Thank you to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, who provided me a free copy through Netgalley for an honest review. Alias Hook is available July 8th.
“Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It’s my fate to be trapped here forever, in a nightmare of childhood fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy.”
Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.
With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale.
What I’d Pay: $12 (~3.5 stars)
This is an enjoyable read, and I think a lot of readers out there will enjoy it, but it was definitely different from what I expected.
This story is told from Captain Hook’s point of view. The first part of the book relates his sad past in a series of flashback chapters interspersed with chapters set in present day Neverland. What I didn’t expect was how depressing the beginning of the book was – Hook wants desperately to leave Neverland but is convinced that will never happen. Neverland is not a happy place in this retelling, not even for Peter, who is a violent and vicious little kid. Hook is stuck in an endless cycle with Peter, trying to defend his men from Peter’s attacks and as part of their never-ending game. Hook is incredibly jaded by the fact that his own like is prolonged indefinitely, but countless crews of his men have been killed and replaced with new arrivals over time. This pattern makes Hook super depressed, and his complete hopelessness really dominates the beginning of the book. This tone is enhanced by the alternating chapters that recount his unfortunate past. As much as the dark, depressing tone really put me off at the beginning of the novel, I do think it was fitting since Hook was the narrator of this retelling. The action in present day Neverland doesn’t really get going until multiple chapters into the book, with the arrival of Hook’s love interest. I thought that took a bit too long for that to happen, but I did enjoy the book once the action picked up.
The other characters in Neverland – the fairies, mermaids, and native tribe – all play major roles in the plot and I really liked how they were integrated into the story. There was a lot of thought that went into discussing why Neverland exists, which made Neverland feel like a well-thought out place with an important purpose. Peter Pan is ultimately the big bad adversary, but there are hints that he is actually a very conflicted, sympathetic character and much more than just the villain of Hook’s story. There was definitely a theme of growing up – this is a Peter Pan retelling after all – but the biggest message I got from this book was about love. I liked the unique ideas in this one and the highly descriptive language and setting. The best part, in my opinion, was the ending. Not because I didn’t like the book and wanted it to be finished, on the contrary, I thought the ending was just right. Despite the dark tone of most of the novel, the ending was an optimistic one – enough closure that I felt things would turn out alright, but enough left open-ended that it felt like another, wonderful story was just beginning.
Bottomline: This is described as an adult fairy tale retelling of Peter Pan from Hook’s point of view, and I would definitely rate it R for graphic violence and some sexual content. It does rely on romance to move the plot along, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a romance novel since the focus is really about Hook’s growth as a character. Overall, it gave me elements I expected from the description, like Hook’s background story, romance and adventure, as well as some things that really surprised me, such as the historical setting and the interesting explanation of Peter and Neverland. The tone of this book might not appeal to some readers, since it is dark and depressing for the first half of the book, but it is very unique read and I thought the overall journey was totally worth it.