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Book Review: ALIAS HOOK by Lisa Jensen

BooksKristina PinoComment
"'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 Panโ€™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 Stellaโ€™s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hookโ€™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 perfect for fans of Gregory Maguire and Paula Brackston."
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I was in the mood for some kind of fairy tale back story, a book that explored a character from a world I already knew and loved, so I was delighted when Alias Hook caught my radar. Captain James Hook is the star of this outfit, and this is the story of what got him into Neverland in the first place, and how he gets himself out, after centuries of suffering. I don't need to get into much more detail there since the above description (blurbage from its listing) pretty much covers the premise.

My knowledge of Peter Pan and his world had always been from watching the various films until a couple of years ago when, curious, I picked up the book itself. I was kind of disappointed, and I've found that I just don't like reading books where I'm not cheering for the main character - unlikeable 'protagonists' are simply not my cup of tea. But villains always have this great opportunity to be super interesting, and Alias Hook is a great fleshing-out of a possible history (and redemption) of Pan's nemesis.

Hook is instantly a character I wanted to cheer for, because Jensen started the story in the middle, letting Hook, already an empty husk and haunted by his past, give us his history with the wisdom of retrospection. He recalls all the events of his life leading up to what got him in the Neverland with all the sorrow and hopelessness of a person who knows they royally messed up, and would do anything to just be done with it all. He didn't even know that he'd been given an opportunity to reform, repent, and resume with his life (woo, alliteration!) until it was all but spelled out to him after the arrival of Stella, the first adult woman in Neverland's history.

I loved their romance, and the time the author took to give it life. I guess it took a while because part of the point of the story was for Hook to finally "grow up." And learning to love, really love someone, and put their needs and well-being well above your own desires, is something he needed. To this end, the story meanders a bit, and Hook takes a grand tour of the various habitations around the Neverland, learns about how the braves and fey and mermaids and everyone live, and what all their roles are in that dream world.

For some folks, it might be too much information, too far removed from the core story, especially combined with all the chapters that were dedicated to back story, pirating, plundering, and pillaging. I liked it, though - the expansion of that world I already liked, and done so cleverly and lovingly, mixed together with Hook's memories of being a part of the real world.

Though I liked Hook's character in this story, I suppose others might find him stubborn and frustrating. It's the flip side to the slow buildup of his romance with Stella - Hook takes forever to finally give in.

With all that in mind, please do consider giving this a read. If you're the sort of person who likes their stories with a bit of extra meat to chew on, more exploration/world-building, and a different look at a character generally beloved, thought to be a symbol of innocence and happiness, this is probably for you.