Review and Giveaway: Alias Hook, Lisa Jensen

Note: I received a copy of Alias Hook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When publishers release their seasonal catalogues, I make note of all the books that sound interesting, in my TBR spreadsheet. This is to stop myself from immediately requesting 50 review books, which would only lead to my having way too many books to read and not enough time to read them all. So usually what happens is that I forget about all of them until they’re already published and I can just get them from the library. In the case of Alias Hook, I could not allow this to happen. I was so excited for this book that I put a reminder in my calendar to request a review copy in June.

And look at this excellent cover!

Let me tell you what this is right here. Alias Hook is the backstory of Captain Hook from Peter Pan, starting with his life as a Restoration-era privateer. There is nothing in that sentence that doesn’t make me shriek with joy. Cursed by a former lover, Hook must live forever in Neverland, perpetually fighting with Peter Pan and group after group of Lost Boys, never able to leave the Neverland, never able to die.

“It’s Hook or me this time,” the boy jeered as the massacre began. But it’s never him. And it’s never me. Since then, he has defeated me innumerable times, but never quite to the death. He wills it so, and his will rules all. . . . Is it any wonder I so often tried to kill him? Would not his death break the enchantment of this awful place and release us both? But I can never best him. He flies. He has youth and innocence on his side, and the heartlessness that comes with them. I have only heartlessness, and it is never, ever enough.

Time after time, with new batches of Lost Boys, new Wendys come to be mothers, Peter Pan wages war on Captain Hook and his new batch of pirates. Time after time, Hook and his men lose, and he sees them all massacred — men who were once Lost Boys themselves, and have returned to Neverland as adults, to be pirates. The cycle never changes. Until one day, an adult woman from 1950s England appears in the Neverland.

Y’all, I couldn’t have enjoyed this book more. Nothing about it was unfun. Jensen takes the inherent creepiness and weirdness of the Peter Pan character and dials them up to eleven. I won’t be able to watch Peter Pan Live this winter without thinking of this book and getting a crawly feeling down my spine about that character. (That doesn’t mean I won’t watch Peter Pan Live. I am going to watch it SO HARD because it’s going to be the greatest television event of our generation.)

I could have done with a higher degree of Restoration-era privateering from Hook prior to his being trapped in Neverland for centuries, but that is just personal preference. I love privateering. Jensen sensibly spends most of her time showing us the man Hook has become — a man weary of the senseless deaths of his pirate underlings, a man who puts on the persona of the bravura pirate captain though it becomes increasingly unnatural to do so — rather than the man he used to be. The few glimpses we have of Past Hook are quite unpleasant, and it makes sense that we don’t hang out with him much in his privateering raping-and-pillaging days. That would make it difficult to get behind his reformed-man status and romance with Stella. (Um, spoilers, but like, as soon as a thirty-eight-year-old woman appears in Neverland, you know she’s going to get with Hook, right?)

I’d criticize the mythology of Neverland — it’s reasonable enough that Neverland exists as a necessity for children’s dreams in the real world, but the mechanics of that mythology aren’t very well fleshed out. It’s fine. I skipped past that stuff. I took in the gist and tuned out the details that didn’t interest me. I went into this book predisposed to like it, and I had a really, really good time reading it.

And now the giveaway! St. Martin’s is offering a copy of Alias Hook (with its gorgeous cover) to one lucky reader! Complete the below Google Form by the end of this month (31 July) to be entered for this giveaway. I’ll select a winner at random and announce it on 1 August. This contest is open to US readers only (sorry, international folks!).