In a world full of Peter Pan reimaginings and remakes, P.H. Low’s These Deathless Shores stands apart. This evocative, thrilling flight follows Jordan, a 22-year-old woman who was once one of Peter Pan’s loyal Lost Boys. It’s been nine years since she and Baron, her childhood friend, were exiled from Peter’s Island. Both have tried to make a life in San Jukong, a sprawling city reminiscent of Southeast Asian metropolises, but Jordan’s been in withdrawal from Tinkerbell’s Dust ever since she left the Island and has become addicted to a drug called karsa in order to cope with her symptoms. Jordan decides to return and steal Tinkerbell in order to gain an unlimited supply of Dust, and drags Baron along on the perilous journey. But when sinister truths are revealed about Peter’s machinations, Jordan sets her sights on a new goal: revenge. 

Low’s world building is lush and detail-laden, and they fully immerse readers into San Jukong and later Peter’s island, to the point that readers are sometimes left feeling as if they’re paddling to keep their heads above water. However, Baron and Jordan’s profound connection provides an emotional foundation. While Baron is content to forget Peter, Jordan knows that he will follow her to the ends of the earth to honor the bond they forged while masquerading as twins on the island. With each delicious and devastating twist, Low makes clear that the traditional archetypes of heroes and villains have been flipped on their head in this telling, especially when it comes to Jordan (who just so happens to wear a metallic prosthetic hand). As she and Baron fight the boy who never grew up, and navigate the traumatic memories that have come flooding back, can they rewrite the ending to this cursed bedtime story?

P.H. Low’s intriguing debut fantasy, These Deathless Shores, is a haunting modern spin on Peter Pan.
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As teens, best friends Jeremy Cox and Rafe Howell disappeared into a stretch of West Virginia wilderness known as Red Crow. They reappeared six months later, perfectly healthy and fit save for a series of scars on Rafe’s back. Fifteen years later, the two men are estranged. Rafe is an artistic recluse with no memory of their time away, and Jeremy is a preternaturally gifted missing persons investigator. Rafe knows that Jeremy remembers the truth of what happened, but Jeremy has long refused to reveal a single detail. When a young woman named Emilie Wendell tasks Jeremy with finding her birth sister—who coincidentally also disappeared in Red Crow—Jeremy knows that he’ll need Rafe’s help to find her.

Meg Shaffer’s The Lost Story is a gorgeously wrought tale of yearning, grief and hope. Taking heavy inspiration from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Shaffer imagines what life would be like after a magical world changes you forever and then sends you home. Would you be Rafe, whose subconscious wants so desperately to return that he tries to drive to Red Crow in his sleep? Or Jeremy, who can remember every moment, but clearly has very strong reasons for not sharing them with Rafe? Or would you be the one left behind, who never knew what happened to your loved ones and could only hope that one day they’d return? The Lost Story gives us a window into all of these perspectives, depicting each with compassion without sacrificing a whit of drama. Layered atop it all, a delicious smattering of meta-narrative keeps the story feeling less like a tragedy and more like the warmhearted fairy tale that it is, reminding us that there is likely a happy ending (at least of sorts) waiting for us at the end of it all.

A spiritual epilogue to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Meg Shaffer’s The Lost Story explores what happens after you return from a magical realm.
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Arthur is dead and the Round Table lies shattered in The Bright Sword by Lev Grossman, author of the bestselling Magicians trilogy. The story begins with Collum of the Isle of Mull, a character who does not appear in Arthurian legend, embroiled in a duel with an unnamed knight. The knight spits uncouth insults about Collum’s mother, and at the end of their brawl, Collum makes his first (extremely messy) kill of the book. This resolution to a duel outlines how most plot points are resolved in The Bright Sword: Someone inevitably dies, and no one is happy.

Once Collum gets to Camelot, none of the remaining knights are particularly happy either. After a few chapters about Collum, a new knight of the Round Table is introduced, and, as if remembering the reader may not know anything about this person, Grossman suspends the main story to relate how the knight arrived at Camelot. These consistently shifting perspectives, combined with an extremely loose approach to time and distance, creates a dreamlike vibe, suggestive of a story told around a campfire by a narrator who keeps getting distracted. Those with little patience will likely find The Bright Sword frustrating, but readers willing to savor the book over many nights will find each chapter a neatly arranged, miniature adventure of its own.

Traditionally minimal side characters in the story of Arthur—like Sir Bedivere, Sir Palomides and even Dagonet the Fool—receive intricate, deep backstories that erase the mythological buildup around each figure, viewing them instead in a far more human and often more modern light. In many older tales, Palomides is a Middle Eastern stereotype, used entirely as a foil to elevate Sir Tristan’s status as an honorable and just knight. But in Grossman’s story, Palomides is a prince and explorer who is wildly misunderstood by his knightly peers, with his own journey of self-discovery and growth.

At once full of desperate hope and grievous loss, The Bright Sword is a moody reflection on Arthur’s tale. This saga is not marked by optimism, but instead a dignified cynicism. Collum and his endearing band of Round Table Rejects (album out soon) simply live and persevere, knowing that if they do not try to bring peace to the now-fractured Britain, no one else will.

At once full of desperate hope and grievous loss, Lev Grossman’s The Bright Sword is a moody reflection on the tales of King Arthur and the Round Table.

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