This is the making of a Queen that will come to reign terror on Wonderland, and for all purposes that story has been accomplished. However, it is told with little emphasis on the actual world. World building or lack of is where I struggled the most with Heartless. As an avid fan of Alice in Wonderland, I have always held firm to the idea that this is a tale that has always relied on the whimsical world to succeed. After all, it was the time down the rabbit hole that added a real element of magic to Alice’s adventures. But that constant need to explore and uncover the oddities that we are accustomed to was absent. This may be a rare case of the author actually placing too much faith in the reader’s knowledge. Wonderland is meant to adventurous and immersive. This was more character driven and I missed that facet.

The story telling and writing is every bit reminiscent of what I have come to expect when reading Meyer. It flows with a steady narration that facilitates a fluid and fast paced experience with a few unexpected twists. It is fun and effortless. I appreciated that while there is a love story contained within our protagonist’s tale, it unfolds slowly with many elements that prove to be more realistic than the typical instalove you encounter in many retellings.

The audio narration took a few chapters to settle into, but eventually came into its own. It is my understanding that Rebecca Soler also narrated the Lunar Chronicles. I found her tone and pacing to be ideal in terms of the story, but struggled with some of the dialog. However, this is always my complaint with audio. I enter with this unrealistic expectation that each character should have a truly unique voice (i.e. like 20 narrators for one story). I do feel that Soler eventually achieved this individuality to an extent and gave a life to Wonderland’s inhabitants that ultimately provided an enjoyable listen.

While I was surprised with the lack of world construction and desired more of an imaginative approach to Cath’s story, it was still a solid one that managed to paint a history that fits well into the grand scheme of things. This is a must read for all fans of Wonderland and retellings that offers satisfying back story, and it successfully provides more depth to a beloved classic.

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The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

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The Reluctant Queen 
(The Queens of Renthia #2)
By Sarah Beth Durst
Released 7/4/17
Publisher: Harper Voyager
ISBN13: 9780062413352
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy


Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . . And those spirits want to kill you.
It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns.

Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.

Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.

But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.


*As always this is a review for a sequel. I will try to omit potential spoilers, but recommend visiting at a later time if you have yet to read the first in the series and plan to do so. You can find my review for the first book The Queen of Blood here.

I only recently read and reviewed the The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia #1) in eager anticipation of exploring a new series. I had this lovely arc in my hands and simply knew it was going to be worth my time. While appropriate for the YA audience, an ensemble of well developed characters, plot and world building continues to provide an experience that I feel can be adequately appreciated by all.

Now the Queen of Aratay, Daleina discovers that she has the False Death. Now she struggles to conceal a secret that is killing her and threatening her country. She must find a successor to the throne immediately. But what happens when the only person who can possibly help refuses to do so? Naelin has hidden her powers in fear of losing her quiet, content life with her children. But now she may have to give up everything she has fought for to protect that very life. With an impending invasion, time if of the essence.

The Reluctant Queen is a rare case of a sequel surpassing its predecessor. Packed with a sense of urgency and delivered with a few remarkable new characters, it expands on an intricate story of magic and survival in the best of ways. The plot is familiar but more evolved. We still have a queen who is responsible for maintaining the balance of life and spirits. Now that element has been beautifully heightened by Daleina’s failing health and the dire need for an heir.

Nailen is absolutely stellar in terms of female protagonist. She offers a unique facet with her older age and two children that I found slightly relatable and at times highly admirable. Her motherly instincts drive her and ultimately prove to be her true strength. Forthright in her feelings against training to be an heir, she is humble and supplies a refreshing perspective on life in Aratay. Familiar characters also make a welcomed return as Ven is tasked with finding a new candidate and the very queen he trained is facing uncertainty.

The world building progresses as we are given a glimpse into the castle and throne room. This provides further exploration into how reliant life on Renthia is to having a queen. The magic in The Reluctant Queen continues to prove its worth with a direct yet imaginative system that focuses on nature and its manipulation. I hold a fondness for the emphasis of female power in this book. I love that the magic is gender exclusive. While I am aware that aspect might not fall on the favor of all, I felt it enhanced the female leads and provided an extra dose of originality.

The writing is all that I have come to expect from my time with The Queen of Blood. A fluid yet light prose creates a fast paced read that never feels too dense or complex yet manages to convey a story full of depth. Again, I am recommending this series to all fans of fantasy and magic. My anticipation to continue exploring this series easily rivals that of any past encounters during the last year or two!

*I would like to thank the publisher for this copy. This review is my own, unbiased opinion.

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