Fun fact: the title of this book is in fact Neverwhere and NOT Neverland. I’m trying to save you all the embarrassment of thinking this is about Peter Pan.
It’s 2015 and I’m hanging out with my good friend who rants and raves and then hands me Neverwhere. She doesn’t like to read so, hoping my wonderful influence had finally swayed her, I took the book. “Peter Pan?” Young Allison thought to herself. “I don’t like children’s lit.” I never keep other people’s books, but I didn’t want to return it without reading it and I also didn’t want to read it. It sat on my bookshelf.
First of all, that book cover is dark. Secondly, the back outlines a story that has literally nothing to do with Peter Pan.
Present day. Lots of ads for American Gods, the television show, and at BN there is a whole display of books by someone named Neil Gaiman. Something about Norse Mythology? For some reason the name sounded familiar even though I knew I hadn’t read any of the books shown.
So two years and two apartments later, I go home, look in my bookshelf, and lo and behold: Neverwhere.
If you know anything about Neverwhere, or like me you have just Googled it, then you know that actually it was a television series in the mid 90’s. You probably also know Gaiman released the novelized version later the same year and since has written many other books.
But Allison, you ask, if it isn’t about Peter Pan what is this book about?
It’s an incredible story about an average Londoner named Richard who falls into the strange, and often dangerous, London Below.
Richard Mayhew is living a normal life, working 9 to 5 and engaged to socialite Jessica, when he stumbles across an injured girl. She refuses to go to the hospital so he takes her home for bandages and rest. The girl heals and leaves, but her presence opened another world. And once exposed, he begins to fade from the London he knows. Determined to set things right, he goes to find her. What follows is an incredible journey full of danger, revenge, and finding home. And it has everything, assassins, angels, talking rats, magical doors, labyrinths with mythical creatures, and royalty.
Which probably would have been an average fantasy story if not for the writing.
The descriptions, narrative, and even dialogue, are written so it all felt magical and huge, almost like a bizarre dream. Or nightmare.
Because so much of it was set in actual London, and Richard starts off almost painfully average, it all seems very normal and relateable. But then it gets more and more twisted until suddenly you realize this other London, the London Below, is a dark and complex place. The emotions are magnified in that weird, out of body way that comes with dreaming until the despair is crushing and the hope is imperative.
Some of the characters were eh, some of it was a tad predictable, and there were some annoying loose ends.
But overall it’s impressive and so well written, you should read it no matter what your favorite genre.