With the popularity of such shows as ABC’s Once Upon a Time, fairytale retellings seem to be all the rage in literature right now. Lisa Jensen’s novel Alias Hook, which has been released at a perfect time, since OUAT is now focusing on the redemption of the infamous villain from Peter Pan. But Jensen offers us a much more sympathetic portrayal of the captain and a much darker vision of Neverland than we saw in Barrie’s Peter Pan.
The story opens soon after the climactic battle described in Barrie’s novel Peter Pan and Hook gives us an account of what occurred:
Every 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 childish fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy.
But as Barrie hinted, there is more to Hook than we have previously seen, and Jensen fills in all of the blanks. Hook, born James Benjamin Hookbridge, was the son of a gentleman during the Restoration and serves his country as a privateer only to become one of the most feared pirates of the Spanish Main, until a fateful curse brings him to Neverland and binds him to the whims of Peter Pan. Hook is caught in an eternal game of dying and coming back to life, subject to the rules Peter has made for him, until things change with the arrival of Stella Parrish, a grown woman from 1950 England who has dreamed herself into Neverland. Stella’s presence in Neverland is against Peter’s rules as well, and Stella takes refuge from the boy with Hook. As the two get to know each other, Stella becomes determined to leave Neverland and to bring Hook with her. The two race against time to break the curse that has been placed on Hook, seeking help from such Neverland denizens as the mermaids, the fairies, and the First Tribes, and soon their alliance turns into love. As they try to evade Peter and try to figure out how to leave Neverland, they develop a deeper understanding of why Hook was sent to Neverland and the darker side of Peter’s eternal childhood, and Hook finally begins to see that he must leave Neverland with Stella before it’s too late.
I found myself in love with Stella’s character. Stella, who has been to Neverland before but who can’t remember much about her childhood visit, is a modern woman who has lived a life of both deep love and profound loss. The emptiness of her adult life drives her to dream herself back into Neverland, for she thinks she’ll find something there that she’s currently missing, though she doesn’t know what it is. Once she discovers that Peter has it out for her and learns of the magic that has bound Hook to Neverland, she uses her knowledge of fairy tales and her open mind when it comes to seeking out the assistance of the island’s other inhabitants to help Hook figure out how to break his curse.
Jensen’s prose is magical, and she’s able to convey both the beauty and the terrible aspects of Neverland in her prose. She also fills in the blanks and provides more depth to Hook than has been given before, and as he recounts his story, the reader can’t help but yell at him about the things he could have done differently and pity him at the same time. Jensen offers a bittersweet story for Hook, as he is a man who is held prisoner by the mistakes he has made and who is caught is a neverending cycle and can’t move forward with his life until he understands the reason why he is bound to Neverland. It’s a story any adult can understand, because understanding and learning from the mistakes in your life is part of living and growing up.
I received an advanced review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my fair and honest review.